An Ahmedi jeweller in Sargodha has been accused for the second time in three years of claiming to be a Muslim and for putting up the translation of a Quranic verse on a wall in his jewellery shop.
Muhammad Ashraf, a resident of Sillanwali, was released on bail by a magistrate on July 31. He had been arrested on July 23 and sent to the jail the next day.
Ashraf told The Express Tribune that a man, he said was an associate of the complainant, Hafiz Muhammad Imran, had been visiting Kobi Market, Saeed Bazaar, where he ran his jewellery business since his release from the jail to harass him. “He would sit in front of the shop next door facing my shop” he said. “The police eventually stopped him from visiting the market,” he said.
Ashraf said the next court hearing in the matter was scheduled for September 4.
“The FIR was registered under Section 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code after some policemen visited the shop on July 23 and saw the translation of a Quranic verse on the wall,” Sillanwali Station House Officer Irfan Safdar, told The Tribune. This, he said, amounted to pretending to be a Muslim.
Ashraf said a day before his arrest the complainant, Hafiz Imran, had visited his shop and demanded that he remove the translation from the wall. Ashraf said he had refused to do so.
The text on the wall at the shop reads, “O people of faith always speak straight.”
Ashraf and two other Ahmedi men who have businesses in the same market had been accused of the same offence in 2009 as well.
They were released on bail after spending 28 days in prison. The case is still under trial.
Sargodha District Police Officer (DPO) Dr Rizwan told The Tribune he believed the registration of an FIR against Ashraf was a good sign. “Earlier, people tended to get violent,” he said.
Saleemuddin, a spokesperson for the Ahmedi community in Pakistan, however, criticised the police for registering FIRs against innocent citizens. “Should they not be diverting their efforts to promoting law and order instead?” he asked. He said there were a number of similar cases against Ahmedis pending in courts for several years.
“A similar FIR has been registered with Chenab Nagar police station against all residents of Rabwah,” he said. Chenab Nagar in Jhang district has the highest concentration of Ahmedi population in the country.
Asma Jahangir, Former Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson, criticised the registration of the FIRs accusing Ahmedis of posing as Muslims. She said the persecution of the community had increased. “Now, people who do not associate with their faith but support them on humanitarian grounds also suffer persecution,” she said.
She said politicians would not care about the human rights abuses the Ahmedis were facing as long as they remained a minority community with a separate electorate.
An Ahmadi who “refers to his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims” will be punished with up to three years in prison and is liable to a fine.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2012.