General Brief on Persecution

Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan

‘In brief’

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at is established in 213 countries of the world. This community was founded in Qadian, India in 1889 by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who was a great Muslim divine and reformer. The movement he started is an embodiment of the benevolent message of Islam – peace, universal brotherhood, universal justice and submission to the will of God. It rejects all forms of terrorism, and is opposed to the concept of aggressive violence to promote religion i.e. the present day concept of violent Jihad. Extremist ulama are vehemently opposed to this peaceful interpretation of Islam. They have used it as an excuse to excommunicate this Jama‘at from the fold of Islam. In Pakistan and some other Muslim countries, mullas, politicians and generals in power have co-operated with one another to suppress and persecute this reformist community.

In 1974, Mr. Z.A. Bhutto, the prime minister, found it politically advantageous to impose Non-Muslim status on Ahmadis through a constitutional amendment.  In this vile innovation, mullas supported him to the hilt. The change opened the door for the persecution of the community. Since then, the state and the mulla have acted as a team to severely persecute Ahmadis.

In 1984, ten years after the Amendment, dictator-president General Zia-ul-Haq promulgated Ordinance XX that adversely affected everyday lives of Ahmadis. This legislation made it a criminal offence punishable by three years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine, if they practiced, propagated or even proclaimed their faith in Islam.

Yohanan Friedmann, a research scholar, in his book ‘Prophecy Continuous’ has written: “The Ordinance promulgated by the President on April 26, 1984 goes a long way in accepting the most extreme anti-Ahmadi demands and transforms much of the daily life of the Community into a criminal offence.” (University of California Press, 1989; p 46)

This law breaks the guarantee provided by the Constitution in Article 20 on freedom of religion. It blatantly violates Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, goes against the spirit of the United Nations Charter and is an obvious outrage against the UN General Assembly’s Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief. The UN Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities expressed its ‘grave concern’ at the promulgation of this Ordinance, and requested the UN Commission on Human Rights to call on the Government of Pakistan to repeal it (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/L.42 of 27 August 1985). It is nevertheless relentlessly applied.

As a result, since 1984, hundreds of Ahmadis have been murdered because of their faith, and the authorities have not prosecuted even 5% of the assailants. In 2010, 86 Ahmadi worshipers were slain in two mosques in Lahore in a simultaneous attack. The authorities decided to delay counteraction during the massacre; there is highly reliable evidence that they colluded with the terrorists. PML (N) was in power. In October 2005, eight Ahmadis were killed and 20 wounded when religious zealots sprayed bullets at worshippers in an Ahmadiyya mosque at Mong, District Mandi Bahauddin. Later, the killers were arrested but a trial court let them off. In March 2012, the police tortured to death an Ahmadi president of a local community in Rabwah. In July 2014, an Ahmadi woman and her two granddaughters including a seven month old baby died of asphyxiation in an arson attack in police presence in Gujranwala. Recently, on August 12, 2022 an Ahmadi was stabbed to death at the bus stand in broad day light, only for his faith. The assailant and the victim had not known each other prior to the assault.

In June of 2008, the authorities in Azad Kashmir blew up an Ahmadiyya mosque which was under-construction in District Kotli. On January 14, 2010, the authorities in the Punjab handed over an Ahmadiyya mosque in Ahmad Nagar to non-Ahmadis, although it was built by Ahmadis on land owned by an Ahmadi, and was under Ahmadiyya management for twenty years. More recently, a threatening mob attacked Ahmadiyya mosque in Dulmial on December 12, 2016. After the clash, the authorities locked the only mosque there; this is what the criminal gang demanded. The Ahmadi worshippers have no place to congregate for worship for the last six years. In May 2018, a mob almost completely destroyed a historic Ahmadiyya mosque in Sialkot, in police presence. Later, the riot leaders thanked the district administration for substantial support.

Both the state and the mulla have targeted Ahmadiyya mosques. To-date, 40 mosques have been demolished, 40 sealed by the authorities, 36 set on fire or damaged and 18 have been forcibly occupied by the opponents. Surely, no other state in recent history can compete with this outrage.

The anti-Ahmadiyya laws have been interpreted and applied maliciously all over Pakistan, often out of all contexts. For instance, grieving the survivors of the deceased further, more than thirty bodies of Ahmadi dead have been disinterred from public graveyards, despite the fact that there is no provision in law for this atrocious act. In year 2021 and 2022, on behest of miscreants, the police and the administration destroyed or damaged 245 gravestones.

