Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pakistan's long-persecuted Ahmadi minority fear becoming election scapegoat

By Saad Sayeed
Crammed into buses and mini-vans, more than 10,000 Pakistanis traveled to a mosque on the outskirts of the small Punjabi town of Rabwah, for the sole purpose of denouncing followers of the minority sect based here as “infidels and enemies of the state”.
For members of the long persecuted Ahmadi community, who are forbidden to call themselves Muslims and face discrimination and violence over accusations their faith insults Islam, the open vitriol on display at the Oct. 20 rally was not new.
But this year, they say, anti-Ahmadi rhetoric has also re-entered mainstream Pakistani politics, as politicians seek to shore up support among religiously conservative voters after surprise gains by two new Islamist parties.
“We are an easy community to scapegoat for political opponents to target each other,” said Usman Ahmad, who moved to Pakistan from Britain to work as a community activist. With a general election due in 2018, politicians from both the religious fringe and established parties have had the Ahmadis in their sights.
In the past six weeks, a row over proposed changes to the election law that would have eased some of the barriers on Ahmadis participating in elections has seen the group denounced on the floor of Pakistan’s parliament, while one of the new Islamist parties has held street protests.
The government has since taken out ads in major newspapers reaffirming a religious oath requiring elected officials to vow that they do not follow anyone claiming to be a prophet after Mohammad and “nor do I belong to the Qadiani group”, using a common derogatory term for Ahmadis.
The Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims, but their recognition of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the sect in British-ruled India in 1889, as a “subordinate prophet” is viewed by many of the Sunni majority as a breach of the Islamic tenet that the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger.
The Ahmadi sect has 10-20 million followers worldwide who face discrimination in a number of Muslim-majority nations such as Indonesia and Algeria, as well as being ostracized by large parts of the Muslim community in Britain.
There are about half a million Ahmadis in Pakistan, local leaders say, though other estimates have put the number at 2-4 million.
Ahmadis are some of the most common defendants in criminal charges of blasphemy, which in Pakistan can carry the death penalty.
By law they cannot call their place of worship mosques or distribute religious literature, recite the Koran or use traditional Islamic greetings, measures that they say criminalize their daily lives.
The legal restrictions began in 1974, when the then-Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto passed a constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis non-Muslim. A decade later military dictator General Zia ul Haq barred Ahmadis from identifying themselves as Muslim.
Community leaders say these moves laid the groundwork for a sectarian divide that has since seen many violent attacks on Ahmadis and birthed multiple militant organizations, including many that are now linked to Islamic State. In the past four years, the Punjab government has also targeted Ahmadis under the country’s anti-terrorism laws, filing at least eight cases against Ahmadis on charges of producing hate literature, including the sect’s own holy texts.
The offices of an Ahmadi magazine in Rabwah were raided in December 2016 by police, who arrested seven people and confiscated papers and hard drives.
“They stormed the office, it felt like a group of terrorists had come in,” said Amir Fahim, who worked at the magazine and was held for 65 days.
“They said the religious language you use belongs to us and the things you write offend the sensibilities of Muslims.” Community leaders say the use of anti-terrorism laws marks a new phase in the targeting of Ahmadis.
“Here, to be an Ahmadi, through state laws, is a crime,” Pakistan’s Ahmadi community spokesman Salimuddin said. “There are restrictions on our annual gatherings, our annual games ... If the state did not persecute us, we would not be persecuted.” Punjab government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan said the authorities were not using the anti-terrorism laws to target any particular minority group.
“The Punjab Government arrested thousands on charges of hate speech during the last three years,” he told Reuters. “Anti-Ahmadi groups were also included in them.”
Many Ahmadis in Pakistan say they only truly feel safe in Rabwah, a town of more than 60,000 in eastern Punjab that is 95 percent Ahmadi. Most of the town’s infrastructure is maintained on contributions made by the community, including free hostels and food for visitors and a community organized garbage clean-up.
But on the edge of Rabwah lies a small settlement and a mosque run by a right-wing Islamist organization that openly professes hatred for Ahmadis.
The organization, Khatm-e-Nubuwwat (Finality of the Prophet), built the mosque on land the Punjab government ordered confiscated from Ahmadis in 1975 for low-income housing.
Khatm-e-Nubuwwat has been at the forefront of initiating blasphemy allegations against Ahmadis. Every year for 36 years, the group has held an anti-Ahmadi rally at the mosque.
“Qadianis are the enemies of the prophet,” said Aziz ur Rehman, an organizer of the Rabwah conference, adding: “A country that was made in the name of the prophet cannot accept Qadianis.”
Always volatile, political atmosphere in Pakistan has been especially tense since the Supreme Court removed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office in July over corruption allegations, which he denies. The calculations of the mainstream parties have been complicated by the formation of two new Islamist political groups that garnered more than 10 percent in two recent by-elections and could become spoilers in a close election. One of the new parties, Tehreek-e-Labaik, launched a political furor last month after lawmakers from Sharif’s party, which still holds a parliamentary majority, approved apparently small changes to the country‘s election law.
The changes eliminated a requirement for Ahmadi voters to declare they are not Muslim and turned a religious oath for elected officials declaring belief in the Finality of the Prophet and affirming they are not Ahmadi into a simple declaration of belief.
Tehreek-e-Labaik quickly termed any concessions to Ahmadis to be blasphemy and threatened mass protests.
The government, still controlled by Sharif’s party, quickly retreated and reversed the changes. A week later, speaking before Pakistan’s National Assembly, Sharif’s son-in-law, lawmaker Muhammad Safdar Awan called for Ahmadis to be barred from employment in the government, judiciary, and military. Sharif himself later distanced himself from Safdar’s statement.
The climbdown did not appease Tehreek-e-Labaik, which last week launched street protests blockading roads into Islamabad and demanding the law minister be sacked. The protests are ongoing and have paralyzed traffic in the capital.
Saadia Toor, author of State of Islam said it’s likely that anti-Ahmadi rhetoric will continue up to next year’s elections, due by the end of August.
“Anti-Ahmedi sentiment is widely held across the Pakistani Muslim mainstream, even among moderate Sunnis,” she said. “So using them as scapegoats for political purposes is easy.”

