Defined by exclusion

Its excommunicated reveal the reality of the Pakistani state.

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published: July 22, 2015 12:00 am
1953 anti-Ahmadi riots, Ahmadi riots, M.M. Daultana, religious conversion, Ahmadi community, Pakistan, Indian express, express column The 1953 anti-Ahmadi riots had been ‘organised’ in Punjab by then Chief Minister M.M. Daultana, who made the most enlightened speech at the judicial commission, saying a community could be converted into a minority only when it asked for such exclusion. (Illustration by: C R Sasikumar)

According to a recent assessment of state persecution in Pakistan, the excommunicated Ahmadi community lost 39 members through murder in three years (2012-15). Forty Ahmadis were injured after assault and six were kidnapped. Eight Ahmadi graveyards were desecrated, 10 “places of worship” damaged, while harassment occurred in 11 cases. You can’t say “mosque” when referring to an Ahmadi place of worship if you want to avoid being thrown in jail. Ahmadis can’t say “Quran” or “namaz” either.

States at times practise exclusion, the majority considering “even the smallest minority within national boundaries… as an intolerable deficit in the purity of the national whole” (Arjun Appadurai). They do it through impunity or manifest legal devices; but Pakistan did it by excommunicating the Ahmadi community through the second amendment to the constitution (1974). In his remarkably even-handed book, The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan (2015), Ali Usman Qasmi, assistant professor at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore University of Management Sciences, has told the story of how it happened.

It is fascinating how Pakistan’s Islamic teleology evolved as it distanced itself from the secular “afterglow” of the British Raj and zeroed in on what looks like a precursor phase to an al-Qaeda and Islamic State worldview in the 21st century. In 1953, when the riots against the Ahmadi community first led to the setting up of a judicial commission, the Grundnorm of the Objectives Resolution of 1949 had not yet been internalised, and the judges ended up delivering a humane verdict in favour of the victim community.

All Muslims seem to have an internal trigger that makes them backslide to Islamic Leviathan. Such a trigger was manifested in 1974 in a parliament dominated by a “socialist” Pakistan People’s Party led by a charismatic secular leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The author provides evidence of the mystery trigger by narrating how Bhutto never attended the apostatising sessions of the National Assembly and actually “reprimanded” his attorney general, Yahya Bakhtiar, for unfairly prosecuting the Ahmadis till he was reminded that he had ordered the trial himself.

The 1953 anti-Ahmadi riots had been “organised” in Punjab by then Chief Minister M.M. Daultana, who made the most enlightened speech at the judicial commission, saying a community could be converted into a minority only when it asked for such exclusion. But evidence showed that his government had funded the riots. Then Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin was forced by states aiding Pakistan to abstain from firing his Ahmadi foreign minister, Sir Zafarullah Khan, and said the following in rebuttal of the famous August 11, 1947 address of the founder of the state, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, to the Constituent Assembly, in which he had, in a manifestly Lockean speech, pledged a pluralist country where religion and state would be separated: “I do not agree that religion is a private affair of the individual nor do I agree that in an Islamic state every citizen has identical rights, no matter what his caste, creed or faith be… The speech of the Quaid-i-Azam must be interpreted in the context in which it was delivered.”

There are ironies in this statement that have become manifest only in 2015, when non-Muslims are under threat of being killed and the community of the founder of the state has been called “non-Muslim” on TV by the leader of a “banned” sectarian organisation. The book uncannily foreshadows this while reproducing the details of a meeting in which Bhutto’s wife actually felt that the apostatisation of the Ahmadis would lead to the victimisation of her own community, the Shia, in the coming days: “In this meeting Bhutto’s wife Nusrat, a Shiite of Iranian descent, was also visibly perturbed. She expressed apprehension that the exclusion of Ahmadis would be followed by that of Shiites.” In the year 2015, Pakistan is killing its Shia community, as is being done elsewhere in the Middle East, as “correction” of the Islamic faith.

The dilemma in 1953 was that the clerics appearing before the Justices Munir-Kiyani Commission couldn’t agree on the definition of a Muslim. If they reduced it to the pronouncement of the “kalima” (the historic Muslim catechism), the Ahmadis couldn’t be indicted as they said it the same way as “normal” Muslims. If you insisted on it, however, the Shia could fall into the trap of apostatisation as their catechism of faith actually differs. The problem that arose in the post-apostatisation period was: How could Ahmadis be trapped into declaring themselves as non-Muslims on identity cards and passports?

