100-year celebrations of the Caliph-ship of Ahmadiyya Community
Denying rights in the name of Islam…
Will the dream to repeal discriminatory laws made in the name of religion come true?
There is a unique type of town in Pakistan where majority residents are deprived of their fundamental rights-of freedom of expression, assembly and religion-guaranteed in the 1973 Constitution of the country, for the last several decades.
The latest example of this suppression of Ahmadiyya community of the country, witnessed by the HRCP, was on May 27 and May 28, during the 100-year celebrations of the Caliph-ship of Ahmadiyya school of thought. The fact finding mission of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan was led by HRCP legal officer Mahboob Ahmed Khan and HRCP Council member Nadeem Anthony. The community was not only barred to celebrate the day openly but also pushed by the local police, which apparently was under heavy pressure of local Islamic clerics, to make an agreement to avoid any risk.
The community, surprisingly, was barred to decorate outer sides of their houses, lit the earthen lamps (Deewa) on the outer side of the main roads, openly distributing sweets, and openly greeting each other. Though the police tried to control the situation but many people lit the lamps and decorate their places which resulted in “hide and seek” between the community members and the police as latter had been thwarting every effort to mark the day openly.
Police, to manage the affairs “peacefully” entered an allegedly forcibly done agreement with the Islamic clerics and Ahmadiyya community to control the situation and avoid any “untoward” incident. The ‘agreement’ read: “There will be no public programme, rally and speech; houses will not be decorated with colourful flags; nothing will be written on flags and badges; no earthen lamp will be lit; sweets will be distributed secretively and in packing (properly wrapped); there will be no open feast and people will have their feasts inside the boundary of their houses; the volume of television channels running a specific Ahmadiyya community channel, will be low and should not be able to listen while passing through the houses and offices; there will be strict abiding of Section 298-B and C of PPC.”
However, police also kept on watching the area. It lodging an FIR and locked up a couple of shop owners in the vicinity to put pressure and set example for other possible celebrators. The interesting FIR lodged under Section 298 PPC on the complaint of local Muslim Mian Irfan Ahmed against Farooq and Ehsan of Ahmadiyya community read: “The accused persons were lighting their places and distributing sweets which means they were preaching their religion that ‘hurt’ the sentiments of Muslims. So, police should take action according to the law.”
The police authorities, refused to comment in detail except telling that they were trying to maintain peace in an amicable way and going by the book. It is important to mention that Rabwah is the central headquarters of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, comprising of 65,000 to 70,000 residents.
The place, called Rabwah situated on Faisalabad-Sargodha road, near Chiniot city of the Punjab, contains 90 percent of the population of the town from Ahmadiyya community-a community that claims itself Islamic but declared non-Muslim through parliament during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime in 1974. Later, the community, which is considered Muslim anywhere else in the world [except Pakistan], was further persecuted by introducing discriminatory laws during General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, in 1984, when the dictator managed Section 298, A, B, and C in the Pakistan Penal Code heavily suppressing the Ahmadiyya community curtailing their fundamental freedoms.
Another surprising development happened in the same month when the local authorities barred the arranging of All Pakistan Nasir Basket Ball championship in Rabwah, which has state-of-the-art basketball grounds. The reason, according to locals, was nothing but the fear that the “Muslim” teams coming to the place from different parts of the country, would allegedly be preached Ahmadiyyat by the community during their stay. “This is how Rabwah, which gave basket-ball icons to Pakistan, was deprived of nurturing and supporting this game,” according to the spokesman of the community Salimuddin. He said the event was postponed on government’s direction.
Though there is a state of the art cardiac care hospital that has recently been started in Rabwah and is open to all, and where some family members of local Islamic clerics have been treated without any discrimination, the community has been denied of its civic rights too. The roads of the town are quite bumpy against the claims of the community that Rabwah is the biggest taxpayer town in jurisdiction the District Jhang.
The apathy of Ahmadiyya community and the long history of suppression, despite a lot of human services extended by the community, do not end here. After 1984, with the imposition of new laws, Ahmadis have become among the most neglected and attacked community against which the blasphemy law (Section 295, A, B, and C) of PPC is also allegedly misused, according to elders and human rights bodies. According to a recently published book by the community more than 90 percent of police cases, especially related to blasphemy, lodged against community members were after the making of 1984’s discriminatory laws. The book comprises of nothing except the copies of FIR(s) lodged against community from 1974 to 2002.
Maximum cooperation and patience of the community seems nothing against local biases and prejudices in the name of Islam that is why, locals said, community has been facing tough times since 1984. “More than 95 per cent cases lodges against the community are after 1984 when discriminatory laws were introduced and the majority cases are still pending before different level courts since 1984.”
“We don’t want to harm any belief, person or community that is why message to our youth is to show patience and serve humanity without any bad feeling,” believes the country head of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Mirza Khurshid Ahmed, who is also among the descendents of the founder of this school of thought. “We now that government can not take positive stand so we always try to not make any protest,” he said, adding, “We ourselves decided to control the situation despite the fact that community members were here across Pakistan.” He said they managed the celebrations in a hall because they knew nothing would come out of their demand of rights. “We have learnt to live with this bar,” he said while responding a question. The solution, in my view, is nothing but repealing such discriminatory laws that government passed earlier.” He added that no discriminatory law could and should be formed by any government. This he said in the light of sayings of founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his speech of August 12, 1948.
HRCP mission urged the new and progressively looking government of Pakistan not to deny fundamental rights of any body and community in the name of religion, as Islam does not allow it at all according to the teaching of Holy Quran and Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Will there be an end to these miseries that remain a question before every ruler and parliament of the state, the mission expressed.
HRCP Council Member