GHRD News

Façade of religious harmony and tolerance in Pakistan

‘’Ahmadis residing in Pakistan are not at peace even after their demise’’
On 13 July, in a village (Tirigri) in Gujranwala, police and locals allegedly
removed Islamic symbols from the graves of the members of the Ahmadiyya
community. This graveyard was a shared graveyard of the Muslims and
Ahmadis till 1967.But after the Ahmadiyya community got the official status of
a minority, the Muslims had separated their graveyard.
The Ahmadiyya community is a religious minority in Pakistan. There are
between 10 and 20 million people in the world that identify as Ahmadi Muslim.
While this seems like a large number, it accounts for less than 2% of the total
worldwide Muslim population. The origin of the Ahmadiyya community goes
back to the British-ruled India of 1889 in the province of Punjab.Many
European missionaries wanted to free Indians “ both Muslims and Hindus of
what they characterized as their religious ignorance by bringing them to the
truth of Christian traditions. To restore the wholesomeness of Islamic
traditions that had once influenced much of South Asia, Ghulam Ahmad
reinterpreted branches of Islamic thought. He broadcast the message of
reform through his prolific writing.
While most Muslims understand Mohammad as the seal of the prophets, the
last sent by God.  Ghulam Ahmad claimed himself as the prophet. He claimed
himself as the final prophet instead of Mohammad. Which caused criticism on
the Ahmadiyya by other orthodox Islamic scholars. Even though Ghulam
Ahmad faced criticism, his message attracted growing numbers of followers
among Muslims struggling to deal with the realities of British rule. In 1889 he
inaugurated a small group called the Jamaat-i Ahmadiyya (the Organization of
Ahmad), that helped spread his message.
 In 1947 Pakistan became a separate country and Punjab became a province
of Pakistan. Because of this contradiction between the Ahmadiya’s belief and
the orthodox Islam, this community had become victim to discrimination. The
first major expression of anti-Ahmadi sentiment targeted an Ahmadi,
Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan, who held the foreign ministers post in 1953.Some
Muslims circulated rumors that Ahmadis proselytized among Muslims and
represented a Western-supported conspiracy. This spurred riots throughout
the country in 1953 that led to six deaths. Subsequently the
government removed all Ahmadis, including Zafarullah Khan from prominent
official posts.           

The, anti-Ahmadi sentiment became so strong that in 1974, the Pakistani
prime minister declared Ahmadiyya to be non-Muslim. Over time, this
declaration led to a ban on the term mosque being used to define Ahmadi
places of worship. The hatred towards the Ahmadiyya grew stronger with time
and with the second constitutional amendment it was also declared that
besides that the Ahmadiyya is view as non-Muslims, they will also face prison
sentences if they refer  themselves as such.
The event occurring on the 13 July happened as a follow up action when a
complaint was lodged on the 3 rd  of July 2020 by Muhammad Ikram other locals
with the Rahwali Cantonment police to remove the Islamic symbols from the
graves. According to the police the complaint was reasonable valid, because
under the constitution of Pakistan the Ahmadiyya community are not allowed
to use Islamic symbols and by doing so they are creating unrest under the
locals.
The deem this unrest the police asked the Ahmadiyya community to sign a
petition to remove the Islamic symbols from the gravestones.
Freedom of religion is one of the fundamental Human rights of our
international community. It is established in the Human Rights Declaration and
ICCPR of which Pakistan is a signatory. Because Pakistan is a signatory to
these conventions, Pakistan is obliged to respect this freedom. Even though
they are obliged to respect this freedom, reality has shown that Pakistan is not
respecting this freedom. As already mentioned, Ahmadiyya’s are not free to
practice their religion and when they do, they can face prison sentences.
Although Pakistan was created as a state for Muslims, it was not an Islamic
state at the time of its independence in 1947. The country’s founding father,
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, emphasized the importance of freedom of religion in
his speech to the opening session of the 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 or 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.  As a result, the freedom of religion in Pakistan was
guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan for individuals or various and
religious sects. In today’s Pakistan, however, intolerance is endorsed and
even encouraged by stringent laws that discriminate against religious
minorities and even criminalize the religious practices of the Ahmadiyya
community.

Since the amendments passing in 1974, the sectarian angst has become
integral to Pakistani law. Unlike all other Muslims in the country, Ahmadis are
prohibited from calling their place of worship a mosque and saying the
common Islamic greeting of Assalamo Alaikum or the testimony of faith,
known as the Kalima. They are singled out in their passports and legal
identification and cannot hold governmental positions without publicly
denouncing Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
It seems like asking, but just as the Pakistani government façade the
freedom of religion, this was merely façade of the police. The truth is
that the Ahmadiyya community were pressured to sign the petition and
had to accept it.