Then they came for me

Published: May 30, 2010
The writer is an independent social researcher (

The writer is an independent social researcher (

“They came first for the Communists I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. “Then they came for the Jews And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. “Then they came for the trade unionists And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

“Then they came for me And by that time no one was left to speak up.”

(Martin Niemöller)

Today, I was reminded painfully of the lines above. I watched in horror as scores of Ahmadis were gunned down mercilessly in their places of worship. Lahore was under siege. There were mindless bloodbaths in Model Town and Garhi Shahu where members of the Ahmadi community were butchered as they said their Friday prayers. Their only fault: a difference of belief.

Today, I write these lines with the burden of conscience lying heavy on my soul. For the past few months I was getting phone calls from desperate members of the Ahmadi community who were requesting me to write about their plight and their impending doom. At a conference last week, I was approached by one of them who gave me materials documenting atrocities against his community. I saw a desperate plea in his eyes as he asked me to tell the world about threats to their lives. The pangs of guilt and remorse are intense today because thought I kept planning to, I had not yet picked up my pen.

Lahore was a sleepy little town when I was growing up. Garhi Shahu is close to the Convent of Jesus and Mary where I went to school, and where we were taught about equality, love, tolerance and justice for all humankind. I realised with painful agony what it means to remain silent. To these murderers we are all condemned groups. Next they will come for Christians, then Parsis, then Hindus, then women, Marxists, socialists, feminists — in short for anyone who disagrees with their version of the truth.

A state protects all its citizens as its foremost duty in the social contract. Yet, it is the second amendment in our constitution that seeks to exclude people. It is our constitution that differentiates between citizens despite declaring all citizens equal before law. Our social contract even chooses to define who is and is not a Muslim. Our bureaucratic procedures further reinforce such prejudices by forcing our citizens to demean the Ahmadis, or else we will not be issued our passports! This is the worst kind of hate speech, for it is inscribed on the state with official approval.

I write with a heavy heart for we as a nation have lost our way. Today, religious prejudice and bigotry are not only a part of our official procedures or imposed by an exclusionary state; they surround us in all our interactions from the most personal to the political, from the private to the public.

It is not enough to say that the culprits should be apprehended and brought to book. It is not enough to say that our laws and policies need to be reviewed and overhauled. These are all important but we need to do much more. We need to change the media where bigotry has become an art form; we need to change our curriculum where hate is integral to our understanding of those who are different. We need changes all the way from our families and communities, our places of worship to our official structures and systems to root out the ugliness within us. We need to confront the monster within so that our innocent fellow-citizens are not condemned to death for no fault other than a difference of belief.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30, 2010.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • May 30, 2010 - 2:29AM

    I hope that we all share the collective guilt of what happened in Lahore. For too long, violence due to terrorism, has either entered our psyche as something inevitable on the one hand and we seem to have mastered the art of playing the victim pointing to “hidden hands” and “foreign interests”.

    While the investigations into the attacks continue; we should not deny that we are all responsible for allowing our fellow citizens to be systematically marginalized.

    The Taliban may have pulled the trigger, but we as a nation painted the bullseye on them. It was just a matter of time before someone pulled the trigger, and claim that Pakistan is better off for it. Recommend

  • Zahid Sheikh
    May 30, 2010 - 4:18AM

    It’s not just a case of “the ugliness within us, dear Rubina Saigol. Most of the Pakistanis are good and peace-loving guys. Rather a small bunch of criminals who mislead and exploit our innocent citizens need to be exposed. And the paid agents of these merchants of hatred are to be found in every department, all over the country.Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    May 30, 2010 - 4:41AM

    Rubina’s passionate writing brought tears to my eyes.The remedies suggested by do not appear to be pracicable given the current state of affairs of this blighted nation.So,what happens next?Recommend

  • Farrukh Siddiqui
    May 30, 2010 - 5:46AM

    All extemist organizations including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jais-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba must be eliminated. The cancer is spreading, it must be surgically removed. That is the only option. The India-centric Kayani doctrine is doomed to take Pakistan down the path of further disintegration because it means fighting India is more important than domestic peace and development.Recommend

  • Mubasher
    May 30, 2010 - 7:00AM

    Firstly, it is not merely difference of belief as their (Ahmadis) fault. The correct term for Ahmadis is MURTAD, and is universally accepted.

