Notes And Comments

Notes and Comments On 26th April 1984, the President of Pakistan promulgated an Ordinance with the object of prohibiting the members of the Ahmadiyya Community from what is described as “indulging in anti- Islamic activities”. These activities include the use of Islamic titles, epithets or descriptions; calling their places of worship ‘masajid’ (mosques); using the Muslim call for prayer (Azan); calling themselves ‘Muslim’ or propagating their faith by word or implication. Any Ahmadi charged with indulging in any one of these activities by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation shall be arrested and be liable to punishment by imprisonment for a term extending to three years and a fine for which no limit has been specified. The offence is non-bailable and no court in Pakistan can entertain an appeal against this Ordinance. The members of the Ahmadiyya Community have thus been deprived of the fundamental right of professing and propagating their own faith — Islam. If they do so, even by visible representation, they could unilaterally be declared guity of an ‘anti-Islamic’ activity. The object of the Ordinance, which cannot be challenged in any court of law, is to compel the Ahmadis to deny their allegiance to Islam and desist from claiming to be Muslims in any manner of expression, spoken or written or even by maintaining the life-style of a Muslim in which they have been reared since their infancy. This latest enactment by the President of Pakistan has no parallel in modern or ancient history. It employs the use of legal penalties to coerce a religious community into disowning its beliefs and to tell lies under threat of punishment. It is amazing that the world at large has so far not taken note of this dastardly attack on the very roots of civilized law and fundamental human rights. The Ahmadiyya Movement is a part of the broad spectrum of Islam. Its ten million members spread over nearly one hundred countries have earned the reputation of being peace-loving and law-abiding citizens, positively engaged in spiritual, educational and humanitarian activities. 7 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Its members are also acknowledged for their loyalty to the countries and the communities in which they reside. Pakistan was established with the proviso that every citizen is free to profess and practice his faith according to the dictates of his own conscience. This is illustrated by the Quaid e Azam’s famous speech to the Constituent Assembly. In his address on llth August 1947, he declared: “You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed! That has nothing to do with the business of the state . . . We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.” In direct disregard of the pronouncements of the Founder of Pakistan and in audacious disrespect to the world opinion, the Government has chosen to issue this most obnoxious Ordinance violating all norms of decency. The Government is likely to create the impression that it was “forced” by public opinion to issue the Ordinance and thus prevent an explosion against the Ahmadis. In fact, the so-called pressure built against the government by the rabid Mullah under which the government is said to have wilted despite its best efforts, is all of a facade for the consumption of the West. What happened was exactly the opposite. It was the government which employed a gang of Mullahs to whip up anti-Ahmadiyya sentiment to a violent pitch. At the same time the Council of Islamic Ideology, an official organisation, was also goaded into making recommendations which corresponded with the demands of the Mullahs. However, despite their best efforts, they failed to achieve their objective and the Pakistani masses refused to respond as they saw through the machinations of the Mullahs and the Government. Although efforts to arouse public sentiments failed, some of the demands were accepted in the form of the Ordinance and others left pending like the sword of Damoclese over the heads of Ahmadis. Concurrently, persecution of Ahmadis has been stepped up at all levels and in all forms. Miscreants have been hired to attack the Ahmadis and their properties. During the last few weeks, prominent NOTES AND COMMENTS 8 Ahmadis have been assassinated; mosques burnt or forcefully occupied and arbitary arrests made. An important feature of the present anti-Ahmadi agitation is that the masses of Pakistan have shown their disdain by totally disassociating themselves from the conspiracy. The political parties have seen through it as a political move and refused to endorse the government’s action. It is evident that, under the pretext of Islamisation, orthodox and obsolete forces, have been unleashed. The objective is to convince the West particularly the USA that the religious sentiment in Pakistan still rule supreme. Unfortunately, what the West fails to realise is that these policies are resulting in violent reaction against Islam and strengthening anti- religion forces. No one who knows Pakistan well can deny that the country cannot afford the strains and stresses which will result from these ill-judged policies at a time when the religion is already facing a precarious situation. Those who wish Pakistan well must take note of the dangers inherent in this situation, not only for the stability of Pakistan, but for the security of a region which is of vital political and economic importance to the world. They have a collective responsibility to prevent Pakistan from a suicidal path. Naturally the Ahmadis are deeply distressed by the denial of their rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights to which Pakistan has affixed her signature. Their main concern, however, is for the negative implications of the Ordinance on the prestige of Islam and the fair name of Pakistan. When a man addresses his brother with: O disbeliever; one of them will certainly deserve the title; the one addressed if he is such, else it will revert to him who uttered it. (The Holy Prophet)