Ahmadiyya History

Apartheid of Ahmadis in Pakistan

A Lecture by Mujeeb ur Rahman, Advocate Harvard Law School Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

(part 1 of 2)

(Originally published in The Review of Religions on 23rd December 2015)

Ahmadis arrested

For years, Ahmadi Muslims have been treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan. Pakistani advocate Mujeeb ur Rahman explores the legal background.
The Review of Religions is pleased to present below the first part in a two-part series featuring a discussion on the legal status of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan by the advocate and lawyer, Mr. Mujeeb ur Rahman, at Harvard Law School. The event was co-sponsored by the Harvard Human Rights Program, Harvard Human Rights Law Journal, Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights, Harvard South Asian Law Students Association, and Ahmadiyya Muslim Lawyers Association USA, and moderated by Amjad Mahmood Khan, Esq. We will feature the Q&A which followed the lecture in our January 2016 issue.

Click here to scroll to the lecture

Introductory Remarks by Moderator Amjad Mahmood Khan

I am truly honored and privileged to introduce to you our keynote speaker, Mr. Mujeeb-ur-Rahman.

But to help put Mr. Rahman’s background and contributions in their proper context, let me first provide a brief overview of who the Ahmadis are and the scope of the persecution they endure.

Founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a revivalist movement within Islam. Ahmadi Muslims believe in the Kalima, (the principal creed of a Muslim) and they self-identify and profess to be Muslims. The fundamental ideological difference between the mainstream Sunni Muslim majority and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community concerns the identity of the Mahdi (Reformer) and Masih (Messiah) in Islam; Ahmadi Muslims believe their Founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, occupied both roles.

Over the years, countless Ahmadis have been imprisoned due to Pakistan’s harsh anti-blasphemy laws.
Over the years, countless Ahmadis have been imprisoned due to Pakistan’s harsh anti-blasphemy laws.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is among the most persecuted Muslim communities in the world. The U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and dozens of human rights non-governmental organisations have documented the systematic persecution endured by Ahmadi Muslims at the hands of religious extremists and state and quasi-state institutions in numerous countries around the world, including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Today, Mr. Rahman’s talk will focus on Pakistan, which has become a particularly disturbing case study in religious intolerance as it pertains to Ahmadi Muslims.

While the precise counts are difficult to establish, some researchers and scholars estimate that several million Ahmadi Muslims live in Pakistan. As I mentioned, Ahmadi Muslims self-identify and profess to be Muslims, but their belief is irrelevant under the law. That is because Pakistan is the only Islamic state in the world to define explicitly who is or is not a Muslim in its Constitution (Article 260). The Second Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, passed exactly 40 years ago in 1974, amends Article 260 to say,

A person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad[sa], the last of the Prophets or claims to be a Prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad[sa], or recognizes such a claimant as a Prophet or religious reformer, is not a Muslim for the purposes of the Constitution or law.

This amendment explicitly deprives Ahmadi Muslims of their right to self-identify as Muslims.

As has been well-chronicled by the International Community, since 1984, Pakistan has used its Criminal Code to prohibit and punish blasphemy. Blasphemy in Pakistan broadly refers to any spoken or written representation that “directly or indirectly” outrages the religious sentiments of Muslims. Five of Pakistan’s current penal code provisions punish blasphemy. These are collectively referred to as the “anti-blasphemy” laws of Pakistan.

Over the course of 30 years, several thousand individuals have been arrested under these laws. These individuals were Muslims (Sunnis, Shias and Ahmadis), Christians and Hindus. Their crimes ranged from wearing an Islamic slogan on a t-shirt, to planning to build a mosque, to distributing Islamic literature in a public square, to offering prayers in a mosque, to printing a wedding invitation card with Qur’anic verses, to sending a text message perceived as critical of Islam. Their punishments ranged from fines to indefinite detention to life imprisonment to the death sentence. Although no one to date in Pakistan has been executed for blasphemy, several dozen individuals have been killed by mobs after having been arrested for blasphemy.

The most notorious of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws is a 50-word Penal Code Ordinance (called Section 295-C):

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for a fine.

