Persecution

The Situation in Pakistan

The Situation in Pakistan (Sheikh IMasir Ahmad) In its 38th session the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities passed resolution L.42 concerning the “Situation in Pakistan” with special reference to the persecution of members of the Ahmadiyya Community in that country. The Sub-Commission requested the Commission on Human Pvights: “to call on the Government of Pakistan to repeal Ordinance XX and to restore the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons in its jurisdiction”. The resolution further alerted the Commission on Human Rights: “of the situation in Pakistan which is one with great potential to cause a mass exodus, especially of members of the Ahmadi community”. That resolution was passed on 29th August, 1985, more than 16 months after the promulgation of the said Ordinance by the military ruler of Pakistan, General Zia. During that period, Ahmadis in Pakistan had suffered a most severe form of religious persecution, involving physical and mental agony the like of which was difficult’to Grid in the preceding 38 years of the existence of the country. Ahmadis and their spiritual leaders were reviled at in the basest manner, their members arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to jail for the mere “crime” of professing their faith and on other phoney allegations. Further, their houses had been burrit down, their businesses ruined, their places of worship desecrated, their religious books defiled and proscribed, and a number of .their prominent members ruthlessly killed in cold-blood, without as much as a single murderer having ever been apprehended by the authorities. More often than not, the victims themselves were arrested by the “keepers of law” for “disturbing the peace”. Fanatic mullahs enjoyed full liberty under the protective umbrella of the martial Ordinance to make provocative speeches against Ahmadis, often in public meetings especially convened in Ahmadiyya headquarters which were attended by “imported” miscreants. The government controlled mass media were directed at lashing out abuse and 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS invectives at the holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Not satisfied with the doings of others, the military ruler took personal charge of the mud-slinging campaign taking the unusual and highly questionable step of sending a message to an anti-Ahmadiyya conference in London, in which he made the following remarkable statement ever to be made by a head of state: “We will persevere in our efforts to ensure that the cancer of Ahmadiyyat is exterminated.” These were no doubt harsh words, particularly as they carried the authority of a head of state who was blatantly announcing to the world his plans to exterminate a section of his own citizens, the protection of whose lives, property and honour should have been his main concern. These words of General Zia shocked the community of civilised nations. At that very time, the Sub-Commission was in session in Geneva, and the Experts of the Sub-Commission on Human Rights took due notice of this incredible statement. Their reaction was reflected in resolution L.42 of 29th August, 1985, passed with overwhelming majority, calling for the repeal of Ordinance XX. The voting was 83.5 per cent in favour and a mere 16.5 per cent against. Four months after that resolution of the Sub-Commission, martial law was lifted in Pakistan. But — in practice — not for Ahmadi Muslims. Before he lifted martial law, General Zia had cleverly managed to get through the National Assembly of Pakistan yet another questionable resolution legalising his actions during the military regime lasting a period of over 8l/2 years. “Through this ‘ingenuity’, the anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance of 26 April 1984, which had robbed Ahmadis of their basic human rights and denied them the freedom of religion, and had legalised their persecution on religious grounds, was made a part of the Constitution of Pakistan.” In other words, things became even worse for Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan – even when on the face of it martial law was lifted. The need to listen to the Experts of the Sub-Commission became all the more urgent. And this is the point where the Commission on Human Rights comes in. The meritorious and arduous work of the esteemed members of the Sub-Commission should not be allowed to go to waste. It should be appreciated and taken due notice of by all those concerned with the upholding and defence of human rights. Otherwise, dictators in civilian garbs will continue to flout with impunity international law and trample under foot the most fundamental human rights. If evidence was needed to show that even after the lifting of martial law, real power would still be lying there where it rested during the military regime, it was provided by the “civilian” Prime Minister, selected and appointed by the military head of state, Zia. Prime Minister Junejo let the cat out of the bag by declaring in a nation-wide televised speech, shortly before THE SITUATION IN PAKISTAN 41 the termination of martial law, that the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was a liar and an impostor. He announced further that: “the government had taken stringent measures in Pakistan to tackle this problem” (i.e. extermination of Ahmadiyya). Under these circumstances, life, property and honour of the Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan is highly endangered. They can be sent to jail for three years if they profess, practise or propagate their faith, or if they call their members to prayers, or if they pose in any manner, whatsoever, which shows their adherence to their faith — which they regard to be Islam. Basic rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and in the United Nations Charter, are dubbed as “crimes” in the case of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Does not this state of affairs sound an alarm in the forum of conscience of all nations of the world? Certainly, the UN cannot afford to take it lying down that a signatory member of this world organisation has chosen to enact a law under which the cherished basic freedoms of conscience and belief have been turned into so many “crimes”. The Ordinance, now made into law, is woefully reminiscent of the Dark Ages. It contravenes all norms of international decency and boldly cuts at the very roots of all international conventions which guarantee man his basic rights. There can be no justification for this sort of discrimination against a segment of the citizens of a country. The world is being given to believe that since martial law has ended, things have returned to normal. Far from it. As far as basic human rights of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan are concerned, martial law has been lifted only in name. The “civilian” Prime Minister Junejo, installed by his military master, proves the point by his statement. Finally, it lies in the nature of things that a government accused of violations of human rights will always seek to defend its actions. It is vain to expect a representative of such a government to stand before this esteemed house, in sack-cloth and ashes, and to have the courage of his conviction to admit that his government was for once guilty. In the present case, too, we cannot expect anything different. The least the Human Rights Commission could do, and should do, is to take a hard look at the grave situation in Pakistan and institute an independent inquiry and thus unearth the truth. Otherwise there will be no other option left but to accept as truth what the government of Pakistan is saying to explain away its actions. The vast voting majority of the members of the Sub- Commission does deserve an ear. They certainly have a case. The REVIEW of RELIGIONS The Review of Religions is the oldest magazine of its kind published in the English language in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-Continent. Its first issue was published in 1902 and it has been continuously published since. It bears the distinction that it was initiated under the direction of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah himself. During more than eighty-one years the message of Islam has been conveyed through this magazine to hundreds of readers and many fortunate persons have recognised the truth of Islam and accepted it through studying it. The articles published in it deal not only with the doctrines and teachings of Islam but also set forth a comparative appreciation of the teachings of other faiths. One of its outstanding features is the refutations of the criticism of Islamic teachings by orientalists and non-muslim scholars. It also presents solutions in the light of Islamic teachings of the problems with which the Islamic world is from time to time confronted. A study of this magazine is indispensable for the appreciation of the doctrines of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the teachings of its holy Founder. Printed by The Eastern Press Ltd, London and Reading Published by The Review of Religions, The London Mosque, 16 Gressenhall Road, London, SW185QL