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The Future of Ahmadis in ‘Naya’ Pakistan

Photo: Hindustan Times

By Rameez Raja

Before the partition of British India, the demand for the ‘land of the pure’ (Pakistan) was vehemently supported by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (AMC), along with other Muslims. The then Khalifa of the AMC, Hadhrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad took the decision to migrate from Qadian, Punjab (India) to a newly created Pakistan for many reasons. First, it was mandatory for the AMC to support the Muslims who were demanding Pakistan in the name of Islam. Second, the AMC was not excluded from the mainstream Muslim community and was considered as one of the sects within Islam until being declared as non-Muslim minority by Pakistani National Assembly on September 7, 1974.

When Muslims migrated to Pakistan, it was a victory for Muslims to settle in a newly established state whose future depended on Islamic Ideology. However, with the rise of Jamaat-e-Islamia, the appeals were made to the government to declare AMC as non-Muslims in 1953. Prime Minister Nizamudin and Justice Munir denied their appeals because of the lack of evidence based on Quran and Hadith from the clerics to declare AMC as non-Muslims. Also, it was not easy to accept one version of Islam from a religious scholar/ulema.

Islam is the main tool for the ulemas to change the behaviour of citizens in Pakistan. The religious education was included in mosques, schools, and military units during the reign of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia ul Haq in Pakistan. Subsequently, the Jihad emerged as the new policy for ulemas backed by government to fight against Communism when Soviet forces landed in Afghanistan in 1979. The Pakistani government supported the United States Taliban Jihad policy to wipe out Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

The paradigm shift happened in 1974 in the history of Pakistan Islamic state. The demand of clerics to declare AMC as non-Muslims got support from the government and Pakistan’s National Assembly took the decision to declare AMC as non-Muslims during Bhutto regime in 1974. The government finally accepted the demand of the ulemas to segregate the AMC from mainstream Muslim community. Pakistan’s Islam is not unitary because of several sects of Islam with different interpretations; however, all sects supported the government’s decision to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims. It was argued that Islam was in danger due to Ahmadi faith; so it was necessary to declare them as a non-Muslim minority. Several authors argued that Pakistan’s version of Islam was not based on ‘toleration, equality and brotherhood.’ Thus, it became easy for clerics to play a religious card to declare the AMC as non-Muslims in 1974.

The AMC was accused of disrespecting the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) because of the claims of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who, according to his followers, had fulfilled all the revelations of Prophet of Islam regarding the second advent of the Promised Messiah. There are some serious allegations on the persecuted minority that eventually culminated into anger and hatred from the other side. The Muslims enjoyed impunity to demolish the rights of the AMC in Pakistan.

Pakistan means ‘Islam’ for Muslims but who is a ‘Pakistani’ is a puzzling question. According to this ideology, which equates Pakistan with Islam, it automatically excludes AMC from the citizenship because they are now outside of mainstream Muslim community according to Pakistan’s version of Islam. Jinnah’s statement about the secular Pakistan hardly attracted ulemas. Jinnah said, ‘You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.’ Jinnah himself was not clear about Pakistan’s status. Few months later, he went on to describe Pakistan as ‘this mighty land that had been brought under a rule which is Islamic.’ Undoubtedly, Islam promotes brotherhood, tolerance, and peace, but which version of Islam was Jinnah taking about is doubtful. Bhutto was a Shia Muslim and he supported ulemas to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims in 1974. The ulemas belonged to Jamaat-e-Islamia, Barelvi, Deobandi, and Shia. Surprisingly, the Shia community in Pakistan is now persecuted, too.

The ‘Objectives Resolution’ by Constituent Assembly in 1949 was an important factor that helped ulemas declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The resolution primarily focused on Pakistan’s status as an Islamic state. Nevertheless, it talked about democracy, equality and social justice, but in accordance with the ulema’s/Pakistan’s version of Islam. After the death of Bhutto in 1979, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islamia, Maududi had become a major ideological influence in Pakistan with the support of military rulers like General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88).

Zia became harsher towards the AMC by implementing the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Ahmadis were banned from calling themselves Muslims and finally the hapless and helpless minority community was isolated in their own state. Zia was a ‘devout Muslim’ for many who supported his discriminatory policies. Zia backed the decision of the United States to launch an armed Jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan that finally resulted in birth of extremism and militancy in Pakistan. The killing of innocent Ahmadis is a result of extremism owing to Zia’s Jihad policy. Also, Zia implemented the Hudood Ordinance in 1979 which introduced severe punishment for crimes like adultery, theft, and consuming alcohol in Pakistan which was good in itself but unfortunately some women suffered a lot due to the baseless charges of adultery. There were around 6000 women prisoners in Pakistan during Zia’s rule.