Based on this remarkably broad language, virtually anyone can register a blasphemy case against anyone else in Pakistan, and the accused can face capital punishment.

For Ahmadi Muslims, Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws have essentially criminalised their very existence. Two of the five anti-blasphemy laws explicitly target by name the activities of Ahmadi Muslims. These two laws are part of what is known as Martial Law Ordinance XX, which amended Pakistan’s Penal Code and Press Publication Ordinance Sections 298-B and 298-C. For fear of being charged with “indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim,” Ahmadi Muslims cannot profess their faith, either verbally or in writing. Pakistani police have destroyed Ahmadi translations of the Qur’an and banned Ahmadi publications, the use of any Islamic terminology on Ahmadi Muslim wedding invitation cards, the offering of Ahmadi Muslim funeral prayers, and the displaying of the Kalima (the principal creed of a Muslim) on Ahmadi Muslim gravestones. In addition, Ordinance XX prohibits Ahmadi Muslims from declaring their faith publicly, propagating their faith, building mosques or making the call for Muslim prayers. In short, virtually any public act of worship, devotion or propagation by an Ahmadi Muslim can be treated as a criminal offense punishable by fine, imprisonment or death.

Not surprisingly, having suffered under the anti-blasphemy laws for years, religious minorities in Pakistan have challenged the constitutionality of the anti-blasphemy laws under Article 20 (Fundamental Religious Freedom clause) of Pakistan’s Constitution. Unfortunately, however, the anti-blasphemy laws have withstood legal scrutiny.

In 1984, shortly after President Zia-ul-Haq enacted Ordinance XX, the Federal Shariat Court (the highest religious court in Pakistan) was asked to rule on the question of whether or not Ordinance XX was contrary to the injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunnah (practice of Prophet Muhammadsa). The case was Mujeeb-ur-Rahman v. Government of Pakistan, and Mr. Rahman was both the lead petitioner and lead counsel. The court upheld the validity of Ordinance XX and ruled that parliament had acted within its authority to declare Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims. Ordinance XX, the court maintained, merely prohibited Ahmadi Muslims from “calling themselves what they are not,” namely Muslims.

On July 3, 1993, the Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed eight appeals brought by Ahmadi Muslims who were arrested under Ordinance XX and Section 295-C. The collective complaint in the case, Zaheerudin v. State, was that the 1984 Ordinance XX violated the constitutional rights of religious minorities. The court dismissed the complaint on two main grounds. First, the court held that Ahmadi Muslim religious practice, however peaceful, angered and offended the Sunni majority in Pakistan, and to maintain law and order, Pakistan would therefore need to control Ahmadi Muslim religious practice. Second, Ahmadi Muslims, having been deemed to be non-Muslims by law, could not use Islamic epithets in public without violating company and trademark laws. Pakistan, the court reasoned, had the right to protect the sanctity of religious terms under these laws and the right to prevent their usage by non-Muslims. The court also pointed to the sacredness of religious terms under the Shari’a. The Zaheeruddin opinion further entrenched the anti-Ahmadi ordinances by giving the government power to freely punish Ahmadi Muslim religious practice as blasphemy.

Desecration of the Kalima Shahada (Islamic declaration of faith) outside a Mosque owned by the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan.
Desecration of the Kalima Shahada (Islamic declaration of faith) outside a Mosque owned by the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan.

In light of these twin court decisions by the highest judicial bodies in Pakistan, Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws remain a legitimate state-approved instrument for persecution of religious minorities, particularly Ahmadi Muslims.

As a consequence of the current legal apparatus criminalising Ahmadi activities, Ahmadi Muslims have faced grave human rights violations. I’ve had the opportunity to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives on these ongoing violations.

Allow me to share some eye-opening statistics:

Many hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan since it was founded. The past four years have been especially brutal with targeted killings of women and multiple members of the same families and Ahmadi Muslim doctors, lawyers, religious leaders, businessmen and teachers. This includes several American citizens who were killed, including a doctor very recently. In 2010 alone, 99 Ahmadi Muslims were murdered in Pakistan – the deadliest year ever for the Community. This includes the murder of 86 Ahmadi Muslims (and hundreds more injured) on May 28, 2010 in a single attack in Lahore – one of the largest terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s history.

