Twice cursed: Trials of being labelled an Ahmadi and a blasphemer

Published: October 9, 2012

LAHORE: In year 2010, Mian Irshad* was acquitted in a blasphemy case by the Lahore High Court. Despite the court order, Irshad’s life has resembled that of a fugitive since then.

In 2004, Irshad – who had accepted the Ahmadi faith a few years back – was taken to a local cleric in his village in central Punjab by his father. Irshad’s father wanted him to revert back to Islam. The cleric tried to persuade him but to no avail. On Irshad’s refusal, the cleric then nominated him in a case under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

Irshad tried to evade the police for a while but was told by his community elders to present himself before the authorities and fight a legal battle.

Life in prison 

Leaving behind a wife and a toddler with the same family which ostracized him for converting, Irshad moved from one jail to another. Eventually, he requested the court to put him in a prison with better security because the militants in some prisons posed a threat to him.

He was then moved to a central jail, which had many criminals and terrorists but also enough security to keep Irshad and other blasphemy convicts safe.

During his confinement, Irshad said he avoided confrontation with prisoners who provoked him – many of whom were militants.

“[Blasphemy accused avoid feuds] because very cruel methods of beating were used, for instance hot oil was poured over people during fights; I escaped such beatings by keeping myself busy with chores, reading or staying with other blasphemy accused men.”

After six difficult years in prison, Irshad was proved innocent with the help of human rights organisations and the support of the Ahmadi community. The community helps its members through litigation when they are accused of blasphemy or charged under the Anti-Ahmadi Ordinance XX 1984 of the PPC.

Irshad is one of the 299 Ahmadi individuals who have been accused of blasphemy since April 1984, as per the data compiled by the Ahmadi community.

Family of the accused

Away from her husband, Irshad’s wife was living at the mercy of the relatives and villagers. Irshad’s wife Jamila* said the family members and villagers did not treat her “like a human”. Eventually she was taken in by her parents till the time of her husband’s release.

“People only paid heed to what the cleric said, despite the fact that we had lived together in that village for years.”

Life beyond prison

Since Irshad’s acquittal, he has not stepped outside the town where he now lives. He supports his wife and two sons only through menial jobs because of a fatwa against him which bars him from working elsewhere.

Irshad’s case is a peculiar one as he is not just any non-Muslim falsely accused of blasphemy but an Ahmadi. He said that the only way he can support his family in a better way is by leaving Pakistan.

The Ahmadi community in Pakistan is not merely persecuted as a religious minority but is openly targeted across Pakistan. And in the current situation, where blasphemy accused or suspects are lynched openly, different incidents show that a blasphemy accused of the Ahmadi faith can either live a secret hidden life or leave the country.

“This kind of hatred will destroy not only the targeted community but it will destroy Pakistan,” said the Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary General IA Rehman. He added that the appeasement and fear of the state will haunt them and if they think that the extremist elements will not find them, then they are wrong.

*The name of the interviewees have been changed to protect their identities.

Reader Comments (23)

  • smssr84
    Oct 9, 2012 - 1:50PM

    Thank you Rabia Mehmood & Express Tribune for highlighting the plea of Ahmadis in Pakistan!!…. Much Appreciated!

    I hope one day Pakistan will realize & will be sorry for what they did to Ahmadis… the ppl who love it so dearly!!Recommend

  • Feroz
    Oct 9, 2012 - 2:05PM

    I hope people have a conscience and feel ashamed of what they have done to their country – robbing human beings of their human dignity. How the believers can delude themselves that Allah will condone such atrocious behaviour, eludes me. People must understand if not the theory of Karma at least Newtons Law – every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Tempting the wrath of the Almighty can only have disastrous consequences.

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  • Imran Nasim
    Oct 9, 2012 - 2:38PM

    @smssr84:

    it’s not only what pakistanis have done to Ahmadis.Atheists,agnostics,freethinkers have had to bear a lot of the bigotry and intolerance from the religious fanatics in our country.Atheists have to live in the closet in pakistan,atleast our Ahmadi brothers can live and are living as Ahmadis in pakistan.Living in the closet,being made to deny who you are is the biggest torture of all.I hope one day Pakistanis realise the misery their bigotry & hate caused the atheists in Pakistan.

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  • Oct 9, 2012 - 3:03PM

    The way Ahmadi’s are targeted in Pakistan is highly condemnable.Recommend

  • Usman
    Oct 9, 2012 - 3:09PM

    Thank you again for all the effort that you have put in! The worst part is they tend to believe everything what they hear and eventually hurt Ahmadies, even the educated society at times, and the hatred is growing more and more.

