A school in Punjab’s Attock district on September 23, expelled four Ahmadi students – Huzaifa Nasir, Aneela Aqib, Abeer Ahmad Saifi and Nimra Qureshi of Grade III, VI, IX and X respectively for their faith. According to an official document, “The following students who were studying in this institute are being withdrawn on the basis of Qadianiat Religion.” Sadly, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya (JA) press in-charge Amir Mehmood told that instances of discrimination against Ahmadi in Pakistan had become routine. He said scores of Ahmadis had been expelled from educational institutes in separate instances earlier. Terming the expulsion unfortunate, he said anti-Ahmadi sentiment was rife in Attock district. Widespread hate for the community prevailed nationwide. He said the time became ripe for the nation to be enlightened to raise awareness on this issue.Ac cording to a report of 2020, Suffocating the Faithful: The Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan and the Rise of International Extremism, since the 1984 overall 269 Ahmadi have been killed in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s miniscule Ahmadi community is subjected to routine persecution and often implicated in legal and state sanction.
On August 12, 2022 sixty-year-old Ahmadi, Naseer Ahmad was stabbed to death by a religious fanatic in Chenab Nagar, Punjab. He was waiting at the Bus Stop when Shahzad Hassan forced him to raise slogans in praise of deceased TLP supremo Khadim Rizvi. He also asked the deceased to chant “Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah’! He attacked Naseer soon after.
Regrettably, on July 30, 2022 Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader, Malik Ilyas Awan submitted a letter to the Deputy Commissioner of Khushab district in Punjab, requesting him to take away security from the Ahmadi residents of the region while also calling for their eviction from Khushab. In the letter, Awan underlined that offering security to Ahmadis is akin to ‘playing with the Constitution’ and demanded that the city of Jauharabad withdraw its protection from the minority group.
On May 18, 2022 in Okara district of Punjab, an Ahmadi man, Abdul Salam, 33, was killed as he was on his way back home from the field when a seminary student, Hafiz Ali Raza alias Mulazim Husain, attacked him with a sharp knife. The suspect stabbed Salam several times in the chest and abdomen.
On November 9, 2021 a 40-year-old Ahmadi man identified as Kamran Ahmad was shot dead by unknown assailants in Peshawar. According to a press release issued by the Ahmadi community, he did not have any personal enmity with anyone.
Origin of the community
The origin of the Ahmadi community goes back to the British-ruled India of 1889. At the time, in the province of Punjab, a Muslim religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, became disenchanted with what he viewed as Muslim decadence that allowed for the humiliating experience of foreign rule. He was born in the small village of Qadian in Punjab, India. The Ahmadi community is also referred to derogatorily by some as the “Qadiani” (or “Kadiyani”) community, a term derived from the birthplace of the founder of the movement.
The movement, in its early years was branded as blasphemous as Ahmad’s claims also tantamount to the rejection of the quintessential tenet of the finality of Prophet Muhammad. The following decades were to witness the emergence of widespread anti-Ahmadiyya sentiment after the creation of Pakistan. Adversaries of this sect view it as a dangerous aberration from Islam and fall upon Ghulam Ahmad as a false prophet and Messiah, who established his sect to serve the British. Many Muslims, consequently, consider the Ahmadi as either Kafir (infidel) or Zindiq (heretic). Nowhere is this more apparent than in Pakistan.
History of discrimination in Pakistan
In independent Pakistan, the first major expression of anti-Ahmadi sentiment targeted an Ahmadi, Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan, who held the foreign minister’s post in 1953. Some Muslims circulated rumors that Ahmadis was trying to proselytize Muslims and a representative of Western-supported conspiracy. This spurred riots throughout the country in 1953 that led to six deaths. Subsequently the government removed all Ahmadis, including Zafarullah Khan from prominent official positions.
Later during the Bhutto regime, On September 7, 1974 a bill was passed and the Ahmadi became a non-Muslim minority. The process of ‘othering’ of the Ahmadi community continued with great fervor and enthusiasm in Pakistan. In 1984, the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq consolidated the state of Pakistan’s stand against the Ahmadi by issuing an ordinance (Ordinance XX) which prohibited the Ahmadi from preaching or professing their beliefs. The ordinance Ahmadi to call themselves Muslim or to pose as Muslims. Their places of worships cannot be called mosques and they are barred from performing the Muslim call to prayer, using the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quoting from the Quran, proselytization in public, seeking converts or producing, publishing and distributing their religious materials. The separate electorate was abolished for minorities by General Pervez Musharraf in 2002 by an executive order, but kept the anti-Ahmadi provisions intact submitted to hardliner pressure. In 2018, the incumbent Imran Khan government backpedaled on the selection of famous economist Atif Mian as financial advisor owing to his Ahmadi faith. The Islamist rationale: those who are loyal to the Ahmadi beliefs cannot be loyal to Pakistan.
Blasphemy and Ahmadi
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, introduced by former military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, allow for a death sentence as the maximum punishment for insulting Prophet Mohammed. Nevertheless, Human rights activists say laws have been used against non-Muslim Pakistanis and minority Muslim faiths including Shia and Ahmadis.
Around 500,000 members constitute Ahmadi community in Pakistan. Sadly, according to a report, in the year 2020, at least 30 blasphemy cases and 71 other legal cases related to religion were lodged against members of the Ahmadi community, representing a tenfold and sixfold increase respectively from the previous year. Since 1990, at least 79 people have been murdered in the name of the blasphemy laws, according to an Al Jazeera tally. Those killed include people accused of blasphemy, their family members, their lawyers and judges who have delivered “not guilty” verdicts.
Desecration of Ahmadi graves and mosques
The police also regularly demolish Ahmadi mosques and graves over allegations against them masquerading as Muslim worship places. Ahmadis are barred from giving the Islamic call to prayer, or even displaying “Muslim names” in front of their homes. The Pakistani Constitution officially declares the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam to be “infidels” and bars members of the community from “posing as Muslims,” which the vandalized graves were found guilty of. Reportedly, the total number of Ahmadi graves desecrated in Pakistan since the beginning of the year 2022 has now reached 185. Religious bigots who continue to consider themselves as redeemers of Islam fail to realise that defiling graves is not exactly aligned with the teachings of Islam.
In August, 2022, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) issued a critical report on religious liberty in Pakistan. It denounced inter alia the persecution of the Ahmadis, including the desecration of their graves. It continues, however, and not even children are spared.
Discouraged by the law-and-order situation and the ubiquity of religious fundamentalism in Pakistan, many Ahmadis have been forced to migrate to other countries in the hope of being treated on equal footings with other people in the society. Neither any social class nor even gender is taken into consideration when it comes to the harassment of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Adults and children alike are victimized for their differing religious beliefs. Workplaces, playgrounds and even schools are used as platforms to spread loathing and horrific mistreatment to them. Educational institutes chiefly top the list of troublemakers who aim to indoctrinate young minds by filling them with hatred for anyone who does not follow their religious standards.
Though it is a wishful thinking, but extensive reforms are needed, or the future of the Ahmadi faith in Pakistan is bleak. Cancelling the anti-Ahmadi and blasphemy laws would be an act of highest bravery (political and otherwise), driving a stake into the ground, beckoning to extremists and Islamists, overwhelmed activists, and false believers a return to Pakistan’s founding roots.