Since 1974, in contravention of their own beliefs, every single Ahmadi Muslim man, woman and child in Pakistan is declared to be “non-Muslim” by constitutional amendment.

Since 1985, millions of Ahmadi Muslims cannot, by operation of law, fully and freely vote in national and provincial elections, and as of 2002, Ahmadi Muslims are the only religious group excluded from the nation’s joint electorate. Ahmadi Muslims can only vote in Pakistan if they (1) declare themselves to be non-Muslim; (2) declare the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to be an imposter; and (3) add their names to a separate supplementary list.

To date, 3,943 cases have been registered against Ahmadi Muslims under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws. Ahmadi Muslims now account for almost 40% of all arrests under Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.

To date, Pakistani authorities have demolished, set on fire, forcibly occupied, sealed or barred the construction of over 90 Ahmadi Muslim mosques. They have also denied the cemetery burial of at least 41 Ahmadi Muslims and have exhumed after burial the bodies of at least 28 Ahmadi Muslims.

Based on my study and advocacy on this issue, I note the following patterns of persecution,

Police at the provincial and local levels routinely fail to provide adequate protection and safeguards for vulnerable Ahmadi Muslims, despite receiving adequate notifications and warning of imminent harm and threats. In some extreme cases, police are complicit in the persecution, torture and ultimate murder of Ahmadi Muslims.

Ahmadi Muslim professionals, including physicians, lawyers and teachers, are particularly targeted by extreme terrorist groups.

Mass burial service after Lahore Massacre on 28th May 2010. 86 people were killed and more than 120 left injured.
Mass burial service after Lahore Massacre on 28th May 2010. 86 people were killed and more than 120 left injured.

The perpetrators of deadly attacks on Ahmadi Muslims are rarely arrested and charged for their criminal acts, and in some cases, are permitted to act with impunity and even given legal sanctuary and safe havens.

Frivolous blasphemy cases are routinely registered against Ahmadi Muslims as a means to settle personal scores and business rivalries.

With that background and context, let me now introduce our keynote speaker, Mr. Mujeeb ur Rahman.

Mr. Rahman is among Pakistan’s most renowned lawyers and is a noted Islamic scholar and author. He’s a Senior Advocate of the Pakistan Supreme Court and founder of his own law firm in Rawalpindi. Mr. Rahman graduated from the University of Punjab in 1957 and obtained his LLB from the University of Karachi in 1961.

For over 53 years, Mr. Rahman has argued hundreds of cases, including scores of cases before the Pakistan Supreme Court.


Mr. Rahman has devoted the lion’s share of his legal career to the cause of religious freedom and is referred by some as the “Thurgood Marshall of Pakistan.” He has defended hundreds of cases registered against Ahmadi Muslims under the anti-blasphemy laws, most notably in Zaheeruddin, where five Ahmadi Muslims were charged for professing to be Muslims, under Ordinance XX, which is specifically targeted at Ahmadi Muslims. Mr. Rahman challenged the prosecution on the grounds that it violated the rights of religious freedom under Pakistan’s Constitution, that the law was discriminatory, vague and overbroad.

In the judicial history of Pakistan, Zaheeruddin is a landmark judgment, and its effect on the role of religion in Pakistan’s state and society is perhaps best analogised to Plessy v. Ferguson’s here in the United States, and its impact on the relationship between race and law in the United States.

In recent years, he has served as the lead prosecutor in the case against the accused perpetrator of a 2003 suicide bombing aimed at General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s then-Chief Executive. Indeed, Mr. Rahman’s areas of expertise span all areas of Pakistan’s constitutional, civil, criminal and military law, as well as Islamic law and jurisprudence.

Lecture Delivered by Mr. Mujeeb-ur-Rehman

Ladies and gentlemen, members of academia, and students of Harvard Law School – it is indeed a great pleasure and great privilege to be here. I have never been to a university here in the western countries, addressing so many students and a galaxy of academia and students with law as their career.