In the 1980s, General Zia-ul-Haq “purified” the state through further Islamisation, making Pakistan the pathfinder of what is now going on in the Islamic world. His martial law order imposed the strictest disabilities on the Ahmadis — curse the founder of the community in order to get ID cards and passports, stop terming the basic instruments of their faith as “mosque”, the “Quran”, “namaz”, etc, on pain of imprisonment. Ahmadi graves were dug up and removed from Muslim graveyards. The state was reduced to being a silent witness as blood-thirsty collective psychosis took over.

Did Bhutto do it for Saudi money? His reference to the “solution of a 90-year-old problem” points to the “trigger” that hides in all Muslims. The Saudi push happened more clearly when in 1980, Zia took Saudi dictation to impose religious tax (zakat) on the Shia. The Rabita Alam Al Islami (World Islamic League), the Saudi organisation with billions of dollars on its budget, was active in 1974; it was active under Zia, too.

As noted by Vali Nasr in his book, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future (2006), the anti-Shia edicts (fatwas) were “managed” through a scholar of India, Manzur Numani, then head of the Nadwatul Ulema of Lucknow, who compiled anti-Shia fatwas of apostatisation from the major seminaries of India and Pakistan in 1986. This compendium of fatwas laid the foundation for Shia massacres in Pakistan. Who is next?

The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’.

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More From Khaled Ahmed
  1. A
    Jul 22, 2015 at 5:50 pm
    Forty Ahmadis were injured after ault and six were kidnapped. Eight Ahmadi graveyards were desecrated, 10 “places of worship” damaged, while harment occurred in 11 cases. You can’t say “mosque” when referring to an Ahmadi place of worship if you want to avoid being thrown in jail. Ahmadis can’t say “Quran” or “namaz” either. Hope all of our pro stan Kashmir separatists, pseudo secular columnists and intellectuals would read this and make comment the atrocities of stan towards other religions and minorities.
    1. A
      Jul 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm
      Killing free of these sects and groups of Islam such as the Shias, Ahmadis, Bohras, Sufis, Kurds, Drew's, and Baha'i's, are the calculated and cold blood strategy of Wahhabi cult Sunni dominant groups from Saudi-Arabia to stan. Comparatively, less in India though such division exists but m murder is not taken place against Ahmadi or Shiyas despite occasional conflict and riots takes place. That is why all world regions are India due to "clic example" of Hindu dominant group's religious tolerance.
      1. M
        Jul 22, 2015 at 12:51 pm
        Any system of belief that says it is the ONLY way to God, will suffer in the long run. There will be denominations, different interpretations of the sacred book, sacred practices and so on. Given human nature and the different histories of nations and their people, there will be different religions and denominations in this world. It is futile for the Wahabis and fis to think the world will become all Muslims of the Wahabi sect. It is NOT going to happen. World will maintain its diversity, Ahmadis and their holy sage of Quadian (Punjab) will have a place in that diversity. Shias, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and so on, all will continue to take their place under the Sun. I cannot say the same about stan as a country.
        1. C
          Jul 23, 2015 at 12:48 am
          Manzur Nomani was never the Head of the Nadwa. Nor was he, as I remember, the editor of the two-volume compilation of anti-Shi'ah fatwas. Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi (a.k.a Ali Miyan) was the Head. (One family has held that position through three or four generations.) Both, however, were fervently anti-Shi'ah. Nomani wrote a vitriolic book against Khomeini with Nadvi's support. Nadvi also brought the Imam of Ka'ba, ostensibly to denounce the so-called "Ahmadi fitna in India," but in actuality to warm up anti-Shi'ah sentiments among the Sunnis of Lucknow. Both Nomani and Nadvi were very much supported by the Saudi kings. The present Head of the Nadva is cut from the same cloth. Another member of the faculty not too long ago came out in support of ISIS, but then later withdrew his statement under pressure. Meanwhile people educated at the Nadva have been spreading across India, spreading the same prejudices and harmful convictions in the name of their "true" understanding of Islam.
          1. N
            Narendra M
            Jul 22, 2015 at 8:02 am
            (1) Intolerance is becoming a huge problem with many societies the world over. Unfortunately I find that Muslim community is on top of the chart in this respect. (2) Terrorist organizations like LeT and Taliban are openly supporting violence in the name of Islam. Saner elements in stan and other Islamic countries over the world are not actively contradicting this view of terrorists. (3) The extremists in Muslim communities all over the world are not ready to accommodate a view that is different from theirs and they (extremists) are often proclaiming that non-Muslims have no right to live in this world. (4) More worrying is the fact that saner elements in Muslim communities in our country and elsewhere are being weakened day by day.
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