Into our town the hangman came: A brief history of anti-Ahmadi legislation and persecution in Pakistan – by Dr. Mohammad Taqi

by admin


Into Our Town The Hangman Came
‘And we wondered, whenever we had the time / Who the criminal, what the crime / … And sun by sun, and night by night / The gallows grew to monstrous height…’

“…For who has served me more faithfully
Then you with your coward’s hope?” said he,
“And where are the others who might have stood
Side by your side in the common good?”

“Dead,” I whispered. And amiably
“Murdered,” the Hangman corrected me:
“First the foreigner, then the Jew…
I did no more than you let me do.”

–“Hangman by Maurice Ogden

The massacre of Ahmadis in Lahore, Pakistan has most of us up in arms. But the bitter, cold truth is that the killers didn’t do anything more than we let them do.

The 1974 act of the Parliament of Pakistan, declaring the Ahmadiyya community and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement – also described by other (even derogatory) terms like Mirzai, Lahori, and Qadiani – as non-Muslims was perhaps the most shameful legislation in the history of Pakistan.

More shameful was the fact that the leader of the house, championing the secular cause, initiated such an action and the key leader of the opposition – a secular, liberal to boot – stood by and did nothing. These leaders were, of course, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Wali Khan, respectively.

According to one unconfirmed account from a source close to the late Maulana Shah Ahmed Noornai, the two parliamentarians belonging to the religious parties ultimately voted against the resolution.

Reportedly, Mirza Nasir Ahmed, the then leader of the Ahmadi community and Mr Sadruddin, of the Lahori group, asked for a debate with the religious and secular political leaders in Parliament. Sahibzada Farooq Ali, the then speaker of the national Assembly, later stated in an interview that Mirza Nasir Ahmed held his own, in face of cross-examination led by the Attorney General Yahya Bakhtiar, but overall performed dismally. The record of these proceedings leading to the fascist diktat, however, was dutifully sealed and remains sealed to date.

Sadly, just a few years before this action was taken, ZA Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had actively sought the advice of the Ahmadiyya leadership in awarding the party tickets for the 1970 election – an action that cost the Ahmadis Wali Khan’s support, when they needed it the most.

Wali Khan’s dislike of the Ahmadiyyas’ political stance, however, dated back to the latter’s support for partition of India and creation of Pakistan. He wasn’t particularly fond of Sir Zafrulla– a jurist who held key positions within the Ahmadiyya movement and later held the office of Pakistan’s first foreign minister. Zafrulla is widely regarded as the legal architect of the March 23, 1940 Pakistan Resolution that was the harbinger of the separate state of Pakistan.

There is no denying the fact that the Ahmadiyya, like most other Islamist revivalist movements, had a certain political motivation from its inception. The allegations against them ranged from being the lackeys of the British rulers of India, to throwing the newly independent Pakistan’s foreign policy into America’s lap. However, even their worst enemies haven’t charged them of militancy. If anything, they are charged with denouncing the armed Jihad.

The Ahmadiyya community was tightly aligned with Mr. MA Jinnah’s All India Muslim League and ended up attracting the ire of the Indian nationalists ranging from the Jamiat e Ulama e Hind (JUH) to the proto-liberal Pashtun Red Shirts of Badshah Khan (Wali Khan’s father), aligned with the Indian National Congress (INC).

In the pre-partition period there is no obvious record, however, of the Pashtuns led by Badshah Khan being anti-Ahmadi at any point. In fact the Ahmadi sect flourished in the Pashtun countryside in that period. In the post-1947 phase, while Wali Khan and the Pakistani Left at large, were critical of Sir Zafrulla steering Pakistan into the US camp, they never played the sectarian card against the Ahmadiyya community.

On the other hand, the inherently anti-Pakistan religio-political forces like Jamat e Islami of Syed Maududi, the Majlis e Ahrar, Khaksar Tehrik of Inayatullah Mashriqi and the various incarnations of the JUH in Pakistan like the Jamiat e Ulama e Pakistan (JUP) and the Jamiat e Ulama e Islam Pakistan (JUI), informally and formally came together to go after the Ahmadiyya in the most vicious manner in 1953, to have them declared apostate (Kafir/murtad) and hence punishable by death according to the former’s interpretation of the Islamic Law (Shariah). Anti-Ahmadi riots erupted in March 1953, leading to the first imposition of the Martial Law, in Lahore.

The real motive of these religio-political parties, particularly the JI and JUI, was to create a raison d’être for them to not only become relevant in the politics of a country whose creation they had opposed to the hilt, but in essence to hijack the polity of the new state.

Another unfortunate twist in this race to create a sectarian piñata came when the largest Muslim minority of Pakistan i.e. the Shiites, who too were an ally of Mr. Jinnah’s Muslim League, cast their lot with the Islamist revivalists of the Maududi and Maulana Mufti Mahmud variety.

Mufti Mahmud, during his brief stint as the Chief Minister of the NWFP in 1973-74, was instrumental in securing the support of the late Maulana Safdar Hussain of Peshawar – a leading Shiite cleric of the era who commanded nationwide respect.

The Shiite motives for joining this alliance were twofold. First and more obviously, they wanted to cosy up to the holy fathers of the revivalist Sunni variety and in return earn a doctrinal legitimacy for themselves.