I have a passion for law, and I have served the law as best as I could in the last 53 years of my life. Amjad Mahmood Khan [the moderator] has said some very fine words for me. It is customary to say, “Don’t believe a word of what he said.” I will not say that, but I will certainly say that sometimes many good lawyers also overstate their case. So be on your guard because he may have overstated his case!

And thereafter, before I start, ladies and gentlemen, I see people here from various nationalities, some Americans and many Pakistanis, so I take this opportunity to start with saying “Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem. Assalamo Alaikum [peace be upon you].” Why did I say that? I did not have to say that. That is not how we greet each other here. I have been greeting everybody here with, “Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.” Why did I say “Assalamo Alaikum?” To register here, at Harvard Law School, that if I said that greeting in Pakistan, I could be sent to jail for 3 years. I have not yet been sent to jail, somehow my legal profession has protected me, but my fellow co-religionists have gone to jail for saying “Assalamo Alaikum” which is the customary way of greeting citizens in Pakistan. Even Christians would greet each other with “Assalamo Alaikum.” It’s almost a reflex action, and people have gone to jail for it. This is the background, and Amjad has given you many details, and I will not go into those details again.

The organisers of this lecture have given me a specific subject, “Apartheid of Ahmadis in Pakistan,” and I will talk about this subject. As for myself, I am reminded of a Persian couplet which says, “My whole body is bruised with wounds, where shall I put the balm?” So, if I were to show you my wounds that I have suffered, some of them which Amjad has mentioned, I would perhaps take the whole time, and I will not do that. I am not here to win the sympathy of my audience. I am here to discuss a purely academic subject from a purely academic angle, and I am going to talk of the constitutional issues here in America. Why? At all times, I carry the Holy Qur’an with me for my daily recitation, and I also carry this pocketbook constitution of Pakistan with me because my faith is dear to me, and whatever my constitution may have done to me, I still follow this constitution, I still honour this constitution, I still protect this constitution, and it is that constitution which I will discuss with you this morning. Now before I go there and before I take you to South Asia, I see some scholars here – Professor Asad Ahmad is sitting here, and some others who have worked on the subject of South Asia, and they are sociologists and anthropologists, and they have done great research; I will not comment on their work here but I can see all of them here and thank them for coming.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that the crest of Harvard Law School has really inspired me. It has captured my attention. Quest for truth, discovery of truth, preserving truth, upholding truth, spreading the light of truth, dispelling the darkness of ignorance and untruth, these are the highest ideals that man can think of. So I congratulate you, and inspired by that I am here to share with you some truths. Some truths which I bring from my own country, which you may not be familiar with; some truths I will mention from your own country and constitution. This constitution of Pakistan has borrowed a lot from the United States’ Constitution. Our jurisprudence in the Pakistan Supreme Court over the last 50 years has cited hundreds of cases from American jurisprudence. And mostly, rightly cited, rightly followed, rightly analysed, but in the Zaheeruddin case, a dozen American cases were wrongly cited, wrongly relied upon and wrongly interpreted. Way back in 1994, a group of Minnesota lawyers prepared an amicus brief to be presented in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. I received that brief because I was the counsel of record in that case. It could not be presented because of the procedural regulation of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. There was no such procedure for receiving amicus briefs as such, and the American lawyers did not have the right of an audience. But those lawyers, and I understand that Amjad has also worked on the same issue, explained how American case law was misapplied to give the colour of fairness to the Zaheeruddin case. And I pause here to say that some of our studies carried out here at Harvard University have in a strange way tried to justify Zaheeruddin on reasons other than legal grounds. I will not mention all of those studies, but I will refer to some of the comments which were passed after the Zaheeruddin case, but let me start by sharing some truths that I wish to recall and that I wish to rely on.

First of all, let me take you to a famous saying of a lawyer here in America. Defending a blasphemy case, Colonel Ingersoll has said, “I deny the right of any number of men, of any church, of any State, to put a padlock on the lips – to make the tongue a convict. I passionately deny the right of the Herod of authority to kill the children of the brain.” And that is a fellow lawyer from America who spoke the truth. And he spoke another truth, he said, “There is a constitution higher than any statute. There is a law higher than any constitution. It is the law of the human conscience, and no man who is a man will defile and pollute his conscience at the bidding of any legislature.” So I am here to tell you and share with you the truth about Ahmadi Muslims, that despite everything that has been done to them, they have not denied or polluted their conscience on the bidding of the Pakistan Constitution. We will not pollute our conscience. We will continue to keep our faith and I as a man, so long as I live, I will try my best to have the Zaheeruddin case overturned.

