By Imad Zafar
May 29, 2018
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
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.