Discrimination against Ahmadis Continues in Ramazan

The Ahmadiyya community has expressed deep concerns and anxiety following the display of banners with derogatory comments outside the Allied Hospital, one of Faisalabad’s most prominent and bustling medical facilities. They have issued a plea to the authorities for the removal of these banners and the provision of assurances regarding their safety and protection amidst acts of intimidation and threats. This apprehension arose in the wake of a series of aggressive actions targeted against Ahmadis. Notably, a community leader in Hasilpur (District Bahawalpur) was fatally shot in the early hours of February 4. Subsequently, in two distinct events within the same village in District Kotli, AJK, approximately 10 Ahmadi graves were desecrated.

Additionally, there have been instances where Ahmadi places of worship were razed, including one incident in Kotli on February 12 and another in Karachi on February 29.

Zubair* (name altered for anonymity), a legal practitioner belonging to the Ahmadi community in Faisalabad, conveyed the alarming escalation in violence against Ahmadis, particularly noting its increase since the commencement of Ramadan. “The persistence of this hate campaign for three weeks is reprehensible,” he remarked. Furthermore, he criticized the Pakistan Medical Association’s leadership in the protests, stating, “Doctors bear a moral responsibility to distinguish their professional duties from their personal beliefs. The incorporation of religious convictions in this context is questionable.”

In the vicinity of the Allied Hospital, a concerning phenomenon persists as individuals encounter banners and placards imbued with vitriolic language directed at Ahmadis. One banner starkly proclaims, “Qadianism is a cancer,” employing the pejorative term “Qadiani” rather than “Ahmadi,” followed by a declaration that “Muslims will not permit its proliferation.”

Another banner contends, “The judgment issued by the Chief Justice of Pakistan equates to endorsing Qadianiat and affronting the sentiments of Muslims.” Further, a different message asserts that “The Chief Justice of Pakistan’s ruling in favor of Qadianiat contravenes the Constitution of Pakistan.”

Amir Mehmood, acting as a spokesperson, says the egregious nature of such displays by the Pakistan Medical Association, interpreting them as overt attempts to sway opinions on a matter currently under judicial review. “Their provocations toward violence against the Chief Justice are deeply reprehensible,” he stated. “Such behavior tarnishes the revered stature of the medical profession.”

On December 6, 2022, Muhammad Hassan Mawaiyah, serving as the Secretary-General of the Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Forum, initiated a legal proceeding in Chiniot, Punjab. The basis of the legal action was the distribution of a proscribed Quran commentary, “Tafsir-e-Saghir,” during the annual event of Al-Hifz Ayesha Academy in March 2019. This commentary represents a condensed version of “Tafseer-e-Kabeer,” which offers a comprehensive exposition of the Quran, incorporating lectures, writings, and annotations on Quranic verses by Mirza Mahmood Ahmad, the second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Community.

Mawaiyah contended that this act constituted a breach of Articles 295-B and 295-C of the Constitution, in addition to the Quran Act, prompting the formal lodging of the complaint. After this, on January 7, 2023, the police apprehended the accused, Mubarak Ahmad Sani.

Mubarak Ahmad Sani found himself ensnared in a legal quandary following these allegations. He faced charges under the Punjab Quran (Printing and Recording) Act for the dissemination of the commentary, accused of blasphemy against the Quran, and of masquerading as a Muslim despite his affiliation with the Ahmadiyya community. Although Sani’s requests for bail were rejected by the lower courts, the Supreme Court, in February 2024, decided to grant him bail, conditioned on a security bond of Rs 5,000.

The distribution of “Tafsir-e-Saghir” was criminalized after 2021, and the Supreme Court adjudicated that penalizing an individual for a deed that was lawful at the time of its execution contravenes the Constitution. Moreover, the court identified an absence of substantiating evidence regarding accusations of blasphemy or falsification of religious identity within the police report. Nonetheless, the issuance of the verdict by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) ignited vehement opposition from religious extremists. This sentiment, reflecting the belief that the judgment was antithetical to both Islamic tenets and the Constitution, was echoed by numerous individuals on social media, where some escalated to disparaging the Chief Justice.

The judiciary further declared that the accused had been detained for a duration surpassing the maximum potential sentence had a conviction been secured. “Ultimately, the resolution to release him was made, yet this decision was met with disapproval by those adamantly opposed,” Zubair elaborated. “The announcement of bail provoked widespread tumult. Legal practitioners organized and engaged in demonstrations, with a pervasive sense of outrage.”

The campaign of animosity staged outside one of the largest hospitals in Faisalabad has escalated concerns within the Ahmadiyya community. “The presence of such banners is alarming, and they have become ubiquitous,” Zubair shared. “Notices and banners are displayed in commercial areas expressly forbidding Ahmadis from entering. The distinction between Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis is widely recognized. In my professional environment, my Ahmadi identity is well-known. Given that many shopkeepers and vendors have been established for years, community members are easily identifiable. However, the emergence of explicit threats and intimidation by extremist groups complicates the ability of supportive individuals to engage with us, whether it involves patronizing our businesses or other forms of interaction.”

The ultra-conservative Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has consistently been implicated in fostering anti-Ahmadi sentiment, propagating blasphemy accusations, and advocating for the ‘khatm-e-nabuwwat’ (finality of prophethood) ideology. In an incident in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala tehsil last year, individuals associated with the TLP were identified as orchestrators of riots that led to the destruction of 21 churches, following blasphemy charges leveled against two individuals from the Christian Colony.

Zubair reflects on the increasing indistinctness between organized factions like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and other societal elements. “The distinctions have become increasingly nebulous – it’s not only the media, doctors, lawyers; affiliation with TLP is not a prerequisite,” he observes. “We had perceived these individuals as professionals – embodying progressive and tolerant values. However, it appears TLP has effectively laid the groundwork. Presently, even those aspiring to participate in bar elections begin to engage in similar rhetoric.”

He further notes that during Ramadan, animosity towards Ahmadis intensifies, yet the government fails to augment security measures for their places of worship. “Lodging complaints with law enforcement often yields a response that they are powerless to curb these elements. For the sake of maintaining peace, it is suggested that we, the aggrieved, should recede into silence,” he mentions.

Amir Mehmood, representing the community, stresses the urgency for governmental intervention to dismantle the malign banners near the hospital premises. Additionally, he calls for the Pakistan Medical Association’s leadership to identify those responsible and to institute appropriate disciplinary measures following their regulations.

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