 Photo of the Pakistan Monument in Islamabad. This landmark represents four provinces of Pakistan. © Shahid Khan | shutterstock

Photo of the Pakistan Monument in Islamabad. This landmark represents four provinces of Pakistan.
© Shahid Khan | shutterstock

Why do I say this? This hope came to me from the United States. In the United States, way back in the 1930s, you remember, there were cases concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some of them came to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied some of the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But within a period of three years, the judgment of the U.S. Supreme Court was overturned by another bench of the judgment of the same Supreme Court; one of the judges of the earlier cases sitting on the subsequent bench said, “I was wrong in my earlier decision.” It is said again by one of the American judges: “A dissent in the court of last resort is an appeal to the intelligence of a future day to the brooding spirit of law.” I am keeping my hope in the intelligence of a future day. That future day has not arrived so far in Pakistan, but I live with that hope. Someday, the brooding spirit of law will awaken in Pakistan also.

Let me now take you to the 1974 amendment of Pakistan’s Constitution, which I seriously challenge and do not consider to be a valid piece of law. Since I am sitting at Harvard, I will rely on some American authorities and American cases to prove my point. I say that the 1974 constitutional amendment was a usurpation of constitutional authority. And before I dilate upon that subject, I will take a few minutes trying to show you how it was a usurpation of constitutional authority. Let me read something from James Madison and some other American thinkers. Madison said, “We maintain therefore that in matters of religion, no man’s right is abridged by the constitution or civil society, and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.” I hold that the Pakistan Assembly did not have jurisdiction over the question of religion. When the Head of the Ahmadiyya Community appeared before the Pakistan National Assembly, he raised a preliminary objection that this Assembly did not have the jurisdiction to decide his faith. That objection has not been met by Pakistan’s Constitution. No constitutional lawyer in Pakistan has yet answered that question – that the Pakistan Assembly, or any assembly in the world for that matter, has no jurisdiction to decide on matters of faith. If you talk in terms of the political science of the philosophers Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, a constitution is a social contract. The very existence of a state is the result of a social contract. In modern terminology, when we frame a constitution more particularly, a federal constitution, where three or four or five provinces come together to frame a constitution, they enter into a contract. That basic contract cannot be altered unilaterally. And, I think it was James Madison again who said that when we enter into a contract in our day-to-day dealings, that contract is always subject to the general law of the land.

Supreme Court Building of Pakistan in Islamabad. Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan. © Khalid Mahmood
Supreme Court Building of Pakistan in Islamabad. Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan.
© Khalid Mahmood

Similarly, when we enter into a contract from a state or a constitution, that constitution is with a reservation to my relationship with my Lord in Heaven. He is the ultimate Governor, ultimate Sovereign of the universe. So my contract with the state, or any contract with the state with any country, including the United States, cannot call into question my faith. Because the contract is subject to that reservation that my relationship to the ultimate Sovereign is supreme and under that I enter into this contract, which is known as constitution. But there are constitutional reasons also; there is a wider political science reason when I said that the constitution is a contract which cannot be violated. When I say that we do it with a reservation, is it only a hypothetical political question that I am raising? No. It is a question which has been incorporated in the constitutional document and that document in U.S. terminology is known as the “Bill of Rights.”

Muslims in Pakistan must declare Ahmadis ‘non-Muslim’ to receive a passport.
Muslims in Pakistan must declare Ahmadis ‘non-Muslim’ to receive a passport.