More sublime is the key doctrinal difference between the Shiite and the Ahmadiyyas regarding the arrival of Al-Mahdi – the promised Messiah. In declaring Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian as the promised Messiah, the Ahmadiyyas are at serious odds with the Shiite in that the latter hold as a cardinal belief that the promised Messiah is their twelfth Imam, Muhammad Mahdi, who – currently in occultation – would return to lead the Muslims at the ‘end of times’.

What started in the early 1950s eventually came to the boil in 1974 and a constellation of factors stacked the deck against the Ahmadiyya. ZA Bhutto had already developed a trust deficit with them, suspecting that they might be switching political loyalties to Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s Tehrik e Istaqlal.

The Islamic Summit Conference in February 1974 at Lahore galvanized the religious parties to demand their pound of flesh and the Ahmadi issue was raised anew.

At the same time ZA Bhutto, pumped-up with real and perceived successes at home was eager to appear on the world stage as a champion of the Third World. However, realizing that in the presence of Tito, Castro and Indira Gandhi, there was little room for him to play the lead role, he made the deal with the devil himself. Bhutto deferred the divine stewardship of the Muslim world to King Faisal of Saudi Arabia while assigning himself the temporal political leadership.

Indian nuclear explosion in May 1974 and concerns within the security establishment of Pakistan, only helped to consolidate the relationship between Bhutto and King Faisal. In addition, the public attention needed to be diverted from the Indian success to more topical issues and hence the moving of the Ahmadi issue to the front burner.

A few years ago, this author had asked the Justice (R) KMA Samdani (of Lahore High Court) about his report on the May 29,1974 riots in Rabwah – the Pakistani headquarter city of the Ahmadiyyas. Justice Samdani said that the scope of his judicial inquiry was strictly limited to probing the incidence of violence. He advised that if I were interested in the judicial inquiry into the doctrinal question of faith and apostasy, I should be looking into the Punjab Disturbances Court of Inquiry Report, (April 10, 1954) by the Justices Rustam Kiyani and Muhammad Munir of the Pakistan Federal Court. The two judges had summarized the crux of the report thus:

“We had put to the Ulama (clergymen) the question, what is Islam and who is a momin or a Muslim? But we cannot refrain from saying here that it was a matter of infinite regret to us that the Ulama, whose first duty should be to have settled views on this subject, were hopelessly disagreed among themselves.”

It is simply not possible to overlook the findings of the Munir-Kiyani report and one cannot imagine that this report would not have been made part of the parliamentary proceedings of 1974 by the prosecutors or defence.

In the most unfortunate manner the state coerced a people into becoming a minority against their wishes. They were blinded to the fact that political – including constitutionally elected fora – are not the right venue for settling religious issues.

Enter then, on the scene, the butcher of all butchers – General Zia ul Haq. Through his Islamic Martial Law supported by the Islamic fundamentalist clergy, he persecuted the PPP and executed Bhutto, hounded the Leftists, and harassed the Shiites – all of these had hoped that they’d never fall prey to the noose. But he saved the worst for the Ahmadiyyas.

On 26 April 1984, Zia issued the Ordinance XX of 1984 called the “Anti Islamic Activities of the Qadiani Group, Lahore group and Ahmadis and (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance 1984. Section 298-B was inserted in the Pakistan Penal Code to punish the members of these groups if they:

  • call or “pose” themselves directly or indirectly as a Muslim or refer to his faith as Islam;
  • preach or propagate their faith or to invite others to accept their faith or in any manner whatsoever outrage the religious feelings of Muslims;
  • call people to prayer by reciting Azan to refer to their mode or form of call to prayer as Azan;
  • refer or call their place of worship as Masjid (Mosque);
  • refer any person other than a Caliph or companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Amir-ul-Mominin, Khalifatul-Muslimeen, Sahaba, Razi-Allah Anho any person other than the wives of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as Umm-ul–Mominin and any person other than a member of the family of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as Ahle-bait.

While the scalpels of the Ahmadi surgeons saved Zia’s eyes and prostate, he let the guillotine of his fascism fall on the necks of the Ahmadiyyas.

One after the other, political and military leaders, religious sects – even the minorities and progressives- and Pakistanis at large, have either been compromising with the Islamic fundamentalist forces or have kept on looking the other way while the grave-digging for the Ahmadiyya went on.

The Hangman reared his ugly head in Pakistan in 1953 and we kept deluding ourselves that he is not after us because those dying were somehow different from us. We persisted in our belief that we will be spared if we collaborated.

Writer, poet and blogger Hasan Mujtaba of the BBC wrote a moving Urdu piece – ‘We all are Ahmadis’ (hum sub Ahmadi hein) about the massacre in Lahore. I beg to differ with Hasan though:  Unless we all take action to protect the weak in our midst we are all murderers of Ahmadis.

Source: Outlook India

One Comment to “Into our town the hangman came: A brief history of anti-Ahmadi legislation and persecution in Pakistan – by Dr. Mohammad Taqi”

  1. From Twitter:
    On September, 7, 1974 2nd amendment to the Constitution declared Ahmedis as Non-Muslims
    NAP supported bill on Ahmedis with Balochs, Pakhtuns, secular and lefitists in it.
    The bill on Ahmedis was not passed just by PPP. It was almost unanimous except one PPP MNA.
    Mufti Mehmood, Wali Khan and Bizenjo signed the bill.
    Two JUI MNAs voted against the bill.

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