Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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Perspective: Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims -- a problem in the DNA of #Pakistani society

By Imad Zafar 

It is the height of hypocrisy that Pakistani society always demands and protests for the rights of minorities in India, Israel, Myanmar and other countries while in our country, we oppress minorities in each and every possible way.

Life for Ahmadis has never been easy in Pakistan. They live in a state of fear of being accused of blasphemy all the time. In a recent development, a 100-year-old mosque of the Ahmadi sect was destroyed by an angry mob in the town of Sialkot.

The city administration, trying to cover up the matter, stated that the mosque had failed to obtain a written approval from the authorities for renovation, thus it was decided to destroy the section of the building that had been recently renovated. However, contrary to those claims, the Ahmadiyya Jamaat presented a copy of a No Objection Certificate (NOC) stating that the mosque had obtained permission to be renovated.

In any case, the argument from the government officials seems very vague and unacceptable, as by no means does the law allow the authorities to accept help from a mob of religious fanatics to demolish any illegal construction.

While many Sunni mosques are built on illegal land acquired or renovated and expanded against regulations without any NOC for adding additional floors, they are never abolished or sent any notice from the authorities.

The media, as usual, did not cover the Sialkot story properly, nor was an investigation into the matter launched by higher government authorities.

It is not the first such incident. Three years back a chipboard factory owned by an Ahmadi was burned down on allegations of blasphemy in the city of Jhelum, and there are many incidents where the Ahmadi community is being targeted or persecuted.

It is the height of hypocrisy that Pakistani society always demands and protests for the rights of minorities in India, Israel, Myanmar and other countries while in our country, we oppress minorities in each and every possible way.

A few decades ago when Hindu extremists destroyed the Babri Mosque in India, protests erupted across Pakistan, and people in Pakistan still accuse India of marginalizing its Muslim minority and deliberately destroying their historic mosques. Yet the demolition of a historic Ahmadi place of worship in Sialkot is justified for the majority of the population in Pakistan.

This double standard and hate toward Ahmadis and other communities is proof that as a society we Pakistanis have a genetic disorder of hating others on the basis of belief, and this genetic disorder is being created by ourselves. Even the children in many families in Pakistan are taught to hate Ahmadis and do not form relationships with or trust them, as Ahmadis are deemed a threat to the religious mainstream.

One wonders why 96% of the population is afraid of only 1% of the population and conceive them as a threat.

Life for Ahmadis in Pakistan is all about somehow surviving the wrath of the majority of the population. They are treated as third-rate citizens and hated for their religious beliefs.

Such is the level of hatred that shops in major markets across the country carry a poster on the entrance door that Ahmadis are not allowed, or we do not do business with Ahmadis. Religious clerics freely declare Ahmadis to be a threat to the Sunni-dominated population and beliefs, and this creates a hostile atmosphere for Ahmadis where they even hide their identities in order to be saved from the fanatics.

For the state, the persecution and marginalization of Ahmadis never matter, as Ahmadis only constitute around 1% of the total population. So political parties, in order not to lose religious and popular votes, never intervene or take steps to save the community from exploitation at the hands of Sunni clerics and the Sunni population.

The problem is getting worse as general elections are approaching and every single political party in order to attract voters in some way endorses the hatred against this community. Unfortunately, intellectuals and journalists, who play a vital role in bringing positive changes to the social fabric of any society, are either reluctant to speak up or are under the influence of their set religious belief systems, so they choose to remain silent or they write and talk about usurping all the rights of Ahmadis. It gives them the approval and ratings from the general population.

The Ahmadi problem is not even considered a problem and generally, it is considered that if Ahmadis declared themselves as Muslims they would be spared and no one would target them or try to marginalize them.

According to the constitution of Pakistan, Ahmadis are declared non-Muslims, but Ahmadis call themselves Muslims. The law that was passed by Zulfiqar Bhutto to appease the religious clerics in order to save his government has been haunting Ahmadis for the last four decades, and there is nowhere to hide or run.

With almost every Sunni and Shiite Muslim brought up with the belief that Ahmadis are blasphemers and use the name of Islam to exploit religion, there is very little hope that the problem of the Ahmadis will be addressed in near future. In fact, if someone tries to take steps to provide a little relief he is deemed a blasphemer as well.

The tragedy is that Ahmadis persecution and marginalization is not even considered a serious issue. While the media and state choose to remain silent, the Ahmadis are left to the mercy of religious clerics and their millions of blind followers. The state, by declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974, laid the foundation for their massacre and exploitation, as this step by the state vindicated the stance of fanatics that Ahmadis were blasphemous, and the rest of the population created a narrative that has resulted in Ahmadis being the most vulnerable community.

Until the state denounces the policy of hatred and extremism and stops intervening in the personal faith and beliefs of its citizens, there is no hope that Ahmadis will be even considered human in this society. For now, life for the 5 million Ahmadis in Pakistan is all about somehow surviving the wrath of the majority of the population.