In my terminology, it is known as the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution from article 8 to article 27. I am specifically referring to article 8 and article 20. Article 8 of my constitution, Pakistan’s Constitution, says: “No law shall be made to abridge or take away the fundamental rights.” The state could not even abridge my right or take away my right to identify myself as a Muslim or to oppress my faith as a Muslim. I have read somewhere in American cases, this concept is what is known as the “tyranny of the legislature.” That tyranny of the legislature persists in Pakistan, and I speak at Harvard today not because it’s simply an academic exercise and I am trying to gloat upon this exercise. I think that in this world of today, which is a global world, a small world now where we interact and there are international human right laws and treaties and international relations, how can a country, on its own, deny certain fundamental rights, and the rest of the world remain silent? In the United States, the cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses were overturned in less than three years because the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was very active. In my country, for over 40 years, it has not been overturned because the civil society in my country is, frankly, dumb. Is civil society in America also dumb? It is said, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. In any corner of the world if there is injustice, this great country owes it to the world to raise its voice. I know at the diplomatic level voices are raised, but raising a diplomatic voice, which is couched in many sweet political words, is different from the whole civil society raising that voice because it is the voice of your conscience. Your constitution will say the same as I am saying: how can you enter and encroach upon the deep recesses of my inner mind and say what my faith is or what my faith is not?

The theory that I am presenting before you here is that a constitution could not have been amended to take away that right. Pakistan’s initial constitution did not say that I am a non-Muslim. That contract stands. The discriminatory part is only an amendment. That amendment should not have been passed. Justice Samuel Chase says, “I cannot subscribe to the omnipotence of the state legislature. The purposes for which men enter into civil society will determine the nature and terms of the social compact. An ‘act of the legislature’ (for I cannot call it a law).” I also cannot call the Second Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution a law; it is an “act of the legislature,” because it violates the initial contract. It is contrary to the first great principles of the social contract; it cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority. My parliament has exercised that right despite my challenge, despite the objection raised by me, and has not even justified how my objection was wrong.

I am saying all of this because the topic given to me was “Ahmadi Apartheid” with reference to the Zaheeruddin case. How can I refer to the Zaheeruddin case without referring to the Second Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution? Zaheeruddin is rooted in this amendment. But while we were arguing the Zaheeruddin case, we did not go in to that question because we found that civil society in Pakistan, or the Supreme Court in Pakistan, was too weak to take the challenge. We took another step; notwithstanding the constitutional amendment, Ordinance XX, which was a martial law criminal ordinance punishing Ahmadi activities as blasphemous, violates Article 20 of the constitution, which has not been amended. Despite the Second Amendment, Article 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution, which states that everyone shall have a right to freely profess and practise his religion, has not taken fundamental rights away. So my challenge was that Ordinance XX, passed by President Zia ul Haq in 1984, violates Article 20 of the Constitution, and as Amjad has told you, my appeal was turned down but yet again.

But again the judgment in Zaheeruddin is a split judgment; it was a divided opinion. The leading and most senior judge, Shafi ur Rahman, granted me relief in many of the issues that I had raised. The majority judgment has cited some examples, in my country and elsewhere also, related to trademark laws. I have seen that Zaheeruddin is sometimes mentioned as the “Coca Cola Judgment” because the judge says, if the Coca Cola Company, in order to protect its monetary interest of a few pennies, can have rights protected from infringement, why cannot a country protect its religious rights under a similar rationale? As if religion was a matter of sale or merchandise. The majority opinion degraded religion to a level where they made it a saleable commodity. But my faith is not a saleable commodity! There is no financial or economic interest attached with faith. It is the deepest thought and my relation with my Lord which is involved. But you see, such silly things are not confined to Pakistan. I was reading a case in Canada, where the Scientology Church sought to monopolise some of the expressions of the Church, and the Canadian Supreme Court refused it, saying no monopoly. So that fact has been considered by the American and the Canadian courts before the decision of the Zaheeruddin case, and those cases were known to the Supreme Court judges of Pakistan.