Under the rules, Ahmadis cannot vote unless they do so as ‘non-Muslims’. Those who believe in Islam have to sign an affidavit of faith in ‘end of prophethood’ and deny being an Ahmadi to qualify as voter. Despite joint electorates, Ahmadis are placed on a separate list of voters, as Non-Muslims. The latest Election Act 2017 was amended to include all the discriminatory and prohibitive provisions to prevent Ahmadis’ voting. As such, Ahmadis have not been able to vote for the past 34 years.

In the town of Rabwah which serves as the center for the community in Pakistan, and where 95% of the residents are Ahmadi, the local councils do not have even a single Ahmadi representative. Practically, Ahmadis have no say in the affairs of the local union councils. Therefore, essential civic services like water, streets, sewage etc. are in a deplorable state in this town of 60,000 population.

Ahmadis’ right of peaceful religious assembly has been severely curtailed. The annual convention of the community in Rabwah has not been allowed since 1984, while non-Ahmadi mullas, with the help of the government, are able to hold numerous highly slanderous open-air conferences every year in Rabwah causing disquiet and discomfort to its residents and flagrantly injuring their feelings. The government changed the name of Rabwah to Chenab Nagar in 1999 against the wishes of its residents.

In May 2008, Ahmadis planned to celebrate the centenary of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat but the police prohibited them to do that. Some years ago, they booked the entire population of Rabwah. The authorities have prohibited community’s annual sports, rallies, celebrations etc.

In the field of education, Ahmadi students encounter unabashed prejudice in public institutions of higher learning and professional education. The events that occurred in the Punjab Medical College Faisalabad during June and July 2008 are public knowledge. The principal rusticated all the 23 male and female Ahmadi students. In November 2020, the principal of Naseer Millat School in Syedwala, District Nankana, Punjab told Ahmadi children that they were not welcome in his school, so all nine of them had to migrate elsewhere. On a larger scale, it is on record that in 1972, the state nationalized all the 8 Ahmadiyya owned schools and two colleges, like other private institutions. However, in 1996 the government reversed its policy and declared that such institutions would be returned to their original owners. This was done for all those who complied with the conditions set forth — except for Ahmadis who had also complied meticulously with all the conditions set forth.

This deplorable anti-Ahmadiyya law (Ordinance XX) continues to be applied extensively and heedlessly. Violations of Ahmadis’ religious freedom are systematic, ongoing and egregious. To-date, criminal cases have been registered against more than three and a half thousand Ahmadis throughout Pakistan under the provisions of the anti-Ahmadiyya and other religious laws like the blasphemy laws. Entire population of Rabwah has been booked twice in criminal FIRs, and the cases remain open. Since the promulgation of Ordinance XX, hardly a day passed when an Ahmadi was not in prison for an offence or incident rooted in his faith. Last year, the police, in cases based on religion, booked 110 Ahmadis. In 2022, at the occasion of Eid ul Azha the police booked 27 Ahmadis.

For almost five decades now, the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan has experienced prolific and persistent hate propaganda from the vernacular print media. The electronic media has joined this ugly race. News, op-eds and comments against Ahmadis are often grossly false, provocative and orchestrated. The law does not allow Ahmadis to explain their position in public (proselytizing!), while the authorities, in the name of freedom of press and media, do not advise the hate-mongers to stop their hate and rancor. Referring to the Ahmadiyya situation in Pakistan, International Humanist and Ethical Union conveyed to the UNHRC in 2010, “Need we remind the Council and the government of Pakistan that it was government and media support for expressions of hatred that led to the Nazi Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.”

Regrettably, the judiciary provided little relief to the persecuted community. Lower courts generally, and higher courts often, interpret the anti-Ahmadi laws very harshly. Even the Supreme Court has given the senseless inference in 1993 that an Ahmadi who displays any commitment to the Islamic creed commits blasphemy against the Holy Prophet [p.b.u.h.]. With such loose definition of ‘blasphemy’ and the attitude of the apex court, hundreds of Ahmadis have been exposed to the mischief of the blasphemy law PPC 295-C that now prescribes nothing but death for its victims. Over three hundred Ahmadis have faced fabricated charges under the blasphemy laws to-date. In 2018, Justice Siddiqui of IHC wrote a 172-page judgment against Ahmadis, without giving a minute’s hearing to an Ahmadi. His judgment is worded as if written by a mulla. In May 2021, Justice Farooq Haider of Lahore High Court issued an Order justifying application of top blasphemy laws on Ahmadis who read the Holy Quran or are in possession of a book of their Founder. This criminalised the entire Ahmadi Community in the country. Just as well, an LHC bench overturned Haider’s ruling.

