Another case of digging up the corpse of an Ahmadi near Jaranwala in Faisalabad, Punjab, reminds us that Pakistan is still quite backward in its observance of the multilateral treaties it has signed for the protection of genuine and — in the Ahmadi case — ‘manufactured’ minorities. Extremists of Jaranwala are threatening with what has been done repeatedly in many other places: disinterment of a corpse from a Muslim graveyard and its defilement.
The Ahmadi community claimed that there was an old custom in the area of burying the dead of all communities in one graveyard. An elderly Ahmadi man, who died last May was buried as per the routine with the consent of all villagers. However, the Muslim clergy got wind of it and put up a protest that has developed into a full-blown campaign to persecute the Ahmadis who are receiving death threats. They fear that these threats are a prelude to something more horrible than just digging up an Ahmadi from his grave. One telltale sign of the coming massacre is that the clerics are from out of town.
The police, of course, resolved the matter in no time. SP Jaranwala, not too devoted to the virtue of impartiality, says: “It has been made clear to the Ahmadi community that they will not bury their community members in a graveyard, which is also a Muslim graveyard”. His reassurances have brought no solace to the stricken minority: two years ago, while praying in Lahore, Ahmadis were attacked by armed men with suicide vests and grenades. The killers felled a number of them at leisure without fear of interruption. CCTV footage showed the policemen on security duty fleeing the scene. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, otherwise fond of mixing with people, carefully kept away from the scene of carnage.
In June 2011, pamphlets were distributed in Faisalabad calling on Muslims to kill Ahmadis, audaciously displaying names and addresses of 50 prominent Ahmadis who were to be eliminated. The incendiary pamphlets were signed by the student wing of the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Federation, boldly listing their website and phone numbers. Inevitably, six Ahmadis were shot dead. On average, 25 Ahmadis are killed by fanatics every year, who think Pakistan has to be purged of their presence.
This where the rub is. As a community, they deserve to be looked after by the state and secured against discrimination and physical assault. Pakistan, never famous for protecting its non-Muslims, experienced a lucid moment in 2006 when it abolished the separate electorates. Initiating joint electorates and thus equalising all citizens as ordained in the Constitution, the state ordered the election commission to prepare a common voters’ list based on Pakistani citizenship and not on the basis of religion and creed. Overjoyed, the Ahmadis tried to get themselves enrolled as voters but in many cases were prevented from doing so by elements motivated by religious prejudice. Instead of coming to their help, the government turned against them. It went back on its decision and transferred the names of the Ahmadis from the common list to another list meant only for them. In other words, the state of Pakistan indulged in its favourite pastime of exclusion.
Now Pakistan is in a ridiculous situation in which there is a common list of voters, which contains the names of all the Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists voters; and a strange second list, termed as non-Muslim, comprising only Ahmadis. No Pakistani has the right to say that Pakistan has corrected itself and returned to the joint electorates of the original 1973 Constitution. True and non-fanatic Pakistanis feel the sting of conscience over the way this community has been treated. Other communities may also be persecuted in the coming days, but nothing will surpass the horror of the way the Ahmadis are treated.
This is ethnic cleansing that recalls the pogroms of Hitler’s Germany. The Ahmadis are the lambs silently going to their slaughter. They don’t resist — they have even stopped protesting — because theirs is a cause that moves no one.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.