Now, having said that let me take you to Pakistan itself – what happened in Pakistan? You see, Pakistan was envisioned as a secular state – a modern democracy based on Islamic principles if you like, but a democracy nevertheless. The Pakistani founding fathers did not visualise a theocratic state or a religious state or an Islamic state or that particular conception within inverted commas; they did not visualise that. It was clear before the creation of Pakistan, by the statements of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Muhammad Iqbal, way back in 1930s, that non-Muslims need not fear because Pakistan was going to be a theocratic state. Jamaat-e-Islami opposed the concept of Pakistan tooth and nail, on the ideological ground that they did not believe in a nation state; they said that Islam is not confined to geographical borders; it is not a nation state; and they believed in pan-Islamism. So they opposed the creation of Pakistan on that principle, howsoever wrong it may have been. However, after Pakistan came into existence, Maulana Maududi – an influential thinker – said we do not accept Pakistan because Pakistan is not going to be an Islamic state, it is going to be a secular, democratic state. And when they came to Pakistan they said that now that Pakistan has come into being, we must make it into an Islamic state. So that effort started. In 1949, there was an “objectives resolution,” which is the preamble of Pakistan’s original constitution, and later on by a Martial Law Edict, it was made an operative part of the constitution as Article 2A. The original preamble of Pakistan’s constitution was couched in the language of high ideas, not couched in legal language; it said that fundamental rights will be guaranteed and minorities will have freedom. The “Objectives Resolution” is considered by some to be the first departure from the secular concept of Pakistan and over a period of time, Pakistan has drifted down this road and has become more and more an Islamic state or a fundamentalist state and gradually now, it is almost a terrorist state, unfortunate as that is. But that “Objectives Resolution” was the first step. All of Pakistan’s founding fathers, who were all alive in 1949 except Jinnah, subscribed to the resolution, because they thought that it was a hybrid approach to follow Islamic principles and modern democratic principles. The religious clerics thought that they had gained an inch of ground and so they should push forward. The modernists thought that they had lost an inch over a period of time, but nevertheless continued. Based on this, there is a long history.

© Rainer Lesniewski | shutterstock
© Rainer Lesniewski | shutterstock

One landmark which I want to mention is the 1953 anti-Ahmadi agitation – riots against Ahmadis – for political reasons (and again I am not just saying it from my own perspective). There were riots in Punjab and martial law had to be imposed in Lahore because there was a demand that Ahmadis should be declared non-Muslim, and Sir Zafrullah Khan – the name is not unknown to you – should be removed from his office as Foreign Minister and that all Ahmadis should be removed from all key posts. What a “key post” is, nobody defined. Remove them from “key posts” – a friend of mine said that the janitor, who comes in the morning and has the key to open the door, is holding a key post (laughter). So, these demands were raised.

And there was riot, arson, looting and burning, In order to quell those disturbances, martial law was imposed. Then, the disturbances were put to inquiry, and the court held that it was actually a fight between the provincial government and the central government. There again there were constitutional issues involved. Briefly, East Pakistan and West Pakistan, two wings of Pakistan, were at that time arguing a question: how do you maintain the balance? East Pakistan had the majority of the population, but the larger area was in West Pakistan. West Pakistan had four provinces, and East Pakistan had one province; the population was 54% in East Pakistan and 46% in West Pakistan. So, how do you make a balance in the assembly? They worked out what is known as the parity principle or formula, which I contend was the first defeat of democratic principles. The people of East Pakistan had a right to be the majority and to have the majority in the Assembly, but that was denied to them. So, on that account, Nazimuddin, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who belonged to East Pakistan, and Mumtaz Daultana, the Chief Minister of Punjab, tussled over that principle.

Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, one of the leading Founding Fathers of modern Pakistan, politician, statesman, diplomat, international jurist, and a prominent writer of the Ahmadiyya Community. © Makhzan-e-Tasaweer
Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, one of the leading Founding Fathers of modern Pakistan, politician, statesman, diplomat, international jurist, and a prominent writer of the Ahmadiyya Community.
© Makhzan-e-Tasaweer

Here, I will say that the Munir Enquiry Report is a document which should be prescribed as a syllabus in all schools of political science. I understand that in Turkey and some other countries, the Munir Enquiry Report has been prescribed in syllabi. In that report, the authors explored what an Islamic state is. The clerics and the Ulema of all the various schools of thought were asked a pointed question: how do you define a Muslim? Who is a Muslim? They could not agree on a definition. The court said they all accused each other of not being Muslims and they had different definitions, and if we accepted one of the definitions, we would be Muslims according to this definition but non-Muslim according to all others. However, if we attempt [yet] another definition, and we say that this is what, in the political context, a “Muslim” means, then we will be non-Muslims in the eyes of all the clerics.