Pakistan - Hate speech at Islamabad sit-in

Kaleem Dean
The fanatics protesting in Islamabad are sending a message of hate against minorities which, as usual, is not being taken seriously by the authorities.
The religious extremists of Tehreek-e-Labbaik emerged dramatically as a political party after getting 7000 votes in the Lahore by-election of NA 120. And now they have bought the capital on a stand still. Apparently, the embryo of hate was fertilised during Mumtaz Qadri’s trial but matured after his execution in February 2016. Thenceforth, unlike other religious political parties, Tehreek-e-Labbaik was the result of anger and hate against the civilian government as well as the minorities. Mumtaz Qadri murdered the governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer in 2011 for his support to blasphemy convict Asia Bibi.
The assassinated governor took a strong stance against blasphemy legislation deeming them ‘black laws’. Mumtaz Qadri’s brutal act of murdering the governor was lauded widely, even a large number of lawyers and retired judges offered their services to fight the legal battle to justify his callous act. Throughout his trial, he was considered the ‘hero of Islam’ and obviously after his execution, he became a strong cohesive force to bring thousands of fanatic Muslims together which later, twisted to a so-called political party.
The cruel history of the Pakistani politics witnessed the creation of several political parties on the lap of the establishment. These fanatics have a long history of acquiring supremacy over country’s affairs which started with Russian’s invasion of Afghanistan. The Pakistani regime in the late 70s and afterward dreamed to convert the country to a conservative Islamic country. After General Zia air accident, General Hamid Gul continued his legacy to transform Pakistani flag into a ‘green Islamic flag’.
In quest of his dreams in 1988, he paved a path for Nawaz Sharif government forming IJI. Nawaz Sharif himself pledged an allegiance to the tomb of Zai-ul-Haq for continuing his vision and during his second tenure Sharif wanted to be, ‘Ameer-ul-Momineen’ while he said, “We must go down on our knees and bow before Allah.”In the National Assembly, he proposed the Sharia Bill and said, “The nuclear tests changed the colour of the Chagai Mountains and the Shariat Bill will change the colour of society.”
In the last three decades, the narrative of these fanatics has been supported and amplified by Pakistani institutions. Unfortunately, chauvinist agenda of certain groups hijacked the democratic ideology of equality and ended up putting the whole society in the mess of extremism where minorities remained the soft target. The rasping history says that in the past, the country’s institutions doctored the formation of Taliban government in Afghanistan. Those religious groups have been and are used within our own geographical boundaries too.
These fanatic groups were once patronised by the state and various political leaders backed several extremist outfits to use them for political motives. Once again a popular narrative of the religious supremacy in the country is sold to masses by the Labbaik Party and the group certainly enjoys some support.
Although these religious political pressure groups or parties do not earn a wide range of political support, they are often able to drive policymakers to their enterprising controllers. The charter of demands from Tehreek-e-Labbaik is not socially oriented rather limited scope of theocratic propaganda has been included in their demands. These protesters are agitating against supposedly changing the wording ‘I believe’ to ‘I solemnly swear’ in the oath statement regarding Khatam-e-Nabuwat which has already been sorted out by the government.

