Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pakistan's Ahmadis and the threat of genocide

LAHORE Jan 23, 2012: They are officially denounced by the state as heretics. Their places of worship are demolished.  Hardly a week goes by without one of them being murdered in cold blood.  Their children are expelled from schools. Even their dead are not spared. They are not allowed to bury their dead in a public cemetery and their special graveyards are desecrated by masked men.  The precipice at which the Ahmadis of Pakistan stand and the horrors that are likely to follow, however, are not unknown to the readers in the west, especially to the survivors of the Holocaust in Germany.

Ahmadis say they are Muslims and believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who died 1908, was a subordinate prophet of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the founder of Islam. This most other Muslims sects believe is heresy and militates against the principle of the finality of Muhammad (PBUH)'s prophethood.  Ahmadis also interpret the Islamic concept of Jihad as a purely ethical and non-violent struggle to achieve goodness and distinguish it from harb (war) or qital (killing). Given that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad preached his message when the British were ruling India, many Sunni Muslims believe that Ahmad was working at the behest of the British. Despite this antagonism, Ahmadis were actively involved in the movement for the creation of a separate Muslim majority state which led to the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. In the early years the community did quite well in the new state but in 1974, the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed a constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims. 

The military dictator who overthrew Bhutto and executed him turned out to be even more bigoted.  General Zia ul Haq forbade Ahmadis from even thinking of themselves as Muslims, having Muslim names or even appearing to be Muslim in any way or form.  The annual congregation of the Ahmadi community which happened in the predominantly Ahmadi town of Rabwah (city of God) in Punjab was banned. All officially sanctioned Muslim sects are today by law required to declare Ahmadis non-Muslim and their founder an “impostor” and a “liar”. Eventually even the name of the town that Ahmadis founded after partition was forcibly changed to avoid any confusion that the God of Ahmadis and Muslims was the same. A decree by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1993 has in essence outlawed Ahmadi faith despite Article 20 of the Constitution which protects religious freedom.  An equivalent law in the United States would be if Mormons were declared non-Christian and were stopped from using the words “Church” “Saints” and “Jesus Christ”; and every Christian in the United States was asked to sign a form saying that they consider Mormons infidels and Joseph Smith a fake prophet.

Since 2010 however the persecution of the community has taken a violent turn. As many as 100 worshippers were killed by a sectarian outfit in May of 2010 in Lahore’s posh Model Town neighborhood. No one has been brought to justice so far. Ordinary Ahmadis have been targeted in all major cities of Pakistan. Leaflets are routinely distributed after Friday prayers urging people to kill Ahmadis where ever they find them. A popular televangelist on a widely watched religious show declared Ahmadis wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of death) and pronounced it the religious duty of every Muslim to kill them.

This kind of hatred and violence concerns many Pakistanis not just because of the injustice that it manifests but also because it has turned Pakistan into something it was never meant to be.  Mahomed Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, had thought that Pakistan would help the marginalized Muslim minority against having their economic and political interests being swamped by the more prosperous Hindu majority. Some even say that his demand for a separate country was a bargaining counter for a better deal within India. Being secular-minded himself, Jinnah warned his co-religionists not to raise sectarian and religious questions because that would lead to the “dissolution of the state”. Jinnah’s own minority Shia Muslim sect has also faced systematic killing though given their large numbers official discrimination against them is impossible. Many believe that Jinnah, who much like Theodore Hertzl and Ben Gureon was scorned by the religious clerics, would not have survived in today’s Pakistan.

The dissolution Jinnah had warned of is beginning to come true.  Pakistan is peeling off at the edges and the state is now unable to govern large tracts of its own territory.  Bloodletting has already commenced. Ahmadis and Pakistan’s other sectarian and religious minorities are going to bear the brunt of it. Another holocaust is just beginning.

Yasser Latif Hamdani is a human rights lawyer in Pakistan and is also the author of the book Jinnah; Myth and Reality.


  1. Cogent description of the situation which needs wide circulation. Thank you.

  2. Thanks please give it the widest possible circulation.

  3. very bold effort to speak out for the injustice being committed by not only the state but also by the public. In 1974, during parliamentary hearings, Imam of Ahmadiyya Jamaat warned that such alienationation of ahmadies would not end here, rather shias and other minorities would also be caught in this fire. Today, almost 48 years after the 2nd amendment was passed, whole of Pakistan is burning in that fire. The intelligentia has the responsibility to highlight this mistake in the history and suggest measures to rectify it.

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  5. My sincere thanks to Yasser Latif Hamdani for highlighting the atrocities committed against the Ahmadi Muslims and trying to bring to light the planned persecution of this peace loving community in Pakistan. Regrettably all these are being done in the name of Islam - a religion that stands for peace, submission and justice. One can find a resemblance of this in Mecca during the time of the holy Prophet (SAW), when the Muslims were similarly persecuted and jeered at. Now, it is for the persecutors of Ahmadees to see how closely their behaviour resembles with those of the kuffars of Mecca.

  6. Many thanks YLH for this pieace. May Allah reward you amply. Just one small correction. The name of Town Rabwah means a "high place". It is word taken from the Quran where this is mentioned in relation to Mary (Hazrat Maryam) giving birth to Jesus (Hazrat Isa A.S). The reason why Mullahs wanted the name changed was because it a word used in the Quran, and therefore copyrighted for "Muslims" to use only and exclusively. thanks once again


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