In yet another incident of growing intolerance in the country, a letter by a leader of the provincial ruling coalition’s Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) has sought the expulsion of the minority Ahmaddiya community from the Khushab district of Punjab.
According to details, Malik Ilyas Awan of the PML-Q in a letter to the Khushab deputy commissioner (DC) alleged that members of the community deliver sermons and offer Friday prayers at a house in the Jauharabad locality of the district.
“As per the Constitution, this is a violation of [an] Islamic state’s foundations,” he claimed in the letter dated July 30, arguing that the community was allowed to practice its beliefs only within Chenab Nagar (Rabwah), which had been granted to them by the late former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Ilyas went on to state that the community’s open propagation of religion was adversely influencing children of the area as well as the police personnel deputed for the worshippers’ security, and requested the Khushab DC to withdraw the group’s security besides expelling those “who did not believe in the finality of Prophethood (PBUH)”.
Speaking to Kross Konnection, press in charge of the Anjuman Ahmadiyya, Amir Mahmood, said it was unfortunate that some people were spreading hate rooted in religious differences.
“Such treatment of a group does not only go against the vision of the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah who laid the foundation of a state free of religious bias, but also the Constitution of Pakistan that protects the rights of all religious groups,” he said, rejecting Ilyas’s claim against the legality of Ahmadiyya places of worship outside Rabwah.
Mahmood also went on to question the capacity in which Ilyas had written the letter targeting the Ahmadiyya community. “I wonder if it is instead the party policy of the PML-Q,” he said while mentioning recent directions of newly-elected Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Pervaiz Elahi’s government to union council secretaries seeking amended nikahnamas (marriage certificates) containing the declaration of the finality of Prophethood (PBUH).
Four months ago, an amendment was made to the West Pakistan Rules under Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, to bind couples intending to get married to testify their belief in the finality of Prophethood (PBUH) at the time of nikah. This amendment was made in light of a resolution passed by the Punjab Assembly last year with then speaker Elahi in the chair.
While the district administration has not yet acted upon the PML-Q leader’s letter, Khushab DC Capt (r) Shoaib Ali has said that the matter was being investigated and action would be taken after ascertaining all facts such as the legality of the Ahmadiyya community’s Friday congregation and determining if a loudspeaker was used.
After going through all the facts, the community would either be barred from offering prayers at the location in question or would be provided security for its gatherings, the DC added.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the PML-Q leader’s call and urged the state to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to protect the Ahmadiyya community’s right to life, to live where they choose, and to profess their faith safely.
HRCP strongly condemns a PML-Q leader's call to have the local Ahmadiyya community evicted from Khushab and their security withdrawn. The ghettoisation of this long-persecuted community must cease. No authority has the right to dictate where any citizen chooses to live. pic.twitter.com/oQKtz6YuMU
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) August 1, 2022
AHMADIS IN PAKISTAN
Ahmadis in Pakistan have long been the target of systematic attacks and successive governments have failed to respect, protect and promote their human rights, forcing many to flee to other countries.
The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) also explicitly discriminates against religious minorities and targets Ahmadis. Section 298-C of the PPC states: “Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who, directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”
The PML-Q leader’s letter against the Friday prayers of the Ahmadiyya community comes just weeks after three men belonging to the community were arrested in Faisalabad for sacrificing goats on the occasion of Eidul Azha.
The Thekriwala police took the men into custody from Chak 89-GB Ratan village and charged them along with two others under Section 298 on the complaint of a local Muslim, Majid Javed, who alleged that he and some other locals were present at a mosque after offering Eid prayers when they were informed that five members of an Ahmadi family were sacrificing goats in their homes.
The FIR [First Information Report] claimed that the Ahmadi men had hurt the religious sentiments of the complainant and other Muslims by offering sacrifice on Eidul Azha, therefore they should be arrested.
Faisalabad Police spokesperson Muneeb Ahmed told a foreign media outlet that the three Ahmadi men were arrested because, according to law, Ahmadis are non-Muslims and they can neither call themselves Muslims nor carry out Islamic rituals.