    May God help us all :)

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  • DawnTawn
    Oct 9, 2012 - 4:01PM

    Land of the pure baby, Neo Nazi Style! (Sarcasm very much intended)

    Recommend

  • Rahman
    Oct 9, 2012 - 4:58PM

    There are no words to express my distress, resentment, frustration and helplessness toward Pakistan and people of Pakistan. Morally, ethically and spiritually we are destroying our society exponentially. Religious bigotry, ethnical prejudice and political “impotency” have contaminated our intelligentsia and leadership completely. Only Allah can save us from the ultimate destruction otherwise we are trying our best to …….Recommend

  • Aziz Bhatti
    Oct 9, 2012 - 5:11PM

    Excellent ET. Bravo!
    Another excellent piece: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\108\story8-10-2012pg3_6

    Recommend

  • Muahmmad zahid
    Oct 9, 2012 - 5:33PM

    @Imran Nasim:

    The majority of Pakistan’s population can’t even accept the idea of the existence of atheists in this world.Even the ‘moderate’ muslims exhibit intolerance towards atheists and agnostics.It’s too much to expect our people to be civil towards atheists.It will be a long time where we reach a point where attacking people because you took offense at what they said becomes seen as unacceptable by our society.
    Till then,i’m afraid atheists will have to continue to remain in hiding,in the closet,afraid of their neighbours,class fellows,colleagues.

    Recommend

  • Acorn Guts
    Oct 9, 2012 - 5:58PM

    We love to condemn all this but do nothing to actually put a stop to the source of this religious extremism. Let’s start by removing the absurd laws that give cover to the culprits. Let us remove religious extremism from our constitution!

    Recommend

  • A.Khan
    Oct 9, 2012 - 7:19PM

    If taking of someone else’s Life, Property and Respect is Haraam for others then I don’t know how many of us are approved for Jannat!!!

    Recommend

  • Suhail Kausar
    Oct 9, 2012 - 7:53PM

    If the people persecuting Ahmadis are under the illusion that they are invoking the blessings of Allah by doing so, then they must reflect about what has happened to Pakistan and Pakistanis, since Ahmadis were declared Non-Muslims and additional discriminatory laws passed by Zia-ul-Haq. Are they being rewarded or else?

    Recommend

  • blacksheep
    Oct 9, 2012 - 8:15PM

    All you have to do is to compare the teachings of the dreaded moulvi thugs with the beautiful teachings and propagation of real Islam by the Ahmadi Muslim Jammat. You don’t have to go far! —- just read the headlines here;

    “If Malala survives, we will target her again: Taliban”

    Recommend

  • Critical
    Oct 9, 2012 - 9:07PM

    @Imran Nasim:
    Bro,being an atheist…I feel sorry that u were born to Muslim parents….I was born a Hindu and started questioning God at the age of 15 and by the time,I finished college,I realised that its time to stop believing in them….

    Fortunately,Hinduism accepts Atheism and there are verses in Rig Veda where it tells that you have every right to question the existence of God …

    I’ve met many fellow atheists and its the muslim atheist’s plight break my heart…It must be tough for u to be forced to go to mosque every friday,listen to everything,fast during ramadan…

    Recommend

  • Nayla
    Oct 9, 2012 - 10:39PM

    sigh Why can’t these people just live and let live…

    Recommend

  • Kashif
    Oct 10, 2012 - 1:14AM

    “Verily, After Hardship Comes Ease”

    Recommend

  • Rana Moneeb
    Oct 10, 2012 - 3:39AM

    Rabbia Mehmood I salute You on this courageous video

    Recommend

  • Khalid Mahmood
    Oct 10, 2012 - 5:03AM

    what is happening in Pakistan is exactly the same holocaust which was done in Germany during the second world war and more recently in Rawanda. World / United Nations should take actions against Pakistan and put sanctions and ban all kind of aid.

    Recommend

  • athar mahmood
    Oct 10, 2012 - 9:19AM

    such a bravery work by Rabia. we really appreciate you and this is the true journalism.

    Recommend

  • K Chaudhry
    Oct 10, 2012 - 4:12PM

    @Critical:
    In Quran, It is not once but at many occasion stressed that there is no compulsion in religion, and that one must should investigate his belief and ponder upon this universe. We are talking about interpretation of our religion by fundamentalists. As for hinduism believing in no god, your claim is totally baseless and without any evidence! Hindus believe in God, most believe in one God and many avatars of his, and some take them literal and believe in separate gods. But not one hindu can be an atheist! Every religion, in its true teachings have given freedom of choice to mankind. This does not mean those religion are advocating belief in no god at all. They are merely advocating right to life and freedom for everyone regardless of faith.
    There is a reason why there is a term atheism used for those who do not believe in God.
    It is sad to see opportunist, invoking their own propaganda even when we are talking about miseries of a sect.

    Recommend

  • Asghar Mahmood
    Oct 11, 2012 - 10:52AM

    we strongly appreciate Rabia Mehmood for this kind of brave effort. May ALLAH bless you.

    Recommend

  • ComfortablyNumb
    Oct 11, 2012 - 6:03PM

    May God grant wisdom and sight to my people so they can differentiate between the just and unjust. And to Ms Mehmood, hats off to you, May God be with you.

    Recommend

  • Fateen
    Oct 11, 2012 - 10:07PM

    i think this video has been blocked or somethin cause i can’t open it despite trying manytimes

    Recommend

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