Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, July 14, 1947
Regrettably, in September 1974 the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime declared Ahmadis as a non-Muslim minority in the geographical boundaries of Pakistan under pressure from extremist mullahs. Ahmadis did not accept this intolerant and biased decision of Parliament and claimed to be Muslim. This disastrous decision by a democratic regime was a negation of Jinnah’s determination of a moderate Pakistan.
No state legislature has the right to determine the faith, beliefs or religion of its citizens. Religion is a sensitive and personal matter. State interference in religious matters is an intrusion into the personal interests of that state’s inhabitants.
After the 1974 declaration, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, as president of Pakistan, implemented the anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance No XX on April 26, 1984. This dismaying legislation shaped an anti-Ahmadiyya and discriminatory environment as a hate campaign in all of Pakistan. The influential and fanatical mullah strata, having political influence and street power, have continually exploited the Ahmadis in the socio-political fabric of Pakistan.
State-supported discrimination against Ahmadis has worsened their misery in daily and social life. They cannot say prayers, extremists have demolished their places of worship, there is harassment in the workplace, and there are other grave issues, including killing of Ahmadis. Authoritarian and democratic regimes alike have failed to provide a sense of security and freedom to Ahmadis in Pakistan.
Last year alone, according to reports, four Ahmadis were killed, including a woman in Lahore, and two faced murder attempts. A total of 77 Ahmadis were booked under various fake allegations. Nine Ahmadiyya mosques were attacked or demolished by extremists. Three Ahmadis were sentenced to death by the courts, three others were charged under blasphemy laws, and an order was registered in March 2017 against 40 Ahmadis on religious grounds.
The judicial exploitation of Ahmadis is extending the anguish of Ahmadis. The higher judiciary is the custodian of the rights and prestige of all citizens of Pakistan, and not only of the majority population.
In March this year, Chief Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) passed an irresponsible verdict and tried to marginalize the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. He ordered that the citizens of Pakistan should make sure to disclose their separate identifications as Muslim or non-Muslim officially. First of all, this decision endorses separatism, and second, it is damaging for harmony in the country.
Ahmadis have been loyal to the state of Pakistan since its founding 1947. Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, Dr Abdul Salam, Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhary, Lieutenant-General Akhtar Husain Malik, Lieutenant-General Abdul Ali Malik, Major-General Iftikhar Janjua, M M Ahmad and Sahibzada Abdul Quayum are among the eminent and renowned Ahmadi personalities. They served the nation to their best abilities and proved themselves as landmarks in the 70-year history of Pakistan.
But unfortunately, the IHC has directed the state and its institutions to prepare an affidavit to differentiate Muslim and non-Muslim citizens when they join the judiciary, the armed forces or the civil service. Furthermore, the IHC bound the state to introduce such an affidavit when citizens apply for a computerized national identity card (CNIC), a passport or a birth certificate or to enter their name on the voters’ list.
The court directed the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to decide a time frame regarding changes in the CNIC system to officialize the religion of citizens.
This injudicious judgment of the IHC is a sweeping violation of Articles 2, 3 and 6 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
The detrimental decision reflects bias and intolerance on the part of the IHC. The court without hearing from Ahmadis themselves and only with the assistance of anti-Ahmadiyya mullahs like Molana Allah Wasaya, Hafiz Hasan Madni, Dr Mohsin Naqvi and Mufti Muhammad Husain passed the verdict against the Ahmadis of Pakistan and deprived them of their basic rights.
This is a violation of Article 10-A of the Pakistani constitution of 1973. Furthermore, the decision discriminates against small communities contrary to Articles 8 and 10 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Justice Siddiqui in the decision also directed that Ahmadis have no right to recognition as “Ahmadis,” because “Ahmad” is also a name of the Prophet Muhammad. He added that the names of Ahmadis are similar to those of common Muslims, so Ahmadis must add “Mirzai” or “Ghulaman-i-Mirza” to their names to differentiate themselves. He also ordered that Ahmadis should stop using names similar to those of Muslims.
This decision is an utter violation of human values. If this formula is going to apply to Ahmadis, then every “official Muslim” in Pakistan should also add “Muhammad” to his or her name for identification, particularly when they go abroad. “Muhammad” is not part of the name of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui or the names of the president of Pakistan, the prime minister, the chief justice, the chief of army staff or the head of the Islamic Ideological Council, yet they are “official Muslims.”
The IHC’s decision is enough to split the nation and demolish the state of integration, unity and nationalism in Pakistan. Ahmadis are a loyal, non-violent and sincere community. Since 1947 not a single Ahmadi has been found guilty of being involved in any anti-Pakistan or immoderate activity.
Ahmadis have the same socio-political rights as other Pakistanis to live calmly in a progressive nation. The state is obligated to provide them basic rights, equal job opportunities, a livelihood, and education so as to serve the nation. Anti-Ahmadiyya laws and propagation of hate against Ahmadis must be eliminated to make Pakistan prosperous, peaceful and affluent.