Freedom of Religions

Curb on the Freedom of Religion in Pakistan

Curb on the Freedom of Religion in Pakistan (Sh. Nasir Ahmad, Zurich) In an article published in the magazine “Inquiry” of September 1984 under the heading “Ahmadis – neither here nor there!”, the author seeks to “trace the roots of the Ahmadis”, but hardly succeeds in arriving at some rational, logical conclusions, supported either by history or by Islamic theology. Reference is made to the martial law ordinance:XX of April 26, 1984, which is said to have been promulgated by General Zia of Pakistan, the military dictator at the time, under pressure by the so-called “Tahaf-fuz-e-Khatm-e- Nabuwwat” Movement (TKN) which, so the article, insisted that the constitutional amendment of September 1974 was not being fully enforced and that “Ahmadis continue to call themselves Muslims and to claim political and legal rights alongside the believers of the majority community”. The world has never heard before that a dictator ever acted “under pressure from the public” , as he would have to vacate his chair the moment he succumbed to popular opinion. – The amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan, referred to above, has its own history. From June to September 1974, the National Assembly of the country, which had been turned into a special committee to deal with the “problem” of Ahmadi Muslims, struggled hard to agree on a unanimously- accepted definition of a Muslim. As one definition after the other appeared to exclude one sect of Muslims or the other from the fold of Islam, the exercise -was forsaken for another attempt to define a non-Muslim instead of defining a Muslim. The first thing which strikes here is the novelty and the innovative-character of the exercise. In the long history of Islam, never an attempt had been made by a government to define a non-Muslim, let alone a Muslim. The Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him) had laid down specific criteria of a Muslim, but the parliament of the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” chose to disagree with the Holy Prophet and ignore his definition completely. Why? Because that definition would not exclude Ahmadis from the pale of Islam. So a course of least resistance was adopted in utter defiance of the teachings of CURB ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN PAKISTAN 17 the Holy Prophet. Ironically, all that happened in the name of Islam, thus, in the process, bringing Islam into disrepute. But ‘who cares? The morbid logic of the Mullah has its own ways. A CONCOCTED DEFlNmON OF A MUSLIM The second point to note is that something quite novel was introduced in the definition of a Muslim, and thus the definition given by the Holy Prophet was supplanted to enable the Mullahs to call Ahmadi Muslims “non- Muslims” – itself a contradiction in terms! The thesis was put forward that one of the fundamentals of Islam was the belief in the absolute and unconditional finality of Prophethood in the sense that no Prophet, whatsoever, could appear after the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him). Let it be stated here categorically and with the greatest possible emphasis that there is no, repeat no such “fundamental” of Islam. It is a pure fabrication intended to mislead the masses of Pakistan who depend on the unlearned Mullah for their knowledge of Islam. A “MINORITY” The third point worthy of note is that amendment 2 of Septemer 1974 did not stop at declaring Ahmadis as “not Muslims for the purpose oflaw”; it also declared them to be a minority. Now, the word “minority” in the context of the Constitution of an independent State is something very significant, because it smacks of “second-class citizens”. It is further reminiscent of the days of colonial empire when the concept of minorities was a part of the policy of “divide-and-rule”. No sane citizen of an independent State would ever dream of drawing the devisive lines of “majority” and “minority” to discriminate against a segment of the citizens of a State. Every citizen must enjoy equal rights before law and there should be no talk of a minority for the purpose of law. The complaint that Ahmadis were claiming same “political and legal rights alongside the majority” is complete nonsense and does not behove any government, let alone a government calling itself “Islamic”. This is one example which shows how far-strayed and alien the bearers of “Islamic” governments today are. WHO DECIDES ON THE BELIEFS OF OTHERS? The fourth point worthy of note-is that the best authority on one’s belief and faith is the person concerned. No other person, committee, court or parliament is competent to pass judgement on the beliefs of others. The only way to determine whether a person is a Muslim, Jew or Christian, is to ask the person concerned and not to set up a committee to decide the question. Whether the person concerned is in reality and in the depths of his heart a 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Muslim, Jew