Freedom of Religions Persecution

Events of 1974 – Anti-Ahmadi Hostilities


At the Annual Gathering of 1956 Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II(ra) said:

‘Whenever the election of the next Khalifa takes place and whoever is duly elected, I wish to give him the glad tidings that God shall favour him with His support and whosoever stands in opposition to him, whether a great man or small, shall face humiliation and ignominy and is bound to suffer ruin and disgrace; because the next Khalifa shall, indeed, walk in the footsteps of the Promised Messiah(as); and shall uphold and establish the institution of the Islamic Khilafat. Therefore, I give glad tidings now to him who will be elected the Third Successor in my place, that even if the governments of the world oppose him, these shall be shattered into pieces.’(1)

One of the greatest challenges that Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih III(ru) faced during his Khilafat was the anti-Ahmadi disturbances  of 1974.  Before describing these it is necessary to explain the background.

Background to 1974

Pakistan’s original 1956 constitution outlined in clear terms the right of each citizen to profess, practise, and propagate his religion (Article 20), to attend school without religious instruction freely (Article 22), to enjoy places of public entertainment without religious discrimination (Article 26), to qualify for appointment in the service of Pakistan without religious discrimination (Article 27), and to preserve and promote his own language, script, or culture without religious discrimination (Article 28). These provisions had their roots in Articles 1(3) and 55(c) of the U.N. Charter, which emphasise non-discrimination on the basis of religion, and in Article 18 of the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the language of which tracks Article 20 of Pakistan’s constitution.

In March 1949, the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan introduced the so-called Objectives Resolution, pledging that Pakistan’s first constitution would make adequate provision for non-Muslims to enjoy full religious freedom. Soon after the Objectives Resolution was passed into law by Pakistan’s General Assembly, the Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam (Ahrar), a Muslim separatist movement, began to engage in anti-Ahmadi agitation. On May 1, 1949, Ahrar activists made their first public demand that Ahmadis be declared a non-Muslim minority. The Ahrar insisted that all Ahmadis in public service be removed from their positions. They also accused members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of conspiring with India (and particularly remnants of the British regime) against Pakistan’s Sunni population even though the Ahrar had openly opposed the creation of Pakistan. The Ahrar opposition movement climaxed during the peak of the Punjab disturbances.

Extremist Muslim groups then started to argue that the very creation of Pakistan was per se un-Islamic, and began to pressure government officials to transform the country into an Islamic theocracy. The leader of this new struggle was a Marxist Maulana Maududi, head of Jama’at-i-Islami (Lit. Party of Islam). Maududi sought to unify Pakistani Muslims under the common cause of excommunicating Ahmadis from Pakistan. The ruling Muslim League Party opposed both the idea of creating a theocracy in Pakistan, and  the government’s ensuing crackdown on the Jama’at-i-Islami resulted in violent demonstrations by Maududi’s movement against Ahmadis in 1953. The Pakistani government’s independent Munir Report found no definition of Muslim according to the various sects and condemned these anti-Ahmadi demonstrations as a threat to public order.

However after 1954, the government started to give ground to the extremists. For the next two decades, Ahmadis would face severe attacks on their properties and businesses; in 1962, the “Islamisation” of Pakistan’s constitution received its first major push when a “repugnancy clause” was added to the constitution:

“No law shall be repugnant to the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Qur’an and Sunnah [actions of the Holy Prophet], and all existing laws shall be brought into conformity therewith.”

Pakistan’s reformation of its constitution under the strictures of the Shari’a had resulted in a steady deterioration of the rights and protections found therein. Nowhere was this more evident than in the 1974 amendment to the constitution.

After a bloody civil war and the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971, the National Assembly approved a new constitution in 1973, portions of which embodied the legal and political machinery of the Shari’a as espoused by the orthodox religious clergy. In 1974, a new wave of anti-Ahmadi disturbances spread across Pakistan.

Having made significant gains in their 20-year political struggle for an Islamic theocracy, members of the orthodox clergy saw the disturbances as their opportunity to pressure Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Under Bhutto’s leadership, Pakistan’s parliament introduced Articles 260(3)(a) and (b), which defined the term “Muslim” in the Pakistani context and listed groups that were, legally speaking, non-Muslim. The goal of this constitutional amendment was to bring some of Pakistan’s remaining progressive constitutional provisions under the purview of the Shari’a. Put into effect on September 6, 1974, the amendment explicitly deprived Ahmadis of their identity as Muslims under Pakistan law.

The 1974 disturbances – Rabwah Incident

Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih III(ru)’s announcement of the centenary celebrations riled a number of the bigoted Muslim divines in Pakistan According to Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan:

‘In the middle of 1974 they devised a plan which was aimed at provoking anger and rancour against the Ahmadiyya Community which unfortunately succeeded only too well in its immediate purpose. An incident was staged at the Rabwah railway station, which was so managed that a party of students who belonged to an organisation bitterly hostile to the Movement suc­ceeded in provoking a number of Ahmadis, who happened to be present at the railway station when the train carrying the students arrived, into a conflict in which slight injuries were inflicted on some of the students in the party. At the next stop of the train, preparations had already been made to receive the students as “heroes” who had suffered grievous injuries in the cause of Islam at the hands of the members of the Community. Fiery speeches were made and the utterly false and mislead­ing accounts of the incident were further embroidered in the press next morning, with the addition of such false, fictitious and horrify­ing details as that the students had been cruelly maimed, that some of them had had their tongues cut out and that others had had their genitals cut off. This sent a wave of horror throughout the province and all sorts of premeditated atrocities were let loose against the members of the Movement. In the inquiry subsequently conducted by a Judge of the Lahore High Court into the incident, it was established by the medical evidence produced that all the injuries alleged to have been received by some of the students were simple bruises and scars and not a single one of them was grievous.’(2)

