Asif M Basit
Change is probably the one thing that consistently happens to Pakistan. One day there is a democratically elected government (as democratic as possible in Pakistan), then a few years – or even months – pass by that the military decides to take hold of the reins, and then after a short period of time, you have some political party sitting behind the wheel again, driving the country in a bumper-car fashion in the amusement park that we know as the international community.
The tragedy is that amidst all this rapid change at the periphery, the core of the society never seems to change – never for the better at least. Minority rights top the list of the insecurities that have existed in Pakistan for the last four decades. The so-called Islamisation of Pakistan that started at the hand of the so-called liberal Bhutto has not only left the whole nation in tatters but also earned a stigmatised reputation for Islam; clergy-controlled leaders justifying every evil on the touchstone of Islam.
The very recent change that came about with the general elections in Pakistan came as a ray of hope and a potential breath of fresh air for the citizens of Pakistan. But hardly a week or so passed that Faisalabad – once twinned with Manchester for its industrial fervour – saw a barbaric act against the Ahmadis living in the Ghaseetpura area of the city, details of which are included in today’s issue.
Ahmadis have been silenced with the manipulation of the law in a way that makes it illegal for them to even cry in pain. An NGO or charity choosing to bring up the Ahmadiyya issue is silenced by the political machinery by classing it no different to the general state of law-and-order in the country and the sectarian violence that affects all religious sects, including Ahmadis. How flawed this narrative is can easily be assessed by only a brief look into the law – the most endangered species of Pakistan, rapidly becoming extinct.
So, what does the law say? With the Second Amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan in 1974 – for which every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be credited for – Ahmadis happen to be the only community that have been declared non-Muslim despite their claims to being Muslim. This was enough to incite hate against a community by singling it out from the hundreds of Muslim sects that exist on the religious spectrum of Pakistan. But maybe this was not enough as ten years on, the infamous dictator of Pakistan, General Ziaul Haq, launched the Ordinance XX which made it unlawful for Ahmadis to engage in anything Muslim; from modes of worship to dress, from greetings to using any terms that were Islamic and the latter included having Muslim names.
Adding fuel to fire is the negative propaganda against Ahmadis aimed to incite hatred in the general public especially by declaring them apostates, and thus, virtually issuing a license to kill as apostasy in the Pakistani clergy’s version of Islam amounts to capital punishment that can not only be implemented by anyone, but also, can guarantee salvation from all sins and guarantee paradise in the hereafter. Lured to secure the promised bounties of the hereafter, hundreds of Ahmadis have been slain by members of the general public in what one can call the extra-judicial killing of a certain section of the society with full judicial backing.
Dozens of Ahmadis are imprisoned because they hurt the sentiments of Pakistani Muslims by saying “Assalamo Alaikum” (peace be on you); by saying “Insha-Allah” (if Allah wills); by writing Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Raheem (In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful) at the start of a piece of writing; by reciting the Kalima which says that Allah is One and Muhammad is His messenger. How ironic it is that the Muslim sentiment should be injured when someone, whosoever it may be, expresses their love for Allah and His Messenger.
The canvas of Pakistan’s history is stained with the blood of innocent Ahmadis. So are the hands of the rulers of Pakistan who uphold the inhumane laws that lead to the persecution and brutal attacks on Ahmadis. But with the recent change, we do expect that the ambitious leadership will look into the matter seriously and not become one of their predecessors, washing their hands obsessively and saying: “Out damned spot! Out, I Say!”
Corruption, money-laundering, health, poverty and education are all justified in being the new leadership’s top priority, but there is still more that can be added to it, or else the “damned spot” won’t go from their hands. It just won’t!