or Christian, is not for humans to decide as it would amount to trespassing on the domain of the Almighty Who alone knows the innermost thoughts of people. No other person may presume the right to judge the beliefs of others. An incident from the life of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him) illustrates the point in a most beautiful manner. During a heavy battle between Muslims and non-Muslims in the time of the Prophet, a Muslim soldier succeeded, after a prolonged fight, to overcome a soldier on the enemy side. War has its own rules which are not applicable to conditions of peacetime. Just at the moment when the Muslim soldier was about to kill his enemy, the latter uttered the words of the Islamic Kalema, the profession of faith. But the Muslim soldier killed the opponent nonetheless. When the incident was related to the Holy Prophet, the Prophet was so disgusted at the conduct of the Muslim fighter that he reprimanded him in the severest possible terms and kept on asking him if he had really seen through the inside of the heart of the non-Muslim soldier who, at the climax of the fight, had declared his acceptance of Islam. The plea of the Muslim soldier that the enemy under the circumstances was not sincere in his profession of faith was rejected by the Prophet on the grounds that it was no business of anyone to pass judgement on the sincerity of the beliefs of others. This incident shows that as far as the affiliation to a faith is concerned, the claim of the person involved is the only criterion which must be taken at its face value with no “buts” and “ifs”. By giving its decision in the case of Ahmadi Muslims in 1974 the parliament of the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” deviated from the path of the Holy Prophet and went out of its way in declaring Ahmadis as “non Muslims” . POPULAR SUPPORT FOR ORDINANCE xx? Pakistan’s military ruler Zia went a step further. Ordinance XX was not enacted by a parliament, nor had a committee been set up to consider the “problem”. Zia took the whole onus on himself when he promulgated his decree, totally ignoring the teachings of Islam and in complete disrespect for the precepts of the Holy Prophet. The writer of the article claims that “the Ordinance has won the support from the country’s religious leaders and political parties”. This is a mis-statement probably arising from the ignorance of the writer of the article. The fact is that the Zia government has up to this day no popular support. The “religious leaders” supporting him are a special brand of Mullahs of a particular sect for whom the vast majority of the people of Pakistan have no liking at all. These bigoted Mullahs have now virtually the reins of government in their hands and they want to impose by force (call it “Islamisation”) on the majority of the people of Pakistan an “Islam” of their CURB ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN PAKISTAN 19 own peculiar thinking. They stand for complete intolerance and use of violence in matters of faith, something which has no place in the true teachings of Islam. If Zia and his Mullahs had enjoyed the backing of the general public, then not just a few dozens of Ahmadis would have been killed but thousands in view of the fact that almost the entire machinery of the government on central and provincial levels has been brought to bear upon the persecuted Ahmadi Muslims. It is an open secret that the present government would have no chance in open elections. That is the only reason why a so-called “civilian” government has been installed through a manoeuvre whereby only such candidates were allowed to contest the “elections” who had been approved by Zia, a manipulation which rendered the elections of early 1985 a complete farce. During the martial law , opinions against the regime were not tolerated. The media were not allowed to print statements critical of the martial law regime or its decrees and ordinances. Still some statements did trickle through as the following shows. 1. Three weeks after the promulgation of Ordinance XX, a resolution was introduced in a meeting of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, purporting to approve and welcome the Ordinance. But the resolution was defeated by 113 votes to 12, showing that in the legal circles support for the Ordinance was practically nil. (Daily “Watan”, May 18, 1984). 2. Malike Navid Ahmad, Chairman, Pakistan Solidarity Front, said on February 13, 1985, referring to Ahmadi Muslims and the restriction on their religious practices: “The religion of Islam preaches peace and tolerance towards minorities and communities which hold the Kalema Tayyeba as the cornerstone of their beliefs and towards those who participated in the struggle for Pakistan under the leadership of Qaid-i-Azam (meaning the Ahmadi Muslims) … ” He said vested interests, in order to divert the people’s attention from the struggle for the restoration of democracy and the 1973 Constitution were trying to use the Kalema Tayyeba to achieve their evil designs.” (“Dawn” , 14.2.1985). 