    Secondly, in Pakistan no body is safe nowadays, especially during the present government’s rule.

    Thirdly, now I am starting to think is it justifiable to put blame only on these so called TTP or other relevant groups? what we see is true or there is something behind the scene? We must not ignore other elements:RAW and other external agencies and respective countries’ underlying benefits.??

    In recent years more and more pressure is put on Muslims around the world especially after the fall of the Soviet Union (USSR). My point is why in recent years everything is happening in Pakistan? Is it really terrorism or some agenda? Current incident must not be viewed in isolation but must be looked at keeping in mind what’s going on in Muslim countries or with Muslims around the world.Recommend

  • Nosheen Ali
    May 30, 2010 - 7:30AM

    A modified version for Pakistan:

    “First they came for the Ahmadis and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Ahmadi
    Then they came for the Bengalis, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Bengali
    Then they came for the Balochis, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Balochi
    Then they came for the Journalists and Teachers, Judges and Lawyers, and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t care
    Then they came for me, but by then, no one was left to speak up.”Recommend

  • May 30, 2010 - 11:29AM

    It is rather unfortunate that our government, despite tall claims, does little to protect minorities from such devastation. I am sure, from now onwards, no Ahmedi would feel safe in Pakistan for a long long time. But, as usual, no condemnation has come from any quarters of ulema council. Recommend

  • Sharif Lone
    May 30, 2010 - 1:56PM

    The reason for this madness is hate towards minorities in pakistan. Am glad that many here call those killed as Ahmadis. If you meet anybody in, you hear people calling them mirzais or Quadianis. Most express negative opinions about them. No wonder, this hate has reached such levels of madness. We do not have agree with other people’s faith, only respect it. That goes a long way. Recommend

  • May 30, 2010 - 3:33PM

    Sad. Completely agree. We definitely need to change the curriculum, along with the other things mentioned. I’ve always felt that it promotes intolerance.Recommend

  • May 30, 2010 - 4:54PM

    thankyou rubina!Recommend

  • Fakhar
    May 30, 2010 - 10:28PM

    Fuounder of Pakistan Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah entrusted Sir Zafrullah Khan an Ahmadi with the responsibility of building relations with foreign nations as first Foreign Minister of Pakistan.Ahmadis stood for Pakistan in our freedom movement.But no history book gives them credit for that. Jammat Islami and Jamiaat ul Ulmai Hind (now Jammiaat ul ulmai Islam) opposed the idea of Pakistan. Maudoodi, Abul Kalam Azad,Mufti Mehmood and Attaullah Shah Bokhari were not only against the creation of Pakistan rather they made nasty satements against founder of Pakistan and Pakistan itself.Jinnah did envision Pakistan to be a theocracy. His speech on 11th Agust 1948 to constituent assembaly of Pakistan should have been megnacarta of Pakistan where he outlined the equality for all religious groups and separated religion from the affairs of state in crystal clear words:
    “ You are free ; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
    “Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”
    We should have made that speech part of our constitution instead of objective resolution. But ruling elite intentionally neglected and played down that speech and got locked in competition with clergy to undo Pakistan by going one step ahead of clergy in promoting obscurantism against the secularism of Jinnah. Objective Resolution was murder of Jinnah ideology and conspiracy against people of Pakistan. Ziaul Haq’s draconian rule imposed obscurantism and fundamentalism as official religion of Pakistan and fuelled ethnic and sectarian wars to undo Jinnah’s Pakistan. Zia is father of all these Jihadi and extremist monsters. We should return to ideals set by Quaid e Azam. We should separate religion from affairs of state. All these extremists should be eliminated and stupid distinction of good and bad extremists need to be done with if we want to save Pakistan and its people. Clergymen that were against the idea of Pakistan, they continue to conspire against Pakistan. This is high time to eradicate all these anti-humanity and anti-Pakistan elements without showing any mercy. But I doubt any one in the echelons of power will follow the Mustafa Kamalism to get us rid of this menace.Recommend

