Ahmadiyya persecution grows in Pakistan

Pakistani handcuff arrested

The desecration of Ahmadiyya places of worship in Pakistan continues with the latest incident occurring on December 22, 2023, in Samanduri, District Faisalabad. Police officials reportedly destroyed the minarets of an Ahmadiyya worship place in the presence of the Assistant Commissioner (AC).

The targeted worship place, constructed in 1956, had been under threat from extremists since the previous year. Despite efforts by authorities to maintain control, the situation escalated, marking the 42nd desecration of an Ahmadiyya worship place last year alone.

After demolishing the minarets, the police reportedly removed the debris, disregarding a judgement from the Lahore High Court (LHC) regarding the presence of minarets at Ahmadiyya places of worship. The officials claimed to be following orders, raising concerns about the enforcement of legal decisions.

The Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan has long struggled with fundamental rights, and this incident underscores the challenges they face. Calls are now being made for the government to investigate this blatant violation of the LHC’s judgement and to hold those responsible accountable.

Furthermore, demands are being raised for the provision of enhanced security, in line with a 2014 Supreme Court (SC) judgement, to ensure the safety and protection of Ahmadis and their places of worship.

Human rights observers say this development highlights the urgent need for national and international attention to address religious persecution and uphold the principles of religious freedom and human rights in Pakistan. The affected communities, human rights organizations, and concerned individuals are urged to document and report such incidents to relevant authorities for necessary actions.

Earlier, on November 24, 2023, the Ahmadiyya community faced another ordeal when 40 unknown miscreants attacked Ahmadiyya place of worship in Dulian Jatan area of ​​Kotli district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir before Friday prayers. This tragic incident is the 40th attack on Ahmadiyya places of worship in the last year 2023 alone.

American Congressman Michael McColl strongly condemned these incidents and said, “We continue to be alarmed by the increase in violence against Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan. According to reports, an Ahmadi man was arrested for having a Muslim name, and his lawyers were beaten in open court. Such blatant persecution must stop. Ahmadi prisoners of conscience must be released”.

Amnesty International’s deputy South Asia director, Dinushika Dissanayake, has raised concerns over the jeopardization of religious freedom in Pakistan, attributing the growing influence of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as a clear threat to minority communities. Dissanayake emphasized the message sent to these communities, underscoring their vulnerability to discrimination, harassment, and potential violence.

“The rise of the TLP has created an atmosphere of fear, fostering self-censorship and making it perilous for minority groups to practice their religious rituals without significant risk. The TLP’s influence poses a direct challenge to the fundamental principle of religious freedom, a concern echoed by international human rights advocates.”

Independent human rights researcher Rabia Mahmood, specializing in the persecution of Pakistani minorities, highlighted the TLP’s manipulation of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws to legitimize their acts of persecution. These laws prescribe a mandatory death sentence for insulting Prophet Muhammad and impose jail terms for Ahmadis who are accused of “posing as a Muslim.”

Rabia Mahmood asserted that the TLP strategically utilizes blasphemy accusations, creating an environment of hostility, conducting witch-hunts, and pressuring authorities to register cases against individuals from minority groups. The use of blasphemy laws by the TLP not only endangers the lives and well-being of minorities but also undermines the principles of justice and religious freedom in Pakistan. As the TLP’s influence grows, the international community is urged to address these concerns and advocate for the protection of minority rights in the country.

Soon after the establishment of Pakistan, religious narrow-mindedness gained power in Pakistan and since then, atrocities on Ahmadis have continued to increase. In 1949, an Ahmadi Major Mahmood was stabbed to death by a mob in Quetta. For the first time in 1953, a movement was organized against the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in the name of “Finality of Prophethood” in the province of Punjab.

At that time, the religious parties demanded the government to remove Ahmadis from all important positions, and if this was not done, direct action would be taken. However, the government of that time knew that the demands of the clerics would have dangerous consequences, so these demands were rejected.

On this, clerics started riots in different cities of Punjab province, houses and shops of Ahmadis were set on fire, government offices were also attacked, railway tracks were broken, trains were stopped. On this, the police arrested hundreds of protesters, but the riot continued to escalate.

At that time, Governor Khawaja Nazimuddin sent a secret message to all the provinces that no one can be declared a non-Muslim against his will, nor can anyone be dismissed from office because of his religious beliefs. But he did not dare to say this openly because he did not want to directly clash with the clerics. Two days later, on March 6, 1953, martial law was imposed in the province of Punjab, thus ending the riot. However, six Ahmadis were killed in the meantime.

But in 1974, when the mullah became politically powerful, he again started a movement against Ahmadis by inciting religious sentiments. All kinds of atrocities were inflicted on Ahmadis continuously for four months.

They were socially boycotted. Shops, farms, mosques and houses of Ahmadis were set on fire. All Ahmadis of Dera Ismail Khan were arrested. All the Ahmadis of Rahim Yar Khan were detained in their homes. All Ahmadi shops in Sargodha and Daska were closed. In Bhera, the boycott was so severe that Ahmadis had to starve. All the Ahmadi men of Sargodha were arrested. All the Ahmadis of Burewala were expelled from the city.