Because of the internal chaos within the ruling party, the government has decided to deal with these protesters passively without using force. But as these protesters have no progressive agenda they are adding more fuel to their religious narrative against minorities. One of the leaders of the extremist group also insulted the legendary humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi while addressing the sit-in.
These fanatical groups were once patronised by the state and various political leaders so that they could be used for political motives
With each passing day, the aggression of the protesters is increasing which is causing problems for the commuters. More importantly, the fanatics protesting in Islamabad are sending the message of hate against minorities which as usual is not being taken seriously by the authorities. Pakistani courts are being pressurised to execute Asia Bibi who is in prison for the last eight years on charges of blasphemy.
It is time to decide whether the country has to go towards a progressive nation or a theocratic state of fanatics. The execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the last nail in the coffin of those secular and progressive forces who wanted to make Pakistan, a country for all irrespective of their colour, caste, creed, gender and religion. Intentionally, enlightened moderate forces are kept away from the the process of policy-making and forcefully those allies are brought to the governments that serve the limited agenda of the few.
Time and again purposive and pre-conceived amendments have been brought to the constitution of Pakistan delimiting certain sections of the society to a specific boundary whereas fanatic organisations have been allocated an ample space to transpire their goals.
In the recent Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan held in Geneva, the United States recommended that, “Repeal blasphemy laws and restrictions and end their use against Ahmadi Muslims and others and grant the visit request of the UN Special Reporter on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression”.
The meeting was attended by the Pakistani delegation headed by the Foreign Minister who later stated that the country would consider viable options to address the issues raised in the committee. However, the solution is not difficult and it lies in going back to where the real mess started with the passage of discriminatory laws against the Ahmadi community, blasphemy legislation, constitutional demarcations to restrict the freedom of expression and religion.

No Safe Haven: Persecution Continues for Pakistani Religious Minorities in UK

By Tara Abhasakun

British Pakistani religious minorities have been violently persecuted by Sunni Muslims in the UK. Some say that authorities are looking the other way.

In October, British Pakistani Christian Tajamal Amar, 45, was beaten up by a group of Muslim men outside a restaurant in Derby, UK.
This is not the first time that Pakistani religious minorities have been attacked in the UK.
In 2016, Pakistani Christian Nissar Hussain and his family were forced to leave their home in Bradford after Muslims beat Hussain up outside his house, leaving him with two broken bones.
Attacks such as these have even led to death. In 2016, Ahmadi shopkeeper Asad Shah was stabbed to death by a Sunni outside of his shop.
The murderer, Tanveer Ahmed, confessed to killing Shah because of his adherence to Ahamdiyya Islam, which many Sunni Muslims view as heretical.
Hatred of minorities by Pakistani Sunni Muslims has roots in Pakistani societal norms imported with immigration to the UK.

The Roots of Hatred

Pakistani laws, particularly blasphemy laws, are often manipulated to abuse religious minorities.
In 2010, Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy after two Muslim women accused her of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. The women had gotten into an argument with Bibi because they did not want to drink from a bucket of water that she had touched, since she was a Christian.
Bibi said that the women were spreading lies about her because they disliked her. She said, ‘We had some differences, and this was their way of getting revenge.’
Pakistan’s national education curriculum ‘openly demonises and caricatures minorities,’ according to Wilson Chowdhry of British Pakistani Christian Association. Christians are often demonised by teachers and headmasters. There have been incidents of Christian children being beaten by school staff for using the same toilets as Muslims, in an attempt to make Christians an ‘untouchable’ caste.
In one instance, a Christian boy was beaten to death by his fellow classmates.
The attacks by Pakistani Sunni Muslims on Christians and Ahmadiyya Muslims in the UK indicates that the religious hatred generated throughout Pakistan’s educational curriculum remains embedded in some Pakistani Sunni communities in the UK.

