Archive | June, 2016

Acknowledging our hypocrisy

24 Jun

Will we remember two weeks from now who Dr. Chaudhary Abdul Khaliq was? Will the cold blooded murder of this Ahmadi doctor stay etched in our collective conscience? More importantly, when will we finally stand up and say “enough is enough”? Considering the death threats actor Hamza Ali Abbasi has received on simply asking a question regarding the business of the state, the most likely answer we can give is in the negative.

On interaction with some very educated and accomplished people within this country, one finds a unanimous consensus that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Getting into that debate is like placing a bulls-eye on your forehead and asking the right-wing to come and shoot you in the face. So let us put that debate to an end – let us not discuss whether a particular group is Muslim or non-Muslim. Let us talk about what the real issue is: does any State have the right to persecute and discriminate against those it is contracted to protect, regardless of their colour, faith or any other such factors?

We, in Pakistan, are the first to condemn Israel, Donald Trump, the monks in Myanmar and all other state and non-state actors that demonize, target and persecute Muslims. While that is all well and good, it is time we acknowledge our blatant hypocrisy. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan introduced within our supreme legal document Article 260(3)(b) which defines a “non-Muslim” as “a person who is not a Muslim and includes a person belonging to the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist  or Parsi community, a person of the Qadiani Group or the Lahori Group who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name or a Bahai, and a person belonging to any of the Scheduled Castes”. This is a strange provision, particularly considering the preceding sub-provision, i.e. Article 260(3)(a) which defines a Muslim as “a person who believes in the unity and oneness of Almighty Allah, in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), the last of the prophets, and does not believe in, or recognize as a prophet or religious reformer, any person who claimed or claims to be a prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad (PBUH)”.

It is clear from a first-reading of Article 260(3)(a) that a Muslim is very clearly defined. What was the need to define non-Muslims when we have already, in the aforementioned provision, explicitly stated that anyone who does not believe in the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) is not a Muslim? It seems like nothing more than an insecure state, representative of an insecure population, trying desperately to prove the strength of their faith.

As if this wasn’t enough, our insecurity peaked under the leadership (or lack thereof) of Zia-ul-Haq, who inserted Sections 298B and C into the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). This alteration in the PPC has created a situation where an Ahmadi can be sentenced to death for something as basic as affirming their faith. What is beyond rational comprehension is that, if the Constitution defines a Muslim as someone who recognizes the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), then why would we be putting people to death who the majority recognizes as non-Muslims for observing their own faith?

Even more confusing is the Federal Shariat Court’s (FSC) rationale in Mujibur Rahman v Government of Pakistan, in which it was asked to determine whether Ordinance XX ‘was contrary to the injunctions of the Holy Quran and Sunnah’. The FSC stated that parliament was merely prohibiting Ahmadis from ‘calling themselves what they [were] not’. If Ahmadis are not what they claim to be and if we are all aware of this fact, why do we need the legislature, executive and judiciary to institutionalize persecution against them? We didn’t even stop there – the FSC made it a point to state that the death penalty was more appropriate a punishment for Ahmadis than life imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is presenting an image to the international community that we deserve privileges like the GSP Plus Status and so forth despite the fact that we are in clear violation of our commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly Articles 17 and 18 which protect the rights of individuals to privacy and freedom ‘either individual or in community with others and in public or private to manifest’ their religious beliefs. In fact, Article 18(2) of the Covenant places on us an obligation to ensure that ‘no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice’. What greater coercion exists than the threat of death?

Empty words of condemnation are not enough. In May 2010, two Ahmadi ‘places of worship’ were attacked in Lahore when gunmen opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers. Over 90 people died and 110 were injured. In December 2012, over 100 Ahmadi graves were desecrated by gunmen in Lahore. Ahmadi doctors have been the target of gunmen all over the country for longer than one can remember. The Constitution, the Penal Code and the practice of the courts has created unlimited liability for Pakistan’s Ahmadi population.

The United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities issued a statement against Ordinance XX in 1985, calling on Pakistan to repeal the instrument in order to protect the rights of Ahmadis. Of course, Pakistan, as per usual, chose not to comply. And then our eyes fill with murderous fire when anyone points out that Pakistan is a graveyard for minorities. It is about time we put aside our emotions and address this issue rationally once and for all.