Meanwhile, a delegation of Pakistani scholars reached Saudi Arabia and demanded to put pressure on the government of Pakistan. On this, Saudi scholars wrote a letter to Bhutto, demanding decisive action against the Jamaat. According to Bhutto’s old friend Mubashir Hasan, this constitutional amendment was done under the pressure of Saudi Arabia.

Therefore, in April 1974, in the Makkah Conference, the Islamic World Association declared Ahmadis to be out of Islam. Thus, on September 7, 1974, the second amendment was made in the Constitution of Pakistan and Ahmadis and Lahoris were included in the definition of “non-Muslim”

The Rabwah railway station incident is the ‘ground zero’ on which the Bhutto government declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

Dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in 1984 added the Prohibition of Qadianism Ordinance (Ordinance XX) insisting that since Ahmadis are not Muslims in our eyes, they are not allowed to look like Muslims, neither directly nor indirectly.

Therefore, for Ahmadis, saying Aslam o Alaikum, writing Quranic verses, calling their places of worship mosques, etc. has been declared forbidden in an endless series of prohibited matters, which has extended to writing Bismillah on wedding cards and offering sacrifices on the occasion of Eid.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan declared in 1988 that just as no other company can sell its drink with the name “Coca-Cola”, we will not allow anyone whom we do not consider to be a Muslim. He should adopt the form and appearance of Muslims and show himself as a Muslim, the apex court insisted.

Since this ordinance of 1984, atrocities and strictures are increasing continuously. The Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s books are banned. Access to their websites is blocked. Incidents of uprooting these graves are common in cemeteries. In homes, at clinics, at bus stops, in markets, in mosques, Ahmadis were martyred in every possible place. was martyred.

The HRCP, in a report published on February 7, 2023, wrote that “there are reports of desecration of places of worship of religious minorities, but when such incidents are related to the Ahmadiyya community, no action is taken by the government. The reaction is not forthcoming. In Punjab, the mandatory expression of faith in marriage certificates has further exacerbated the problems of the Ahmadiyya community, while efforts to enforce a uniform national curriculum have created an external narrative that denigrates Pakistan’s identity. Religious minorities are put up against the wall.”

Article 15 of the Constitution of Pakistan, however, gives all citizens the right to reside freely wherever they wish in the country. But Ahmadis in Pakistan are deprived of this right. In August 2022, Malik Ilyas Awan, a local leader of the Muslim League-Q in Khushab District of Punjab, wrote a letter to the Deputy Commissioner requesting that the Ahmadis living in the area be prevented from gathering in one house and offering prayers. Go and expel them from the district.

On November 2022, a unique incident took place in Karachi where the police registered a case against an Ahmadi lawyer for using the word “Syed” in his name. The lawyer was accused of using other Islamic rituals which are not allowed in the country’s blasphemy laws.

It should be noted that under an amendment made in the Constitution of Pakistan in 1974, Qadianis and Ahmadis were declared as non-Muslims under Article 260 (3) of the Constitution. Similarly, under Section 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code, Ahmadis cannot call themselves Muslims nor can they show their religion as Islam.

According to the statistics released by Jamaat Ahmadiyya on January 2022, the series of deaths of Ahmadi community started from May 1, 1984. In the last 38 years, 273 people of the Ahmadi community have been killed, of which the highest number of deaths occurred in Punjab, which accounted for 69 percent of the total number of deaths.

The second place is Sindh, where 23 percent of the deaths occurred till 2022. This was followed by five percent deaths in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and three percent in Balochistan. However, in recent times, more attacks and deaths have been seen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Due to this persecution, many families of Ahmadi community have left the country. If the 2017 census is compared with the 1998 census, there is a clear decrease in the population of Ahmadi community in the country. According to the census data conducted in 2017, the Ahmadi community is about 0.09 percent of the total population of Pakistan. According to the 1998 census, the population of the Ahmadi community was 0.22 percent.

However, Ahmadiyya Jamaat spokesperson disagrees with the government figures. He says that of course people are migrating due to persecution, but this process has been going on since 1980. He said that this number is very small if we look at the calculation of the natural increase in the population. According to his estimate, the population of Ahmadi community in Pakistan is currently around four to five lakh.

Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, Advisor to the Caretaker Prime Minister, says, “We do not agree that the population of the Ahmadi community has decreased so much over time. They are also holding good positions in Pakistan apart from business and trade and most of them keep their identity hidden.”

“If they get an opportunity to go somewhere abroad, they get that opportunity in which their community helps them. I personally know some people who have filed cases against themselves to go abroad.”

However, the persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan has continued unabated, with alarming incidents reported in a monthly report by the Human Rights Section of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Foreign Missions Office in the United Kingdom. The report highlights a distressing pattern, citing the demolition of minarets and the vandalism of a niche in an Ahmadiyya worship place in Kotli as the 35th such incident during the year.

In 2023, the situation escalated with an Ahmadi man murdered on religious grounds, and a lawyer critically injured in an attack. Shockingly, 35 mosques and minarets of the Ahmadiyya community were destroyed, either by police or unknown attackers. The report also reveals that 21 Ahmadis were arrested throughout 2023 in different religion-based cases, and 61 were booked under various charges in October alone. The report emphasizes the urgent need to safeguard religious freedoms in Pakistan, highlighting the stark injustice faced by the Ahmadiyya community.

Shahzad Sarwar is a columnist for The Pakistan Daily

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This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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