He also noted that in the widespread disorders that followed the Rabwah incident a number of Ahmadis were killed, maimed and injured, and there was large-scale looting and destruction of properties of Ahmadis. However,

‘… in not a single instance did the police or the civil authorities intervene to extend their protection to the victims of violence, no investigation was made into any of the numerous outrages committed against the persons and properties of the Ahmadis, no one was arrested or tried in respect of any of them, and no compensation was awarded to any Ahmadi for the loss inflicted upon him. In fact there were several instances in which the police openly and actively encouraged the unruly and disorderly elements to do their worst.’(3)

The Community again set an example of perfect steadfastness under extreme suffering and complete confidence in God. Boycotts of the Community were organised in several places, which imposed great hardship upon the members of the Movement who were affected by them, especially women, children and old people.

On the whole, however, the Community at large emerged from the trial stronger, more united and in greater vigour than had been the case before the trouble started. Their opponents now began to agitate that the Movement should, by legislative action, be declared outside the pale of Islam. They prevailed upon the Prime Minister to make a declaration that appropriate action would be taken in the National Assembly to achieve that end.

Muhammad Zafrulla Khan writes again:

‘At the start of the session of the Assembly, a resolution sponsored by the government was moved, the purport of which was to declare that the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement were not Muslims for the purpose of the law and the constitution. During the debates on the resolution  Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih III(ru) was invited to make an exposition of the beliefs and teachings of the Movement before a committee composed of the total membership of the National Assembly. He was examined at great length by the Attorney General on the minutest details of the beliefs, doctrines and teachings of the Movement. The whole proceeding boomeranged upon the sponsors and promoters of the resolution and served to make them appear inconsistent and ridicu­lous even in their own eyes. Nevertheless, the Assembly was dragooned into adopting the resolution with the requisite majority and it was sent up to the Senate for its approval, which was accorded within a few hours. Despite repeated requests the proceedings of the Committee of the National Assembly were not made public.(4)

At the Annual Gathering in Rabwah on 26 December, 1974, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih III(ru) said:

‘The bitter atrocities felt personally by the members of the community as a result of their faith cumulated in myself. During those days, there came certain nights when, by the Grace and Mercy of God Almighty, I did not sleep for a minute without praying throughout for the members of the community.’(5)

The government of Pakistan required the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at, Hadhrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih III, to present himself personally before the aforesaid Committee of the National Assembly to enunciate his standpoint, and to answer all the questions that may be asked of him on that occasion. He was allowed to have four self-selected representatives to assist him. The five-member delegation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at consisted of the following four who assisted Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih III(ru):

• Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, (later to become Khalifatul Masih IV(ru)

• Maulana Abul ‘Ata Jallundhari(ra), a renowned scholar.

• Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Mazhar, Former Amir, Jama‘at Ahmadiyya, District Faisalabad

• Maulana Dost Muhammad Shahid, Historian.

The exposition of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at’s position, was made in the form of the Mahzar Namah – the Memorandum – which was submitted as a historical document. After the submission of this document, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at was subjected to a grilling inquisition, for eleven days, in the National Assembly of Pakistan, by the Attorney General of Pakistan and clerics. Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih III(ru) personally answered all the allegations that were made, and provided their solid, well-reasoned and conclusive rebuttal. This was an excellent defence of the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Movement; the hollowness of the oft-repeated false allegation is evident from the fact that despite repeated requests, the proceedings have not been published.

The situation worsened in later years under the martial law regime of General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq,  culminating in 1984 with the infamous  Ordinance XX which undercut the activities of religious minorities generally, but struck Ahmadis in particular.

Under Ordinance XX,  Ahmadis could no longer profess their faith, either verbally or in writing. Pakistani police destroyed Ahmadi translations of the Qur’an and banned Ahmadi publications, the use of any Islamic terminology on Ahmadi wedding invitations, the offering of Ahmadi funeral prayers, and the displaying of the Kalima (the principal creed of a Muslim) on Ahmadi gravestones. In addition, Ordinance XX prohibited Ahmadis from declaring their faith publicly, propagating their faith, building mosques, or making the call for Muslim prayers.

With the passage of the Criminal Law Act of 1986, parliament amended Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code by raising the penalty against blasphemy from a fine or imprisonment to death. Because the Ahmadi belief in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) was considered blasphemous insofar as it “defiled the name of Prophet Muhammad(saw),” Zia-ul-Haq and the Pakistani government institu-tionalised the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan with Section 295-C. The mere existence of practising Ahmadi Muslims can be considered blasphemous and punishable by death.


1. Khilafat-i-Haqqa Islamiyah,  p.p17-18.

2. Renaissance of Islam,  Muhammad Zafrulla Khan.

3. (ibid).

4. B.A. Rafiq; A former Imam of the London Mosque and private secretary recalls. The Muslim Herald, November 1977.