Authorities Look The Other Way

Some British Pakistani Christians have had UK police and politicians ignore persecution at the hands of Muslims.
British Pakistani Christian Nissar Hussain lives in a safe-house with his family after being physically assaulted outside his home in Bradford by a group of three Muslim men in 2016. Hussain said that this was his family’s second time having to move homes due to religious persecution in the UK.
Hussain told Conatus News that he had tried to warn police officers of this attack a year earlier. He said:
‘This attack on me was imminent, I found out in a meeting with a local mosque in June 2015 that this clan family was instigating an attack on me. I reported this to the police in June 2015, And the police dismissed it. This particular officer who was assigned to me dismissed it. I had an independent witness to this.’
Hussain’s attackers attempted to strike his head with a pick-axe, and when Hussain used his hand to block his head, the blow of the pix-axe caused Hussain’s hand to “explode.” Hussain said his family was sure it was an attempted murder, but police classified it as an ‘assault.’
Hussain, a convert to Christianity from Islam, said that he and his family have suffered religious hate crimes for over 17 years. Past attacks, he said, included ‘car torchings, car rammings, and drive-by brickings as we used to call it. We couldn’t sit the children near a window because we didn’t know when the next brick was gonna come flying.’
Such attacks, Hussain said, police called ‘neighbourly disputes,’ failing to recognise the religious nature of the persecution. It was the attack in 2016 that police classified as a religious hate crime.
Hussain said that politicians had also ignored his family’s plight. He said that he attempted to meet with MP Naz Shah three times to discuss his family’s story, but she postponed the first two of Hussain’s attempts to meet with her and did not respond to the third. Hussain said that Shah’s office manager, Mohammad Shabbir, has ‘very close links’ with the family who initially instigated attacks on Hussain and his family.
Hussain said that in 2016 he also met with then Secretary of State Karen Bradley, so Theresa May, he said, ‘definitely knows’ about his story. Hussain said that she probably didn’t see it as a high priority, though.
The one thing that has helped Hussain and his family survive such brutality is donations from many of his fellow citizens to a GoFundMe page.

Hussain said, ‘I never envisioned, born and raised in this country, that it would ever come to this.’

The state of Pakistan’s Hindus - Remember Jinnah’s promise?


The plight of Pakistan’s Hindus is not an unknown thing. It’s been covered by both local and international media from time to time. Sometime ago, the very well-known Aljazeera covered the story of Pakistan’s Hindu community; reporting it in following words:
“Many Pakistani Hindus flee to India to escape religious persecution, only to find even more hardship.”
The report talked about those Hindus who left Pakistan to lead their lives in India hoping that life would be easier for them in a Hindu-majority country only to be welcomed by more adversities. In words of one of the migrants:
“We don’t live like humans [in India]”

The plight of these people is not only hurtful and a matter of global shame for Pakistan but also an embarrassing reminder that our state has failed to protect the rights of our minorities, the promise that was made to them when Pakistan came into being.

This painful story reminded me of my own experience of interacting with the youth of our Hindu community sometime back in an inter-faith harmony camp. They shared how their girls had been abducted and converted to Islam and made to marry Muslim men forcefully without their will. Most of the times, it were the so-called religious figures of the locality that were involved in such crimes. That is where the greatest irony lies, because if we talk about Islam, it nowhere teaches to impose your beliefs on others:
“There is no compulsion in religion.” ~ Al-Quran
Another teen told:
“Whenever there is a cricket match between India and Pakistan, my Muslim acquaintances assume that I must be supporting India because I am a Hindu. It hurts to hear such comments. I am a Pakistani, not an Indian.”
In the camp, I had witnessed the same Hindu youth expressing their love for their land despite all that they have to suffer in their lives only because they are Hindus. It literally made my heart cry to hear them chant ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ with such zeal and enthusiasm even when they are not treated so well in their own Pakistan.
Sharing their practices of inter-faith harmony, they told how their women discontinue wearing sindoor during Muharram – some of them even wear black clothes — to show their respect for the month and be part of the Muslim community’s mourning. What a beautiful act of co-existence that deserves nothing else but praises and appreciation!
A short camp promoting inter-faith harmony gave them so much of love and respect that actually made them feel equal citizens of the country, to such an extent that one of them expressed his delight in the following words:
“We feel so good here. We do not feel neglected or discriminated. We wish to be treated in the same way in our country where no person is looked down upon based on their religious beliefs.”
These Hindu participants of the camp mostly belonged to the rural areas of interior Sindh. The ones living in urban areas like Karachi have comparatively far better stories to tell where they even blog about being happy and proud Pakistanis. Their stories give some hope that things can be made better for the rest as well. But of course, it requires effort, willingness and sincerity by the state to make the lives of its citizens prosperous.
Steps like the recent approval of Hindu Marriage Bill prove that the state can indeed work for the prosperity of its minorities though it is unfortunate that it still took us seven decades to come up with such a bill.
Minorities of any country are significant in making their societies more inclusive and tolerant where they bring colours of co-existence in the countries they live in. Pakistan is yet to come to the point where it can be called a completely inclusive society. But it is not unachievable.
There are also other groups of minorities that have their own grievances among which, the Hindus who are the biggest minority of Pakistan are still facing miseries after decades of Pakistan’s creation which should be a matter of great worry. Pakistan itself was created because a group of people with a common religious belief were discriminated against and kept deprived of equal rights based on religion only. Hence, Pakistan was never meant to be repeating the same mistake with its own people. Pakistan was meant to be better, and it has to be better. For what was promised 70 years ago when Jinnah said “We are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State” must not remain unfulfilled. It is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of its citizens, which also means working hard to keep Pakistan from becoming anything closer to a hardliner state. After all, letting its citizens leave the country because of persecutions should be the last thing any inclusive country should be tolerating.