  • Fakhar
    May 30, 2010 - 10:31PM

    Correction in tenth line of my comment.This sentence should read”Jinnah did not envision Pakistan to be a theocracy.”Recommend

  • rehan
    May 30, 2010 - 11:08PM

    “Difference of Opinion”.Precisely.That is what the terrorists had with Benazir,Parade Lane mosque victims,Moon market victims,Kohat Cantt mosque killings,POlice Academy recruits….Their opinion is that Pakistanis should not feel safe anywhere;whereas Pakistanis have an opinion that it is their basic right to feel safe.Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    May 31, 2010 - 12:58AM

    How do we get rid of them? It is all very well to say we should and I agree whole-heartedly. But how? Bomb them? Put them into jail? Recommend

  • May 31, 2010 - 3:42AM

    It is the time that we should try to understand the role of Majlis e Ahrar,who opposed Pakistan,black mailed simple and poor masses as well as the elite class of our rulers.They brought bloodshed and arson in the streets of Lahore in eary 50s in the name of Khatm e nabuat.At that time there was no traces of proxy war between Iran,Iraq or Saudis our holy gaurdians.Shorish Kashmiri,Kausar Niazi and armed wing of Majlis forced ZAB to compromise his liberal views.During Zia era,our army chose a path suggested by Naseem Hijazi the novelist.Now there are many Hameed Guls and Aslam Beqs,who can raise parties and persons to perform their role according to the script.It is sad and silly thing that I should write in the end that I am not an Ahmedi.What a pathetic appology!Recommend

  • Salman
    May 31, 2010 - 4:12AM

    @mubasher say that “the correct term for Ahmadis is MURTAD”…do u even know the definition of murtad?? “A murtad is anyone who leaves Islam and and becomes a “traitor” to it through their new beliefs or actions.”
    Almost all of the Ahmadis today were born Ahmadis, just like you were born a sunni or a shia..etc..they never left your “so called” islam in the first place….is it then fair to call them murtad and then kill them?? If you believe that their teachings are not correct, try to defeat them by the power of pen not gun! no one has any right to take innocent lives!Recommend

  • TLW
    May 31, 2010 - 2:32PM

    I nominate Nosheen Ali’s reworking of Martin Nemuller’s quote to appear in the Express Tribune. I would just add one more line to account for our dear Punjab and Bengal’s role during Partition.

    TLW’s modified version for Pakistan:

    “First they came for the Hindus and Sikhs I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Hindu or a Sikh,
    Then they came for the Ahmadis and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Ahmadi,
    Then they came for the Bengalis, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Bengali,
    Then they came for the Balochis, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Balochi,
    Then they came for the Journalists and Teachers, Judges and Lawyers, and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t care
    Then they came for me, but by then, no one was left to speak up.”Recommend

  • Cyrus Tahir
    May 31, 2010 - 9:22PM

    “’Theocracy’ has always been the synonym for a bleak and narrow, if not a fierce and blood-stained tyranny” – William Archer
    …and whereas Pakistan was never meant to be a theocracy, we have continued to tilt it towards the idea by snipping the laws here and there. Acting as if Islam was meant for Pakistan and that too for those who would be the clergy or the mullah, we’ve let ourselves be restricted to the whims of a few. Abusing religion as a tool to fallback upon, Bhutto acceded to prolong his reign, Zia continued, Nawaz wanted to become the khalifa and i don’t see the practice in decline unless we stop acting as the flagbearers of Islam and do away with discriminatory constitutional provisions. Even then, it would be ages before the social norms and perceptions change not to forget a reactionary movement that would ensue as soon as such a step is taken. A government intent on preserving itself and the inherent insecurity that comes with governance in Pakistan would mean that we probably would never find a government courageous enough to go this way and so we keep waiting for the messiah to come from the outside….while we could find it in the oft-used word called Tolerance!Recommend

