The second amendment and its impact on religious harmony
Whoever has needed to get their Pakistani passport made or renewed may know that in order to start the process, Muslims must, as part of the paperwork, declare Ahmadis non-Muslims. To challenge this bigotry, a Pakistani citizen, Hareem Sumbul, recently set out to appeal to the Passport Office in Lahore to waive this section off from her application form.
Her argument, one that I support, is even though Pakistan’s constitution says that Ahmedis are non-Muslims, it does not necessarily mean citizens have to do the same. Why then, are citizens required to fill out a highly discriminatory section within the passport application form?
Ahmedis have continuously been under threat in Pakistan since the second amendment was passed in 1974. They face trouble when it comes to acquiring passports and other documents related to identification. Furthermore to hold any governmental office they are supposed to condemn Mirza Ghulam Ahmad- the founder of the Ahmadiyya sect. In addition, they are prohibited from calling themselves Muslims and not allowed to call their place of worship a mosque nor are they allowed to say the first kalma.
The anti-Ahmadi influence within Pakistani culture is heavily supported by the legislation, which leads to them being rejected by a majority of the Muslim population. Ahmadis not only face cultural isolation but they are also vulnerable to extremist violence. For example, in addition to many Ahmadis being prosecuted regularly, their mosques in Faisalabad have been attacked in 2018. The most recent attack was earlier this year which left many people dead and injured.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s growing religious polarity and lack of tolerance towards other existing sects and religions has no doubt made the environment around here severely dangerous. Many people, even Sunni Muslims who are perhaps the most protected community in the country are fleeing to other parts of the world in order to build a freer life for themselves.
Sumbul has so far been made to run in circles and no positive outcome has come out of her stand till now. Her passport renewal fee was refunded and she was advised to send her passport to Islamabad. She has written necessary emails and we can only hope that she is able to pull something that is not entirely impossible but quite a feat regardless, to get a passport without signing the declaration. It has been done before just last year, with another citizen successfully getting the section cut off from her application before she signed it.
In order to prevent the image of Pakistan from being tainted, our government needs to address unfair and discriminatory conditions put on Pakistan’s minority groups while making sure that all of its citizens are treated equally. Pakistan needs to ensure that people are given the freedom to practice their religion, as the Constitution of Pakistan also promises in Article 20. Not only will such moves help our minorities breathe easier but it may also help us gain more respect in he international community.