The persecution of the Ahmadiyya community has reached new heights following the destruction of six minarets at an Ahmadi place of worship in Kharian on July 10. Deeply appalling is the fact that the initiative was taken by the very people who are responsible for upholding and protecting every individual’s rights and freedom — the police. And, more ludicrous is the fact that an SHO claimed that the process of knocking down the minarets was “amicable and peaceful”.
Destruction of one’s home of worship is a propagation of hatred and intolerance. Of course, such abominable actions are nothing new in the history of Pakistan. Agitation against the Ahmadiyya community began in 1948 when the religio-political group, the Majlis-e-Ahrarul Islam, demanded that Ahmadi government officials be removed from their posts. Pakistan’s foreign minister at the time, Zafarullah Khan, was also an Ahmadi. In 1953, mass rioting and hate campaigns launched against Ahmadis led to Zafarullah Khan’s resignation in 1954. Surprising on the state’s part, an inquiry was launched into the rioting in order to understand the reason for the agitation and to potentially seek protection for the victims of intolerance. The analysis was titled ‘The Punjab Disturbances of 1953’, also known as the Munir Commission Report. Written by Justice Mohammad Munir, the report found the Ahrar guilty of injustice and concluded, “… it is our deep conviction that if the Ahrar had been treated as a pure question of law and order, without any political considerations, one district magistrate and one superintendent of police could have dealt with them”.
The report was ignored by the National Assembly in 1974 when an amendment to the Constitution declared Ahmadis non-Muslims, granting religious persecution, the protection of law. Further humiliation was brought to the Ahmadi community in 1984, when Ahmadis were prohibited to ‘pose’ as Muslims. Where does one begin to describe the irony?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Pakistan once committed, states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his [or her] religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”. However, it appears that this does not apply in Pakistan.
While Pakistan’s majority is Sunni, it houses many minority sects and religions. The people belonging to those sects and religions, while they might be peace-loving, are automatically treated as inferior and as enemies. With Pakistan fighting multiple internal and external battles, how is the country ever supposed to unite in order to fend off opponents in those battles?
It is not for the police or the government of a country to decide what qualifies one as Muslim or non-Muslim. Religion is a subjective matter — one of the heart and the mind — and must not be objectified through the implementation of discriminatory laws. State interference in an individual’s personal beliefs is a frivolous pursuit that is only detrimental to the progress of Pakistan as it excludes significant portions of its already withering minority population.
The incident in Kharian will only encourage the police to act in a similar manner in the future. Minority laws must be revised and paid more heed to. The police force must be taught to be tolerant and fair in its dealings with and treatment of minorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2012.
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