3. The daily newspaper “Dawn” on February 13, 1985, reported a press statement by Mr. Mohammad Hanif Ramay, ex-Chief Minister of Punjab, quoting him as saying: “In a State which came into being in the name of Allah and the Kalema Tayyeba, no one has the right to curb the religious freedom of any community, particularly the minorities. This amounts to creating the impression that Islam was spread at the sword-point and not as a result of its benevolence and universal appeal.” 4. In an article published in the daily newspaper “Jang”, Lahore, on 11.2.1985, Mr. Mohammad Hanif Ramay, attacked the actions of the 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Mullahs, supported by government officials in the wake of Ordinance XX, and described them as against the teachings of Islam. 5. A news item reads: “Six former judges of the Supreme and High Courts have demanded that freedom to practise the religion of one’s choice be guaranteed to all in Pakistan. The current restrictions on forms of prayers and the right to recite the Kalema Tayyeba by members of Ahmadiyya community is a gross transgression of the rights guaranteed to the citizens of the State, they said. They said: “It is a negation of the concept of basic human rights.” The signatories quoted from the speech of the Qaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who said in the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan: “You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship; in the State of Pakistan you may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” The signatories are: Mr. Fakhrud-Din G. Ebrahim, former Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; Mr. Mohammad Ali Sayeed and Mr. Fazle Ghani Khan, former Judges of the West Pakistan High Court, and Mr. Abdul Hafeez Memon, Mr. A. Q. Halepota and Mr. G. M. Shah, former Judges of the Sindh High Court.” (“Dawn”, 23.3.1985). 6. Under the cover of Ordinance XX hundreds of Ahinadi Muslims have been sent to jail for simply displaying their Article of Faith, the Kalema. The daily newspaper “Dawn” reported on 15.2.1985 that the former President of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Sheikh Shaukat Ali, criticised the Home Department circular, directing officials to erase the Kalema from the places of worship of Ahmadis. “Those who have issued the erasure orders have done no service to Islam”, he said. 7. Mian Ehsanul Haq, a local leader, criticised in Lahore the Home Department’s circular about erasing the Kalema from the Ahmadis’ places of worship. In a statement issued here on Wednesday, Mian Ehsan said erasing the Kalema was against the spirit of Islam and the law of the land. (“Dawn”, 14.2.1985). 8. Mr. Aitzar Ahsan, Member, Pakistan Bar Council, said of the practice of erasing the Kalema from Ahmadi mosques in the wake of Ordinance XX, that apart from being contrary to the tenets of Islam, any action based on the recent directive of the Punjab Home Department “violates the constitutional guarantees on equality and freedom of worship for all citizens of Pakistan.” He added that narrow-minded religious zealotry and fanaticism must be avoided at all cost and the government must not become party to “this frenzy”. (“Dawn”, 13.2.1985). CURB ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN PAKISTAN 21 9. Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, a former Governor of the Province of Sindh and an ex-Ambassador of Pakistan to the Netherlands, released a statement to the press in which she said: “. . . During the past one’ year, newspapers have reported occasional murders of Ahmadi notables in mysterious circumstances .. . It is known history that while the Ahmadiyya community supported the cause of Pakistan, most of the Mullah community, their present persecutors, opposed the creation of Pakistan tooth and nail … ” (“Asian Times”, 2.8.1985). 10. Nawab Akbar Bugti, former Governor of the Province of Baluchistan, said in a press statement on November 7,1985: “Press reports, originating from Sindh, the Punjab and Baluchistan indicate that undercover groups with indirect support from some government officials are harassing the Ahmadiyya community by interfering not only in their beliefs but are also threatening their life and property … A series of murders of Ahmadis have occurred in Sindh, and attacks by unidentified persons on them have become a frequent occurrence. . . It is for the first time in the history of this country that a regime is punishing its own subjects for professing and practising their faith. ” “CONSPIRACY” AGAINST PAKISTAN It is a daring insinuation to make that “many in Pakistan continue to believe in the theory of the great Ahmadi conspiracy against Islam and Pakistan”. There is no one in Pakistan except a handful of zealots calling themselves “Ulema” and belonging to a certain sect who believe in the theory of a conspiracy against Pakistan. The Founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, certainly did not entertain such a fiction. It was an Ahmadi Muslim, the late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, who was appointed by the Father of the Nation to the esteemed and highly responsible office of a mediator for Pakistan during the negotiations with the British. In that capacity, Sir Zafrulla Khan was the only one from among all the would-be Pakistanis who had the honour of defending the case of Pakistan before the Boundary Commission. This co-founder of Pakistan was appointed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1947 to be the first Foreign Minister of the newly-born State of Pakistan. “MAULANA” ASLAM QURESHI Reference has been made in the article to a certain “Maulana Aslam Qureshi”, “known for his strong anti-Ahmadi feelings”. This “Maulana” is assumed to have disappeared and a concoction has it that Ahmadis are responsible for his mysterious disappearance. Enough to say just one word about this obscure person: He was convicted of an attempt on the life of Mr. M. M. Ahmad, a prominent Ahmadi Muslim in the central Government with the rank of a Cabinet Minister. The attack took place moreover, on a day 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS when Mr. M. M. Ahmad was officiating as the Head of State during the absence abroad of President Ayub Khan. Seen in this light, the crime ranks with high treason. How strange that a person with such a criminal record should be designated with the title of a “Maulana” and Ahmadis should be blamed for his disappearance. Or did the “Maulana” commit yet another heinous crime before he absconded? The accusation also sheds some light on the status of other “Maulanas”, “Mullahs” and “Ulema”. AHMADIYYA “IN CONFLICT” WITH ISLAM? The author of the article alleges that the claim of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement “conflicts with one of the fundamental principles of Islam which is that the Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him) is the last of the Prophets”. This point has already been discussed earlier. If this were one of the fundamentals of Islam, then the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him) should have been the first to know this and proclaim it. He did enumerate the five fundamental tenets of Islam, but this one was not among them. It is a pity that baseless claims are made and wrong things are attributed to the teachings of Islam. This alone shows some of the degree of depravity of some of today’s “Muslim” religious leaders. The renowned book of Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), Bukhari, contains a saying of the Holy Prophet, as related by Ibn Omar, enumerating the five fundamental points which go to make a Muslim: 1. The profession ofthe Article of Faith, the Kaiema, which means that none is worthy of worship except Allah and Mohammad is Messenger of Allah. 2. The Prayer, 3. The Zakat (poor-tax), 4. The Hajj – Pilgrimage to the Holy House of Ka’aba, 5. Fasting in the month of Ramadan. COURT RULINGS ON AHMADIS The said article makes another revelation to the effect that “under the civil courts of the British Raj, the Ahmadis were ruled to be non-Muslims … After independence, the Pakistani courts made similar rulings.” The statement is not just over-simplification, it is forthright untruth. Before dealing with it, a clarification is called for. No court has the jurisdiction of pronouncing a judgement on the beliefs of others. If all the courts ofIndia and Pakistan unanimously decide that Ahmadis are not Muslims, then all those judgements would be so many cases of exceeding the jurisdiction. Ahmadi Muslims do not consider themselves Muslim because in the eyes of a court they are Muslim. They are Muslim because from the depths of their hearts they believe in Islam, in the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be on him), in the Holy Qur-an and in all the fundamentals of Islam. CURB ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN PAKISTAN 23 Now to the court decisions: The writer of the article seems to base almost all his points on simple hearsay. His statement is utterly wrong, and quite the opposite is true. Some rulings of High Courts are reproduced here so that no misunderstanding arises if some ruling of a lesser court is produced. Madras High Court 1922: In the case Naran Takat vs. Prakkal, the court ruled: “Ahmadis are a sect of Musulman, and a person who joins Ahmadi faith, does not become an apostate … As already stated, they (Ahmadis) accept the Kalema, the Prophethood of Mohammad and the authority of the Our-an. These undoubtedly are the essential conditions for a person to be a Mohammedan, and they are complied with by the Ahmadis; that would seem to make them Muslims governed by the, Mohammedan Law.” (“Indian Cases”, Volume 71, page 65). Patna High Court 1917: In the case Hakim Khalil vs. Malik Israfil and others, the High Court upheld the decision of a lower court to the