Apostasy, Blasphemy and Heresy Persecution

RABWAH – A PLACE FOR MARTYRS? PART 4

The final installment of an independant report exposing the lack of protection from persecution in Rabwah itself.

59The Review of Religions – June 2007 Social and economic conditions in Rabwah The Ahmadi Community Representatives explained to the mission that the town of Rabwah is located on 1043 acres of land which was purchased by the Ahmadi community for a nominal amount from the government in 1947. The town is not a commercial/industrial centre and has no manufacturing, distribution or service industries. We were advised by the Ahmadi Community Representatives that the situation in Rabwah was such that there was an exodus of young people and that people coming to settle in Rabwah were older people who had retired. The only jobs are low skilled work such as farming and trades. However the number of jobs in these sectors are limited by the size of the town. The Representatives explained that there are no Ahmadis in public office in Rabwah. The post office, telephone office, railway station, police force and magistrates office have no Ahmadi employees and in some instances people are recruited from outside Rabwah. Mr. Rabwah: A PLACE FOR MARTYRS? Part three By Dr Jonathan Ensor – UK Report of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group mission to Pakistan into internal flight for Ahmadis. Foreword by Lord Avebury. Mission members: Frances Allen, Michael Ellman, Jonathan Ensor. An independant report (reproduced with prior permission) that destroys the myth that being a majority in their headquarter, Ahmadis may be able to obtain police protection. A chilling reminder of the ostracisation of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, their continuing persecution and the absence of any protection by the authorities in Pakistan. 60 The Review of Religions – June 2007 RABWAH – A PLACE FOR MARTYRS? PART THREE Ibrahim reinforced many of the points made by the Ahmadi Community Representatives, noting that there are no jobs available in Rabwah and the few government jobs that exist are already filled. Beyond this, there is no industry in Rabwah. A small number of people go to other towns such as Faisalabad to work, and usually stay there during the week. The mission was informed by the Ahmadi Community Representatives that there is ‘negligible’ housing available to rent. The Representatives told the mission that a number of vacant plots are available in the Muslim Colony. The Colony is former Ahmadi land that has been requisitioned by the government. The plots have been put up for sale, but Ahmadis are specifically banned from bidding. The rules of the auction state that only those who believe in the end of prophethood are eligible to bid. Mr Ibrahim stated that there are very few houses to rent or buy and there is no Council or private building planned. Private building does take place outside the town centre, particularly by Ahmadis who move to Rabwah from elsewhere. The HRCP stated that a newcomer fleeing to Rabwah would have to be very rich and not pursued by their persecutor to survive. If they have a normal income (and not pursued), then they would face many difficulties, first amongst which is that there are no jobs in Rabwah. It is very unusual for someone to commute for work even to Chiniot or Faisalabad. Even if an Ahmadi were to do this it would create new problems: they would be a ‘sitting duck’ for anti-Ahmadi activists whilst they travelled. Moreover, an address in Rabwah is practically a bar to getting a job as a potential employer would suspect that a person is Ahmadi if they have a Rabwah address. They would only be able to get work from a fellow Ahmadi. The HRCP noted that 61The Review of Religions – June 2007 RABWAH – A PLACE FOR MARTYRS? PART THREE whilst Rabwah is majority Ahmadi, Muslims live in the area surrounding the town. There have been cases where housing officials have said that Ahmadis cannot purchase land and have forced the purchasers to undertake not to sell to Ahmadis. This sort of discrimination ‘begins at Rabwah’. Referring to life in Rabwah for those who have not fled persecution, the HRCP summarised the situation by describing Rabwah as a place for ‘hardcore Ahmadis who want to be martyred’: there is a mullah there who abuses Ahmadis ‘all day long’. Those Ahmadis who live in Rabwah are ‘very brave’. There are families where the men live in Rabwah and the women do not. Ultimately, it is a question of how much abuse – and occasional violence – an individual can stand. ‘Rabwah is a place for martyrs, cut off from their roots’, the mission was told. The Ahmadi Community Representatives stressed that it is only in a position to provide temporary shelter and food to a limited number for a few days or at most a few weeks. There is a Langar Khana (community kitchen) where displaced persons can obtain food and shelter. The community do receive people who had faced problems in other parts of Pakistan but Rabwah is seen as a temporary measure for a couple of months and not a long term solution. It was explained to the mission that the Ahmadi community would provide these displaced persons with accommodation in guest houses, which has separate accommodation for men and women, but that the town and community can only provide temporary refuge for displaced persons as there is no employ- ment or permanent housing. For example, the Jhando Sahi community were able to stay for a month but then had to return to their village [for more detail see Appendix B8: May 2007 edition of The Review of Religions, p.56]. 62 The Review of Religions – June 2007 RABWAH – A PLACE FOR MARTYRS? PART THREE Voter registration The Ahmadi Community Representatives informed the mission that in January 2002 the Pakistan government abolished the system of separate electorates under which different denom- inations, including Sunnis, Christians and Sikhs, were placed on different electoral roles. A ‘joint electorate’ was introduced in which all eligible citizens of Pakistan are placed on a single list of voters. However, an exception for Ahmadis was introduced by the President via Chief Executive’s order No 15 (17 June 2002) which created a supplementary list of voters in which Ahmadis are categorised as non-Muslims. The HRCP confirmed that the Ahmadis are the only religion to continue to be on a separate electoral list. The Ahmadi Community Representatives told the mission that it is a matter of principle that Ahmadis should not register rather than agree to being declared non-Muslim. They explained that the community suffer as a result, as not voting means that the Mayor (Nazim) and Town Council are not accountable to the majority of Rabwah residents. Only 1,700- 1,800 people are registered to vote in Rabwah out of a population of around 51,000. Mr. Ibrahim, Secretary to the Mayor of Rabwah, confirmed that there are about 2,000 electors, mainly Muslims and about 300 Christians. There are 11 elected members of the Council, none of whom are Ahmadi. Under legislation designed to protect the interests of minorities, the Ahmadi community are entitled to one reserved seat on the Council regardless of the electoral outcome. However, the Ahmadis had decided to give the reserved post to the Christian community rather than be involved in an unrepresentative Council. The Ahmadi Community Representatives informed the mission that as a result of their lack of representation, conditions 63The Review of Religions – June 2007 RABWAH – A PLACE FOR MARTYRS? PART THREE in the town have deteriorated with even drinking water not being provided to some areas of the town. Roads are in poor condition, sewage systems are non-existent and there have been hepatitis and typhoid outbreaks. Education Mr. Ibrahim stated that there are three high schools, six primary schools and three degree colleges in Rabwah; they all at one time belonged to the Ahmadi com- munity but were nationalised and are currently run by the Provincial Government. The Ahmadi Community Representatives explained that the college and boys’ high school were constructed and established by the Ahmadi Community. Since they were nationalised the buildings have deteriorated due to lack of maintenance and the boys’ college has now been deemed unsafe (see Appendix B5: The Nation ‘College building declared dangerous’, undated). The Pakistan authorities announced some years ago that nationalised educational institutions would be returned to their original owners but in the case of Rabwah this has not occurred. The Government of Pakistan demanded 15,000,000 rupess (around £100,000) from the Ahmadi community for their return and this was paid. However, the educational insti- tutions have not been returned and this money has not been refunded. The Ahmadi Community Representatives also informed the mission that in order to study in Pakistan it is necessary to pass an Islamic studies exam which is impossible for Ahmadis without being accused of committing blasphemy, effec-tively barring Ahmadis from higher education. We hope you have enjoyed reading this edition of the magazine. 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