Pakistan urged to abolish death penalty, end abuse of blasphemy law

The international community has yet again asked Pakistan to abolish death penalty and repeal or amend blasphemy laws to uphold its commitments under United Nations treaties and covenants ratified by the country.

In its third Universal Periodic Review, the country has also been asked to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and to ensure effective protection of the rights of religious minorities, human rights defenders, journalists and other vulnerable groups.

The UPR also features suggestions for strengthening of the National Commission for Human Rights and measures to ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigations of rights violations.

The country has been urged to set 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage, besides the need to make effective implementation of laws on violence against women.

The UPR Working Group of the UN’s Human Rights Council adopted a draft UPR outcome report for Pakistan on November 16. The country received 289 recommendations – up from 167 in its 2nd UPR in 2012 and 51 in the first UPR in 2008.

In its statement on the occasion, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that Pakistan’s third UPR had drawn global attention to a number of serious human rights failures in the country. “That well over a hundred delegations participated in the review indicates the global community’s interest in Pakistan’s human rights situation,” ICJ’s Asia Director Frederick Rawski was quoted as saying.

“The states’ recommendations echo the concerns of dozens of civil society organisations and even Pakistan’s National Commission of Human Rights. All of these organisations agree that the Pakistani government must take urgent measures to address the downward spiral of rights in the country,” he said.

Pakistan will now examine the recommendations and respond to the Human Rights Council by its next session in March 2018.

The ICJ said that Pakistan’s review had come at a time of serious concern about the rights situation in the country. “The government lifted the informal moratorium on the death penalty and carried out nearly 500 executions in less than three years – among the highest execution rates in the world; Parliament enacted laws allowing military courts to try civilians for certain terrorism-related offences in secret trials; and the authorities started a new wave of crackdowns on NGOs, journalists and human rights defenders, including subjecting them to enforced disappearance,” it said.

“Persecution of religious minority communities also continues despite the government’s claims that religious minorities enjoy equal rights as equal citizens of Pakistan. Last month, three Ahmadi men were sentenced to death for blasphemy for allegedly scratching anti-Ahmadi pamphlets. And earlier this week, the Islamabad High Court directed the Government to respond to a petition demanding a separate database for Ahmadis in the civil service to ensure they are not posted in offices involving sensitive matters.

“As a member of the Human Rights Council, Pakistan is expected to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, something it has clearly failed to do,” it said, “Pakistan should make use of this process by accepting the recommendations made during the review and adopting a concrete, action-based national human rights plan to ensure their effective implementation.”

#Pakistan - #Christian man sent to prison over blasphemy despite mental health issues