The persecution and marginalization of the Ahmadi community is actually a crime by both society and the state. It seems we as a society need DNA surgery in order to get rid of the hatred and extremism in our genes toward the faith and beliefs of others.


Banned terrorist outfits are targeting minorities in Pakistan, revealed the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

“In 2017, religious minorities in Pakistan, including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadis…continued to face attacks and discrimination from extremist groups and society at large,” the report states, adding that as many as 231 people were killed and 691 injured in such incidents in Pakistan last year.

The report states that the government of Pakistan “failed to protect these groups adequately, and it perpetrated systematic, ongoing, egregious religious freedom violations.”
It was noted that forced conversions of non-Muslims continued despite the passage of the Hindu Marriage Act, which grants greater rights in family law for Hindu citizens.

“The entry of fundamentalist and often extremist, religious parties into the political arena in advance of July 2018 national elections further threatens religious minorities’ already precarious status in the country,” it adds.
In December 2017, the State Department named Pakistan as the first, and only country on its “Special Watch List,” a new category created by December 2016 amendments to IRFA.

#Pakistan - Missing Salmaan Taseer

Had he lived, Salmaan Taseer would today be celebrating his 74th birthday. It is important to remember him on this occasion. Not simply due to his connection to this newspaper. But because of his relentless struggle for democracy, civic freedoms and minority rights.
Taseer’s bold stance and ultimate sacrifice remain a benchmark for the human rights movement in Pakistan. Whenever there is a call to protect the weak or to speak up against injustice, his name will be remembered.
Here in 2018, Pakistan has more reason to miss him than ever. The country has not just seen a resurgence of the religious right. It has witnessed a state apparatus capitulating to those who want nothing more than to sow the seeds of religious disharmony.
The rise of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP)’s political clout over the last year is cause for grave concern. Not least because the party termed the execution of Mumtaz Qadri “unjustifiable”. This, despite him having assassinated Taseer in cold blood over the latter’s efforts to have the country’s draconian blasphemy laws reviewed and amended. At the time of his murder, Taseer was no ordinary man. He was the governor of the Punjab. That Pakistan did not wake up to this threat back then was a case of wilful myopia.
Which leads us to where we are presently. Another assassination attempt; this time against Ahsan Iqbal, the outgoing man at the Interior. And although the TLP denied links to the gunman — the latter had been, by his own admission, incited by party chief Khadim Rizvi to do the unthinkable. Namely, shoot a federal minister on the basis of mere hearsay and false impression partly created by the media. All because of what may have been a minor change in the oath taken by the parliamentarians to affirm Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of the Prophethood [PBUH]).
The outgoing PMLN government came under fire for tampering with a tenet of Muslim faith. In reality, this was nothing more than fake news. As fake, in fact, as aspersions levelled by sections of the fourth estate against the late Governor Taseer. The TLP movement has brought with it Ahmadi suffering. State institutions that are tasked with upholding the constitutional provision requiring the equal treatment of all citizens before the law now call for a declaration of faith to be made mandatory for anyone wishing to hold public office. As if it were not enough that the issuance of CNICs and the documents of citizenship are dependent upon denouncing another’s faith. And from there we arrive where we are now. The destruction earlier this month of an historic, century-old, place of worship in Sialkot by those who believe in anything but religious pluralism.
So, yes. Pakistan has every reason to miss Salmaan Taseer. For without him, the country is hurtling along a theocratic path not of its own choosing. But it will be of its own making as long as those parties that preach violent bigotry are allowed to go ballot-boxing. And so, we hope that the PPP will not give up the mission for which Taseer sacrificed his life. Recently, its leadership paid respects to a hate-preaching cleric in Sindh province. A party that has lost leaders due to bigotry must not fall into the trap of short- term gains by allying with dubious religious characters. This is the least it should do if it wants to respect the legacy of the long list of its own martyrs, including: Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, among others.
Happy Birthday, Salmaan Sahib. Your compassion must be kept alive for the good of us all.

World Justice Project report: Singapore most, Pakistan least peaceful Asian state

According to a World Justice Project report, people in Singapore feel the safest, while people in Pakistan feel the least secure.
The report measured the prevalence of common crimes in 113 countries, including homicides, kidnappings, burglaries, thefts, armed robberies and extortions, as well as people’s perceptions of safety. Japan was the second safest in Asia and eighth in the world, while South Korea ranked third in the region and 22nd in the world. Despite the tension with North Korea, people in the South perceived their country as free from intimidation, mob violence and serious incidents of crime and terrorism. Here are the names of prominent countries with their ranking: Singapore 1, Japan 8, South Korea 22, China 28, Mongolia 39, Malaysia 41, Vietnam 42, Indonesia 49, Nepal 57, Sri Lanka 59, Myanmar 64, Thailand 69, Cambodia 81, India 98, Bangladesh 102, Philippines 107, Pakistan 113.