Since the death of General Zia in 1988, no government, democratic or military, has provided any relief to Ahmadis. Pakistan adopts a medieval approach in its treatment of Ahmadis. They continue to face severe discrimination and persecution during the present democratic regime as well, in every sphere of personal and public life. The severity of state-supported persecution has forced thousands of Ahmadis to flee the country and seek shelter abroad. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan candidly wrote in its annual report: “Ahmadis faced the worst discrimination and remained effectively disenfranchised. HRCP continued to demand that joint electorate be fully restored.” International human rights organizations like Amnesty International and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have often reported on the plight of Ahmadis in Pakistan.

‘Blood, Jihad and Duty to kill’ have been discussed in popular electronic media in the Ahmadiyya context, and target-killings of Ahmadi leaders have taken place. In 2011, mullas declared Ahmadis ‘worthy of death’ and published in leaflets addresses of prominent Ahmadis and their businesses in Sargodha, Faisalabad and Khushab. The authorities took no action against the instigators.

The provincial government in the Punjab has adopted the policy of doing the mulla’s bid. It has banned more than 90 books and publications of the Ahmadiyya community on recommendations of its Ulama Board. It forbade Ahmadis to publish their translations of the Holy Quran. In addition, the only private book depot in Rabwah was raided by authorities; its octogenarian proprietor was arrested and was given 8 years’ imprisonment after a speedy trial for selling Ahmadiyya publications. On December 5, 2016, the authorities mounted a Counter Terrorism raid on Ahmadiyya central offices. This was like adding insult to injury, in addition to being the first ever such action against Ahmadis. The persecution has worsened with time, most Ahmadis feel. They are at great risk due to the continuous flood of hateful propaganda.

Regrettably, the governments have adopted the policy of caring little for the human rights of Ahmadis; in fact, they have become proactive to violate these, presumably in their political interest. The plight of Ahmadis has worsened progressively during this regime. For example, it has become routine in Punjab to desecrate Ahmadiyya mosques and graves severely — and unbelievably, the police and the administration undertake it. They do that simply for asking, and Tehrik Labbaik (TLP) is always there to demand that. At the turn of 2020/21, Peshawar became the center of target-killings of Ahmadis. It seemed that the killers had planned to clear the provincial capital of its Ahmadi population by making them flee for safety. The PTI leadership made no secret of its hate for Ahmadis. Mr. Azam Sawati, a PTI senior, said in public, “I curse them (Ahmadis) and Imran Khan also curses Qadianiat”. Hafiz Ashrafi, a top mulla, callously observed, “I am not willing to accept these (Ahmadis) in the country.” A few weeks later, he was elevated to become PM’s Special Representative on Religious Harmony and the Middle East.  On September 14, 2022, Mian Javed Latif a PML-N federal minister accused Imran Khan, though falsely, of pro-Ahmadiyya leaning. On September 18, Saad Rafiq another PML-N leader called ‘Qadianiat’ a Great Mischief (Fitna Azeem).

The federal and provincial governments, if serious about the plight of minorities in the country, should prioritize the following, concerning Ahmadis:

  1. Stop the Cyber Crime Wing’s vigilantism against Ahmadis, based on religion.
  2. Stop desecration of Ahmadiyya mosques, on demand of mullas.
  3. Ensure that Ahmadis are not target-killed and assaulted for their faith.
  4. Denationalize Ahmadiyya schools and colleges — as per government’s own policy.

The authorities often brush off the accusation of anti-Ahmadi persecution as false reports. Let there be a litmus paper test. No long lists of actions — we propose two very simple ways for the present governments to prove their respect for Ahmadis’ freedom of religion and human rights:

  1. Lift the ban on Ahmadi founder’s works and allow publication of their daily paper and monthly periodicals for their children, women, youth and elders.
  2. Forbid the police and administration desecration of Ahmadiyya mosques and graves.

September 20, 2022