  • Abulfazl Mahmud
    Jun 1, 2010 - 3:25PM

    I share the pessimism of Cyrus Tahir regarding the apparent shapem of things to come. I see no possibility to Pakistan being restored to the Quaid-e-Azam, and to his prescription of August 11, 1947. We have had a long list of pseudo-reformers who believed Mr. Jinnah had erred in his speech of August 11. And these include, unfortunately the so-called Shaheed- i- Millat Liaquast Ali Khan a UP elite, and Ch. Muhammad Ali who was a tool of that elite and a disciple of Syed Abul Ala Maudoodi. The so-called Objectives Resolution is the fountain for all evil. It is this resolution that deprived the people of their right to rule themselves and instead helped the clergy and feudals and the capitalists usurp that right. Syed Maudoodi, the arch-enemy of Pakistan from 1940s finally triumphed with the help of his cohorts, the UPwalas and Haiderabadis.
    TLW has stretched it a bit too far, and in fact with little justification. Recommend

  • Syed Zafar Ahmad
    Jun 2, 2010 - 1:57PM

    I am thankful to the author for highlighting the persecution of Ahmadees in Pakistan. After having read the comments on the article, I believe there are still people left in Pakistan who are not afraid to call a spade a spade. It is time for the intellectuals, the social workers and those who to take up the plight of minorities in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Salman Ahmad
    Jun 2, 2010 - 6:00PM

    I don’t know how to say this correctly without offending anyone but the issue with general mindset is that they all condemn such attacks on minorities today but ask them “Do you want Islamic Shariah?” and my estimation is 90% of them would say “Yes”, even I would find it difficult to day “No” to such a question. Don’t believe me? Go out and ask this question from 10 people around you and see if my statistics are wrongRecommend

  • don wallman
    Jul 3, 2010 - 3:58AM

    As a young boy growing up in Sanawar India, everyone looked the same to me, you all had the same colour skin, some had long hair some the same as mine “short” but you all had black hair with a few gray haired gents. When India had its independence in 47, I had to move and I was sent to an orphanage in England in 49. Many, many years later I found out there was a bloodbath as you decided to kill each other. This I did not understand, as far as I was concerned you were brothers. So, tell me. Why do you like killing each other? You must do because you keep doing it.
    I realise now you all made a choice to kill each other, I know I did not tell you to kill each other. NO, how I see it, the unkindness and the hate is taught to you by the people you most respect. These people convince you not to think for yourself. You are to say do and think whatever it is they want you to. And at the end, they seem to be teaching you to hate one another. What is sad, you fall for it hook, line and sinker then start blaming each other for ALL your misery.
    All over the world the people become zombies, murdering each other because a holy man tells them to. People bow down to these people worshipping them for showing them the way to hate and kill one another.
    At 74, all I can do is shake my head knowing deep within, all of us are stupid. Do you think an intelligent person would kill and keep killing each other for THOUSANDS of years?
    You ALL make a choice. You may choose to keep killing each other, in doing so you are dead. Or you may choose to LOVE one another, and in doing so you will be alive because your heart will be where it is supposed to be, and that is, in the land of the living.
    I wish you all love from my heart, be at peace and CHOOSE to co-create in love and peace.
    Please awake from the hypnotic sleep and live with joy in your heart.
    Next time you have an unkind thought or wish to do an unkind deed against your brother, ask yourself. What would LOVE do and think.
    Fakha Wrote:
    Clergymen that were against the idea of Pakistan, they continue to conspire against Pakistan. This is high time to eradicate all these anti-humanity and anti-Pakistan elements without showing any mercy. But I doubt any one in the echelons of power will follow the Mustafa Kamalism to get us rid of this menace.
    End of quote.
    The words you write will not heal, one can not expect to be loved by another when you ask people to eradicate them. Saying that promotes hate and killings.
    Begin by thinking LOVE and holding love in your heart for all then as more and more people do you will find love spreading throughout the land, much the same way as hate has spread. All started with a thought.

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