effect that Ahmadis were Muslims. (“Indian Cases”, volume 37, page 302). Karachi High Court 1972 (long after the creation of Pakistan): In the case Mrs. Aisha Kureshi vs. Hashmat Ullah, the” court reaffirmed the definition of a Muslim as one who recites the Article or Faith, Kalema, thus indirectly arriving at the same conclusion as in the case above. The court said: “Mere recital of Kalema is enough for a person to become a Muslim.” (“Pakistan Legal Documents”, December 1972, page 653). Lahore High Court 1968: We reproduce a decision of the Lahore High Court (Pakistan) at some length to make the point quite clear once and for all. Agha Abdul Karim, Shoaib Kashmiri and others – Petitioners vs. Province of West Pakistan – Responding Writ Petition No. 937 of 1968/Decided on 22.7.1968 (Reported in “Pakistan Legal Documents” 1969, pp. 289). Before Justice Mohammad Gul and Justice Karam Elahi Chauhan Ouestion: Muslim or non-Muslim “The whole burden of argument of the Petitioners’ learned counsel was that Ahmadis are not a sect of Islam, and the Petitioners’ right to say so is guaranteed by the Constitution. But learned counsel overlooked the fact that Ahmadis as citizens of Pakistan are also guaranteed by the 24 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Constitution the same freedom to profess and proclaim that they are within the fold of Islam. How can the Petitioners deny to others what they claim for themselves, is beyond our comprehension. Certainly not by terrorising them. The question at the root is how far the Petitioners and others like-minded can in law prevent the Ahmadis from professing that, notwithstanding any doctrinal differences with the other sects of Islam, they are as good followers of Islam as anybody else who calls himself Muslim. We are obliged to consider this aspect of the matter because the Petitioners’ learned counsel in the course of his argument referred to certain parts of Munir Inquiry Report on Punjab Disturbances 1953, highlighting the doctrinal differences between the Ahmadis and other sects among Muslims and to certain incidents, where certain persons, professing to be Ahmadis, were dubbed as Murtadd (i.e. apostates) and in some cases killed. Two judgements one of a subordinate court in the former Punjab, and the other from a District Council in what was once Bahawalpur State, wherein it was held that Ahmadis are not a sect of Islam, were also placed within record. We wonder how these instances are relevant. The judgements are subordinate courts and they are not relevant even under Section 13 of the Evidence Act 1872. As to the instances of Ahmadis being Murtadd and done to death, all that we need to say is that these are sad instances of religious persecution against which human conscience must revolt if any decency is left in human affairs. How far these instances are opposed to the true Islamic precept and injunction would be manifest from Chapter 2, Verse 256 of the Holy Our-an which guarantees freedom of conscience in clear, mandatory terms which are translated thus: ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion.’ Freedom of tlJought and conscience could not have been guaranteed in clearer terms.” Very significant seem to us the findings of the Sindh High Court in the case. Maula Bakhsh vs. Charuk and others. The court ruled: “It is not the business of a court to decide who is a Muslim. What one says is to be accepted.” (“Pakistan Legal Documents” 1952, page 54). A noteworthy difference in the conditions under Mr. Bhutto and the present persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan must be mentioned. It has been the practice of civil or military rulers of Pakistan to use the Ahmadiyya issue to divert attention from the failures of the government in \ CURB ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN PAKISTAN 25 connection with their inability to solve internal problems of economic and social nature. Mc. Bhutto found himself in a fix and succumbed to the pressure by the Mullahs. The government of General Zia was and is virtually a Mullah regime. This time the pressure is not from the Mullahs but on the Mullahs exercised by the regime. Evidence is available to show that the demonstrations and demands of the Mullahs are not of their own making, but they are part of a well-prepared scheme of the regime with the intention of perpetuating its hold by abusing the Ahmadiyya issue. The Greatest Victory Forgiving all our enemies and slanderers and all who have wronged us and hurt us is not easy, especially with some natures. It is difficult to get rid ofthe resentment that burns within, even after many years. But there is only one way of escape, and that is in the silence to send love, benediction and full forgiveness to those who have wronged us. When we can love them so much that we can pray for them as earnestly as we pray for ourselves, really and truly, without any reservation at all, we have won the greatest victory of our spiritual life. (H. T. Hamblin)