A Christian man was arrested on the day of his son’s funeral in Lahore, Pakistan last weekend and charge over blasphemy regardless of being recognized as mentally sick. He is now in jail.
65 years old Iqbal Masih, a retired father of nine, is from the Fazlia Colony of Lahore, a Christian neighborhood with around 1,000 residents, and has long experienced mental health issues, for which he is on pills.
Muhammad Waqas, the complainant, told World Watch Monitor that whenever Masih failed to take his pills, he would go out into the street and shout abuse at bystander.
A close family member of the Masihs told that his son, Bobby, had died following a short illness and that his father had stopped taking his medicines.
“Bobby’s body was at home and people from the neighborhood were visiting to pay their condolences when Iqbal started shouting abuse, after which the women left his home,” Waqas said. “Iqbal then recited the kalima [the Islamic proclamation of faith] and shouted abuse. Realizing that he was not behave normally, the police were called to take him away so that tension between Christians and Muslims of the area might not arise.”
But Dilraj John, a local resident, said several Muslim priests and others had also gathered, annoyed by Masih’s remarks.
“Some of them wanted to set him on flames, but other sensible people recommended that Masih be handed over to the police as he was experiencing a mental health crisis,” he said. “Since then the circumstances is under control and the situation between Muslims and Christians is no longer tense.”
“Masih was mentally suffering. He could start calling names in the middle of the night. The complainant lives next door to him, but there was no previous enmity between them and the sole reason for the complaint was Iqbal’s name-calling,” he added. W
aqas said Masih had previously been sent to an asylum but that his family couldn’t have enough money to stay there.
“I asked the police to send him to the mental asylum again as everyone is fed up with him,” he said. “That is why Christians of the area also say-so that he was handed over to the police.”
As indicated by Amnesty International’s report ‘As Good As Dead: The Impact Of The Blasphemy Laws In Pakistan , notes: “The Pakistan Penal Code exempts from criminal prosecution those who ‘by reason of unsoundness of mind, [are] incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that [they are] doing what is either wrong or contrary to law’.
“However, the burden to prove ‘unsoundness of mind’ is on the accused, the difficulty of which is compounded within a context of general stigma and lack of awareness about people with mental illnesses in Pakistan.”

#India to provide medical visa for ailing #Pakistani woman

India's Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, told a Pakistani woman on Twitter on Sunday that her ailing mother would be provided with an Indian visa for treatment.
A Twitter user, Sadia, appealed to the minister to urgently issue the visa, to which Swaraj said that she has asked the Indian mission in Pakistan to do so.

The minister also said that she asked the mission to look into the request in reply to a user by the name of Nasir Mahmood Ahmad requesting a visa for a kidney transplant .
Various Pakistanis, including infants and minors, have been issued Indian visas on medical grounds.
A newborn Pakistani baby suffering from a cardiac ailment was issued a visa after her mother asked Swaraj to do so on Twitter.
In September, a seven-year-old child requiring an open heart surgery was issued visa after the mother approached the minister on Twitter.
However, last week, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Faisal said India attempted to politicise a humanitarian case.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday with a cancer survivor, Osama, who recently returned from Turkey after getting treatment for liver cancer, Dr Faisal said New Delhi demanded a letter of approval from the foreign minister to issue a medical visa to Osama, which was a clear violation of international laws.
Dr Faisal said that the patient suffered due to the wait for the medical visa due to the Indian state’s attitude.
Speaking on the occasion, Osama said that he regrets the Indian attitude because it unnecessarily politicised a humanitarian issue.