After Zia’s death in 1988, Pakistan still continued as an Islamic state and no one has been able to challenge the discriminatory laws in Pakistan. It is not easy for Ahmadis to cast votes in Pakistan because that needs their confirmation or to declare Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a liar or to be a false or impostor prophet. Also, it is a punishable crime for Ahmadis to convey an Islamic greeting to Muslims. The AMC is banned from organizing a religious seminar in their own area Rabwah or anywhere in Pakistan where Ahmadis are settled. The prominent Ahmadi figures like Dr. Abdus Salam and Sir Choudhury Zafarullah Khan who had served Pakistan in different fields have been taunted as traitors or anti-Islamic by their own people. It is obvious because Pakistan based on the idea of pure Islam would consider Ahmadis non-Muslims.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘Naya’ (new) Pakistan had appointed Dr. Atif Mian (economist) as one of the members of Economic Advisory Council to Pakistan government. Dr. Mian belongs to the AMC and his name in the list has annoyed Ulemas of Pakistan, particularly Khadim Rizvi, member of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, who threatened the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, in this regard. Additionally, all political parties except the Pakistan Peoples Party submitted a call attention notice in a Senate Secretariat raising objections over the appointment. Few years back, the Nawaz Sharif government also took an independent decision to rename the Physics department at Quaid-e-Azam University as Dr. Abdus Salam Centre for Physics in 2016. However, Captain Safdar supported by various religious groups criticized the government’s initiative.

Pakistan is struggling to assert itself as a democratic state on the international arena due to its many internal problems like misgovernment, rampant corruption, extremism, militancy, and human rights violations. The decision to acknowledge Dr. Abdus Salam was taken due to international pressure and perhaps not to represent the Ahmadis in Pakistan. Similarly, Dr. Mian was appointed to save Pakistan from the debt crisis because he is a great economist. Dr. Mian might have helped Pakistan to improve its economic situation. His representation had nothing to do with the status of the AMC in Pakistan. Finally, Pakistan government agreed to remove Dr. Mian due to strong pressure from religio-political parties. Politics in Pakistan always revolves around Ahmadis. Also, I am not sure how far the economists can help Pakistan to prosper economically. It needs sound political and economic institutions for economic prosperity which Pakistan lacks completely. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in their book Why Nations fail rejected the ‘ignorance hypothesis’ for economic prosperity. Also, they argued that ‘politics is crucial for explaining world inequality’ and we know that politics in Pakistan is in bad shape. That is why Dr. Mian has been removed from the said council.

It is hard for government/politicians to challenge the blasphemy laws and acknowledge the role of Ahmadis in Pakistan. There is a Politician-Ulema-Army Nexus in Pakistan. Also, the educated class like judges, lawyers, doctors, professors, scientists are influenced by Maududi’s version of Islam which is against Ahmadia faith. The ulemas of various sects of Islam are busy in organizing seminars on the ‘finality of the prophethood’ and they spew venom in their speeches and never shy away from calling for a genocide of Ahmadis in Pakistan.

The ulemas are very powerful in Pakistan because they use religion to change the behaviour of Pakistani citizens. Islam is the first priority for Muslims in Pakistan and hardly any Pakistani would dare to challenge the ulema’s version of Islam because the ulemas might launch fatwas against sympathizers of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Moreover, since the military and Islamists are more powerful than the government in Pakistan, it is not easy for politicians to be accommodative of Ahmadis. Also, most of the military officials follow Maududi’s version of Islam in Pakistan.

The Information minister, Fawad Choudhury said in a statement that Pakistan has not appointed Dr. Mian in any Council of Islamic Ideology and those who are criticizing this appointment are basically extremists. Fawad’s statement which is good in itself might win hearts of many Ahmadis all over the world but I am sure he is not in a position to alter the discriminatory laws against Ahmadis in Pakistan. Within three days after Dr. Mian’s appointment, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government was forced to withdraw the nomination of Dr. Mian from the said council. Fawad later confirmed that it was vital to withdraw his name because the government wants to avoid division. Subsequently, the two other economists (Imran Rasul and Asim Ijaz Khawaja) appointed for the same council resigned due to poor and discriminatory decision of the Pakistan government toward Ahmadi economist Dr. Mian.

Main Reason for the removal of Dr. Mian

The AMC denounces an armed Jihad which most of the Islamists believe in. The founder of the AMC, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad primarily believed in ‘Jihad by pen’ and urged his followers to use the medium of pen in order to spread Ahmadiyyat peacefully all over the world. Most ulemas in Pakistan talk about a ‘political revolution’ through Islam which is contrary to the AMC’s belief in a ‘spiritual revolution’ within Islam. Moreover, there is a strong allegation that the AMC does not believe in the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). That is the main reason why the mainstream Muslim Community has intentionally segregated themselves from the AMC. Also, the Ahmadis are accused as agents of the British because Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had praised the British rule in India owing to their implementation of religious freedom.

Obviously, the Ahmadis will never accept Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a liar or an impostor prophet. The Ahmadis will never give up their faith. That means they will never cast votes until and unless their founder/faith is respected in Pakistan. The religious gap would hardly bring reconciliation between ulemas and Ahmadis in Pakistan. However, in case Pakistan/ulemas accepted the secular democratic principles, the so-called non-Muslims in Pakistan might enjoy their basic rights. Ironically, Pakistan is also a signatory of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 27(1) of the constitution of Pakistan assures ‘safeguard against the discrimination against services… on the ground only of race, religion, caste…’

Rameez Raja
is pursuing Ph. D at Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.


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