November 2012

 

Doctrine divides, Action unites

 ۩ Home Page
 ۩ School of Peace
 ۩ Faith and Peace Archives
 ۩ Photos and events
 ۩ Who are we

e-mail : forumicf@yahoo.com


 

Violence against the Ahmadi Community Continues Unabated in Pakistan

Stewart Sloan
 


Mourning is increasing among Ahmadis in Pakistan with growing
 violence and discrimination directed at them. Between Oct. 4 and
 Oct. 23, at least four members of the Ahmadi community were
 murdered in the country.
 (Photo from http://ahmadiyyatimes.blogspot.hk)

With its re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Pakistan must now show the world that it is serious about fulfilling its international obligations. One area that needs urgent attention is the violence committed against religious minorities, in particular the harassment and violence perpetrated against the Ahmadis, which often occurs with the cooperation of the police.

On Oct. 19, Saad Farooq was returning home after attending congregational prayers with his family. Farooq, an Ahmadi, was riding his motorcycle while his family travelled in a car. Unknown men, also on a motorcycle, approached him from behind and shot him in the head. Farooq died on the spot. The assailants then turned their attention to the car in which Farooq’s father, brother, father-in-law and others were seated and opened fire. Three of them were injured and taken to a hospital. Farooq was an active member of the Karachi Ahmadi community. Recently married, he leaves behind a grieving widow. He was 26 years old.

A few weeks earlier on Oct. 4 Khawaja Zahur Ahmad, 64, was shot dead near his home in Satellite Town. The bullet struck him below the right ear. Friends and neighbors rushed him to the hospital, but he died en route. A few months prior to Ahmad’s assassination religious extremists had gathered outside his home shouting slogans. Ahmad was a peaceful and respectable citizen and had no dispute with anyone. He was killed only for his faith.

Riaz Ahmad Basra was shot dead in Ghatialian in Sialkot District on Oct. 18. Raja Abdul Hamid Khan and Bashir Ahmad were killed in Baldia Town four days later on Oct. 23, and the list goes on and on and on. These were all targeted killings of Ahmadis.

On Aug. 20 in Ghatialian, the police registered a case against four Ahmadis after they received the complaint of a mulla, Qari Afzal. The reason behind the complaint was that they had hurt his feelings and intimidated him. Those named in the case were Naeem Ahmad, Gulfam Naeem, Ahsan Ramzan and Shahid Abdullah. Interestingly, three of the accused men were not even present at the time of the alleged incident, which would appear to indicate that it was a fabricated charge. At the initial hearing, temporary bail was obtained for them. However, on Oct. 15, the additional sessions judge of Pasroor changed the applied penal code in the case with PPC 298-C, an anti-Ahmadiyyah clause, and rejected the temporary bail. The police arrested all the accused men and sent them to jail until a new bail application was moved in the Magistrate’s Court, which was granted on Oct. 23. The accused men still face trial.

Anti-Ahmadiyyah activities are nothing new, but incidents have risen steeply in Hafizabad District with the desecration of an Ahmadiyyah graveyard by the police. This deed was done on the instructions of a group of mullas. The police officials urged the Ahmadis to commit the desecration themselves; and when they refused, a group of men went to the cemetery and erased Islamic inscriptions from the gravestones.

The problems for the Ahmadis began with the amendment to the Constitution in 1973 during the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that declared them as “non-Muslims.” However, it was during the regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq that they were truly disenfranchised, for Ahmadis were denied the right to declare themselves as Muslims. They were also not allowed to build mosques similar to those of Muslims. Furthermore, they could not write or inscribe Qur’anic verses on the walls of their mosques, and, as mentioned earlier, even inscribing Qur’anic verses on their gravestones left them open to attack by religious zealots.

Sadly, the sectarian prejudice against Ahmadis even extends to their right to education—another area in which the government has failed miserably to live up to its responsibilities.

Afshan Malik was a student in the Government Degree College for Women in Gulshan-e-Ravi in Lahore. Malik participated in the Natiya—poems in honor of the Holy Prophet (SAAW)—competition at the Punjab Youth Festival. The chief minister of Punjab Province, who was present at the event, liked her recital so much that he asked her to recite another Naat while the results were being compiled. She did so and was loudly applauded by the audience. She was awarded the first prize and a trophy.

After a few days, her rivals came to learn that the two Naats she recited were written by Ahmadi elders, and they started to harass her in the college. They even tried to get a police case registered against her; and when the situation became serious, she had to discontinue her studies. Later, for their safety, the entire family had to move to another house.

Once again, the question begs to be asked: Where is the religious freedom that Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s foreign minister, spoke of in her address to the United Nations during the country’s universal periodic review, or UPR? Now that Pakistan has been re-elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council this must be the time for the government of President Asif Ali Zardari to live up, not only to the pledges it made to the United Nations four years ago, but, more importantly, to the wording in the country’s Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion for all.


* Stewart Sloan is an editorial assistant at the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a regional human rights organization based in Hong Kong. He may be contacted at sloanbooks@gmail.com and welcomes feedback and suggestions for future articles on religious minorities in Pakistan.