Pakistan - The resistible rise of fanaticism

Ghazi Salahuddin
Something is happening to Pakistan that is not entirely obvious to its rulers. The dark forces of orthodoxy and fanaticism are gobbling up the prospects for a modern, democratic dispensation in this country. And the Faizabad sit-in could be seen as the loss of a cherished dream.
This is so in spite of how this confrontation is brought to a conclusion. I am writing these words in the forenoon of Saturday and the breathlessly expected crackdown to end the blockade has not begun – though the deadline was 10pm on Friday night.
Hence, these are very tense moments. It has been a long night of suspense. We are in the midst of what has become a national crisis. Since I cannot anticipate what it will be like when you read this column, I can only temporise and try to look back at the path that has led us to this incredible and incomprehensible moment. Nothing less than the writ of the state is at stake.
Sorrowfully, this path was paved by whatever the intentions of the ruling establishment were in the process of fighting its war against terror and violent extremism. Any discerning observer should have seen it coming. Perhaps we were distracted by how we defined our national interest and how religion was invested in our politics.
A lesson that we should have learnt a long time ago has been asserted once again by the protest staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and other religious groups. We wait for something to become almost intractable before we begin to confront it. This has happened repeatedly and the price we have paid is horrendous.
An analogy – offered by those who advise caution or, in other words, a policy of appeasement – is that of the Lal Masjid operation during the reign of Gen (r) Musharraf. But where had Lal Masjid come from? How did it become what it was under whose watch?
There is little point, at this stage, in recounting the circumstances in which the protest began under, seemingly, the protection of the administration. It was, since the beginning, a virtual siege of the capital of the country and the pain it caused to the citizens of Islamabad and Rawalpindi was not taken into account.
Initially, the blockade was carefully underplayed. The media also followed this plot until it became untenable and the massive disruption it was causing in the daily lives of an untold number of citizens had to be put on record. Also instructive is how the government bent over backwards to placate the protesters. It was sad and pathetic to see how ministers were pleading sympathy for the protesters’ point of view.
On their part, the protesters were determined to flaunt their power and the passionate support they drew from a considerably large segment of the country’s population. Their inspiration, of course, is Mumtaz Qadri – the executed assassin of Salmaan Taseer. At the heart of all this is the extremely emotive issue of blasphemy. The TLY had launched the protest over a change in a law that had already been reversed. It now wanted the resignation of the federal law minister that the government was unwilling to accept because it would be a clear sign of capitulating to an unjust demand. Otherwise, there were hints of surrender in how high functionaries sought to negotiate a settlement with the leader of the TLY, Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
An important milestone in this saga was the intervention of the Islamabad High Court on Thursday. It directed the TLY to call off its sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange. Incidentally, Thursday was the International Day for Tolerance and one may note the irony of how it was celebrated in its blatant breach in Pakistan. Anyhow, the protesters simply shrugged it off. So, on Friday the court gave the capital administration and the police 24 hours to remove the blockade. It asked the deputy commissioner to seek assistance from the Frontier Constabulary and the Rangers. It just meant that the writ of the state had to be enforced.
In his order, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said: “I observe with great concern that the district administration not only failed to perform its duty as was required, rather from the mannerism it appears that sit-in has been facilitated to put the country in a crisis situation”.
This crisis situation has many dimensions, if you look at it against the backdrop of the developing political situation. There are grave apprehensions about the possible consequences of the defiance of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The accountability process is gaining traction. This week, the focus has been on Ishaq Dar as the federal minister of finance. He announced his resignation on Saturday morning. The cards are being shuffled and there is much speculation about what the new deal will be.
Meanwhile, it is the showdown at the Faizabad Interchange that is keeping the nation on tenterhooks. It has obviously been very dramatic. It is so much more thrilling than that protracted ‘dharna’ in Islamabad in 2014. Preparations made for a possible crackdown, as shown on television, are awesome. This is what they call the chase sequence in the movies.
At this point, the administration is doing all that it can to step back from the brink and is pursuing negotiations with the protesters who stand on a higher ground – at least in a literal sense. We have this spectacle to show how the religious leaders and the militants play their hand. We may also identify the areas in which the law or reason has no jurisdiction.
This, in some ways, is a parable for the surrender of the state in the context of what Pakistan was meant to be. We may also mourn the demise of the National Action Plan because it had prescribed a crackdown on hate speech – something that has intensified in different guises. We are told that victories have been won in battles against terrorism. But there is this war that we are losing – or have already lost.
This movement that the Faizabad protest represents is demonstrably quite powerful. But we must recognise its sources. It has risen from a strategic refusal to accept modern, progressive and liberal values and from our failure to educate the people. Our political leadership, too, has condoned the sustained socially regressive drift of our society. Orthodoxy has almost become our ideology. Imagine the ignominy of a poor girl being stripped in a village without disturbing the thoughts of our leaders.