So that issue stopped there, and the question of defining a Muslim or non-Muslim was not resolved. Time passed. In 1970, Pakistan broke, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the first martial law administrator of the remaining Pakistan, which gradually converted to a democracy. Bhutto framed the Constitution. In that first Constitution, which we still pride in Pakistan as the unanimous Constitution of Pakistan, though it has been altered drastically, it did not define a Muslim. I was a Muslim like any other. Shortly thereafter, and this is my theory, as a result of an international conspiracy, a students’ clash was engineered at Rabwah railway station, which is the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. That engineered riot or clash was exaggerated and then Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said that he was going to decide this issue in the Assembly and declare Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. Incidentally, without going into details of that conspiracy, Dr. Mubashar Hassan, one of the members of Bhutto’s cabinet, has admitted that there was some foreign influences (including Saudi influence) in this process.

Let me give you one example here, concerning East Pakistan – the breakaway part of Pakistan –which had yet to be admitted in the United Nations, the King of Saudi Arabia, King Faisal said (and I paraphrase), “Well, it’s very bad that Pakistan has broken up, but after all you are also our Muslim brother and you are a small nation and I want to help you out in a big way. But, you know your constitution says it will be a secular state.” East Pakistan’s Constitution was drafted in a matter of months by Dr. Kamal Hussain, and this fact has been recorded by Dr. Hussain in his book recently. And then, when this was conveyed to Sheikh Mujeebur Rahman (President of Bangladesh), he said, “Yes, you are our brother, you are the guardian of the holy places, and you are very dear to us and we will welcome your help, but if your help is at the cost of my secular constitution, sorry, it is the constitution of my people, I cannot sell.” He said that right in the face of King Faisal! That small country, Bangladesh, a small break-away part which had not earned recognition in the United Nations, had the courage to say “no” to King Faisal, and yet the same King Faisal led Mr. Bhutto, by different methods which are now increasingly coming to light, to amend the constitution and declare Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. Why was King Saud so interested in declaring Ahmadis non-Muslim? What did he gain? That is the question which looms large in the minds of people.

That question also came to light when the amendment was being debated in the National Assembly. The question referred to the Assembly was: what is the status of a person who does not believe in the Finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Simple question. Ahmadis do not believe in the finality, so are they Muslims or are they non-Muslims? That was the question referred to the National Assembly, but it took a backseat during the entire proceedings. But the very first officer, after asking the Head of the Community, Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmadrh, who was our Community’s third Khalifah, about his personal biographical information, i.e., where were you educated, what is your education, what were you doing in Oxford, what were you doing in the college as a principal, asked: is the Khalifah the head of the state? Because as Ahmadis, we call our Head, Khalifatul Masih. So the question was, is the Khalifah the head of the state? What was the relevance of that question? I have written a small book, unfortunately it is still in Urdu – the English version will come out very soon – but in it, I advance an idea that the officer was trying to pursue a fundamentalist agenda of the kind of what you see today in Iraq, that a caliphate of any kind means that somebody is dreaming to be the caliph of the entire Muslim World and trying to win over the entire Muslim Ummah.

Mr. Mujeeb ur Rahman is a lawyer and has practised as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan for more than 50 years. As a human rights activist, he has worked for the religious freedom of Ahmadis and has defended them in hundreds of cases, including two landmark cases in the Pakistan Supreme Court and the Federal Shariat Court, which have been published in law journals. As the author of several books, Mr. Rahman recently undertook a tour and delivered lectures at five Ivy League universities in the U.S. Islamic law and jurisprudence, with particular focus on blasphemy and apostasy are subjects of his special interest, and he is currently writing a book on these subjects. Final part of series will be published in our January 2016 Edition.

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  • Our pray for the succesful hardwork of Mr.Mujibur Rahman.May God help him and grant freedom in religion
    for he whole members of Jamaat Ahmadiyya Pakistan.Amen.Waslm.