Justice Markandey Katju –
Ahmadiyas are a tiny peaceful community of about 5 million in Pakistan, ( which has a total population of over 200 million ) who have been treated barbarically by religious extremists since long, the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany.
The whole world celebrated Human Rights Day on 10th December, and on this occasion the Pakistan Minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari, waxed eloquent in a hypocritical statement about how Pakistan is committed to upholding human rights, and she mentioned how the Pakistan government was taking up the issue of human rights violation of Kashmiris and Muslims in Europe in international fora. But her hypocrisy was revealed when not a word did, she says about the horrendous genocidal treatment of Ahmadiyas in Pakistan. Are Ahmadiyas not human beings? And if they are, are they not entitled to human rights?
I myself have repeatedly condemned atrocities on Kashmiris by Indian security forces, as I believe no one should be persecuted, and I have condemned lynching of Muslims in India by cow vigilantes, but what about the atrocities on Ahmadiyas in Pakistan?
Ahmadiyas were declared non-Muslims by a Constitutional Amendment in 1974 at the instance of Z.A.Bhutto, who posed as being a great champion of the poor and oppressed, which was just hypocrisy, and the tyrant General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq(6th President of Pakistan) who issued Ordinance XX in 1984 making it a crime for Ahmadiyas to ‘pose’ as Muslims or call their place of worship a masjid or call the Ahmadiyas to prayers by azaan. Ahmadiyas were forbidden to recite Quranic verses or exchange Islamic greetings publicly or gather on Eid.
Persecution of Ahmadiyas had started soon after the creation of Pakistan. In the 1953 riots hundreds of Ahmadiyas were massacred, and so also in 1974.
But it picked up momentum under General Zia’s rule. There have been several massacres of Ahmadiyas, e.g. in the attack in Lahore on their place of worship in 2010 in which about a hundred were killed. In fact murders of Ahmadiyas (often in a ghastly manner e.g. by stoning them to death) has been an almost annual feature in Pakistan for decades, with the police being bystanders or even collaborators. They have been barbarically treated, their places of worship vandalized and burnt down, their children harassed, their students victimized, and they were humiliated in various ways e.g. by making them state in their passport application that Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, the founder of their sect, was an imposter and they were non-Muslims.
And what was their ‘crime’? That they do not regard Prophet Muhammad as the last Prophet (which mainstream Muslims believe) while still calling themselves Muslims.
I am not going into the question whether Ahmadiyas regard Prophet Muhammad as the last Prophet or not (some regard Mirza Ghulam Ahmed as a Mahdi or redeemer, not a Prophet) but assuming they do not, and assert that Mirza Ghulam Ahmed was indeed another Prophet, are they cutting off anyone’s head, are they chopping off anyone’s limbs? Everyone should be free to believe what he/she wants. That is what Jinnah, who is regarded as the founder of Pakistan, said in his speech of 11th August 1947.
And why should Ahmadiyas not have a right to call themselves Muslims or call their place of worship a masjid? If they do so, are they cutting off anyone’s head, are they chopping off anyone’s limbs? If other Muslims don’t like Ahmadiyas they need not associate with them or go to the Ahmadiyas place of worship, but why should they persecute Ahmadiyas? To my mind, such persecution is gundagardi and barbarism.
The present Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, who poses to be liberal and modern, being educated in Oxford, shamelessly hobnobbed with religious bigots like the Tehreeke Labayat during his election campaign to get votes and spoke against Ahmadiyas. He gave a PTI ticket to Amir Liaquat who anchored a TV programmer in which venom was spouted against Ahmadiyas, resulting in killings of many of them. And soon after he was sworn in as Prime Minister an Ahmadiya place of worship was burnt down. He also forced out of the Pakistan Economic Advisory Council Atif Mian, a world-renowned economist at Princeton University only because he was an Ahmadiya (an act for which even his ex-wife Jemima condemned him).
Ahmadiyas have played an outstanding role in Pakistan. The first President of the UN General Assembly, Zafrullah Khan was an Ahmadiya, and so was Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam. But Abdus Salam’s grave was desecrated because it had Quranic verses written on it, as were many other graves of Ahmadiyas.
In my opinion, the United Nations must now intervene, as it did in Bosnia, to prevent a forthcoming Holocaust of Ahmadiyas, as it happened to Jews in Nazi Germany
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]