Pakistan - Mixing politics with religion continues unabated

By Raza Rumi @razarumi

For nearly a fortnight, a motley group of clerics and their supporters have caused a blockade of Islamabad – the capital of a nuclear nation – protesting against an alleged offence to faith.
In October, a minor change in the oath taken by politicians had sparked protests. The change of words from ‘I solemnly swear’ to ‘I believe’ – that has now been reversed by the Parliament – in the ‘finality of the prophet Mohammad(PBUH)’ were deemed as sacrilegious by Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), leading to calls for the resignation of the law minister and even the ouster of the government.
The TLP is a new addition to Pakistan’s countless Islamist groups. Unlike the well-known religious parties and jihadists, TLP adheres to the majority Sunni-barelvi sect. The party made its electoral debut in the recent Lahore by-election and earned a few thousand votes against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate who also happens to be the wife of the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The TLP disturbingly calls Mumtaz Qadri a hero and claims to have launched a crusade against blasphemers in the country.
The government’s response to the ongoing sit-in and the resultant disturbance caused to the public has only exposed its ineptitude in handling the crisis.
Mobilisation of religious passions for political ends has been a familiar strategy since Pakistan’s inception. In fact, the demand for Pakistan to some degree also invoked the religious identity.
In analysing TLP’s politics, one need to also factor in a less popular view that groups such as TLP are part of the political engineering by country’s military establishment that wants to cut PML-N to size. Historically, the PML-N has enjoyed the support of large number of Barelvis in elections.
‘This situation [1953 Anti-Ahmadi riots] was brought about by people who wanted to get into power in the Centre. They thought that by creating unrest, the men at the helm of affairs in the Centre would have to go. The old tried method of attacking a religious minority sect called Ahmadis was used to inflame the minds of otherwise peaceful people.’ —Firoz Khan Noon
If there has been one constant in Pakistan’s troubled history; it is the convenient mixing of politics with religion. The early years of Pakistan set this trend and with time it has been impossible to reverse it. The Objectives Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly in 1949 kick started the official announcement of the religious credence of the state.  The Resolution remained a statement of intent but it found its way into the operative part of the constitution under General Ziaul Haq. Today, it is an open minefield – easy to ignite, exploit, and use as a threat.
It would be pertinent to recall the first instance after the creation of Pakistan where the issue of Khatm-e-Nabbuvat figured in street agitation. The 1953 anti-Ahmadi riots in Punjab led to the first ever imposition of Martial Law. The threat to Khatm-e-Nabbuvat (finality of Prophethood) is an appeal that few Muslims can choose to ignore. In 1953, a Bengali Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin was at the helm and he had been trying to create a consensus around constitutional principles that would give East Pakistan (and smaller units) their fair share in governance. At the same time, Nazimuddin used religious clauses to build support. Nazimuddin, however, was pitted against the powerful West Pakistan establishment represented by Governor General Ghulam Mohammad, Iskander Mirza who was the defence secretary (and who engineered the 1958 coup) and Ayub Khan, the head of the Army.
Mumtaz Daultana, who ruled the Punjab province, was opposed to the constitutional principles put forward by Nazimuddin. Once again, religion was cleverly made a reason to cause disturbances. Daultana tacitly backed the Islamists – mainly the Ahrar and Jamaat-e-Islami – in demanding that central government should declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims and remove them from government positions. The protests turned violent when Nazimuddin ordered a crackdown in March 1953 and arrested key religious leaders including Maulana Maudoodi. To quell the agitation, the military was called in. According to historian K B Sayeed, it was Iskander Mirza who ordered Army action. Nazimuddin fired Daultana and replaced him with Malik Firoz Khan Noon. But his attempts to maintain power were short-lived. Within a month of the anti-Ahmadi riots and imposition of martial law, Nazimuddin was dismissed by Governor General Ghulam Mohammad.
Firoz Khan Noon, who later became the Prime Minister, has recorded some insights for posterity. In his memoir ‘From Memory’ (1966) he writes: ‘This situation [Anti-Ahmadi riots] was brought about by people who wanted to get into power in the Centre. They thought that by creating unrest, the men at the helm of affairs in the Centre would have to go. The old tried method of attacking a religious minority sect called Ahmadis was used to inflame the minds of otherwise peaceful people.’
In the same book, Noon identified the cabal of unelected officials – Ghulam Mohammad, Chahudri Mohammad Ali, and Iskander Mirza – as those at the helm of affairs. It is surprising to read about the ‘old tried method’ in 1950s for it sounds just like today.
In fact, this formula was employed time and again. The most dramatic invocation was the1977 movement against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that called for Nizam-e-Mustafa (the system of the Prophet). Ironically, not unlike Nazimuddin, Bhutto was already appeasing the mullahs. The successive governments changed the blasphemy laws beyond repair by the 1990s.
The TLP’s outburst and antics are also a part of what has been happening in the recent tug of war. When Nawaz Sharif appointed the current Army Chief, Gen Bajwa, there were elements within the state that launched propaganda about Gen Bajwa’s alleged Ahmadi family connections. Meanwhile, the issue of blasphemy has been used to crush dissent on social media throughout 2017, discrediting dissenting speech by terming it as ‘blasphemous’. Then, after Nawaz’s ouster, death threats for blasphemy were aired most likely in response to his will to fight it out. But Nawaz’s son-in-law soon made a foul anti-Ahmadi speech and called for expulsion of Ahmadis from the Army (not too difficult to guess the target). And now, TLP is on the roads pressurising Nawaz’s successor in office.
It is mind boggling to count how many blasphemers there must be in the country if all the allegations were to be counted. What the elites don’t realise, however, is that this is no longer 1950s or 1970s. Whatever they do gets reported in the global media. They are bringing shame not just to Pakistan but also to the faith they are supposedly protecting in the land of the pure.