The Ahmadis of Pakistan have been under attack for a very long time, though what happened to them and their places of worship on May 28 in Lahore is quite clearly one of their worst days ever. The second amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan in 1974 excluded Ahmadis from the religion followed by the majority of Pakistanis. The amendment made this exclusion legally in that the phrase “for the purposes of the constitution or law” was used when rendering them non-Muslims. Under law, anyone who is a minority is entitled to equal protection and has the right to due process, but as our history and in fact present show all too clearly, Ahmadis have not been given this entitlement.
Friday’s events are more or less an inevitable outcome of the intolerance and bigotry found in Pakistan today – we say ‘today’ because while it began many years ago and was facilitated actively by the state during General Zia’s days, it persists and has perhaps grown stronger than ever. Those who died – the number is at least 70 and could well rise – are going to soon be forgotten and added to the hundreds of minorities who have been killed over the years by extremists and militants. In fact, one cannot help but notice the tragic irony in all of this. Just a week ago, many Pakistanis were outraged – and rightly so – at an offensive page on a social networking website and complained that the west should show some sensitivity to their religious feelings. And what have we done to our own minorities?
We have, in our midst, a group of people so crazed and fanatical in their faith that they see it as an obligation to take up arms and attack a place of worship and kill those present simply because of their beliefs. We can only wonder how many among us will unequivocally speak up and condemn the actions of these militants and how many will label this (undoubtedly right) action as ‘anti-Islam’?
Published in the Express Tribune, May 29th, 2010.