Between dictators and democrats, Pakistan’s Ahmadis continue to suffer

Between dictators and democrats, Pakistan’s Ahmadis continue to suffer

By Lutful Islam | 15 April, 2017
Soviet Union, Benazir Bhutto, Prof Abdus Salam, Malik Saleem Lateef, Pakistan, Aalmi Majlise Tahaffuze Khatme Nabuwwat, Ahmadis muslims
28 years after losing his home in a mob attack, Malik Saleem Lateef, an Ahmadi Muslim, was gunned down in broad daylight on 30 March.
1989 was a historic year for many reasons. The cold war culminated with Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and its disintegration soon afterwards. The Afghan “mujahideen”, who were at the vanguard of this war, had now turned their guns at each other. Pakistan, a state that sponsored and mentored them was experiencing its first taste of democracy after 11 years of Zia dictatorship. Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister.

Prof Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s only Nobel Laureate, travelled to Pakistan to meet her. He hoped to bring cutting edge science to his country, which was denied to him by the previous regime. But she refused to meet him. Salam was an Ahmadi Muslim and Bhutto couldn’t afford to invite the ire of the Pakistani clergy by meeting him.

In April 1989, in the small town of Nankana Sahib in Pakistani Punjab, a cousin of Prof Salam, Malik Saleem Lateef lost his home and all his possessions in a mob attack. This was also a historic year for Malik Saleem Lateef and his community. The Ahmadis of Pakistan were celebrating the centenary year of their Islamic reform movement, which began 100 years ago in Qadian, India. The community celebrated in private as any public expression of jubilation would have landed the perpetrator in prison for at least three years. In Zia’s Pakistan, being an Ahmadi Muslim was a crime. In Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan, things were not going to change for them either. With this mob attack, Nankana Sahib’s Ahmadis were the first Ahmadi community to have suffered persecution at the dawn of their movement’s second century.

Bhutto, the first woman Prime Minister of any Muslim nation, had inherited a dilapidated Pakistan from her arch-nemesis and the dictator, General Zia. Zia had utterly mangled the ideology of Pakistan and deformed society beyond recognition. Her father, the charismatic and mercurial Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had done no favours to Pakistan by amending the Constitution to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The Ahmadis, now deprived of their civil liberties, had to live a clandestine religious existence.

Malik Saleem Lateef was the president of the local Ahmadi community. On this fateful day in April 1989, the mob had destroyed and looted many Ahmadi houses, including his. The townspeople of Nankana Sahib were told through the mosque loudspeakers that the Ahmadis had committed blasphemy. The truth was that the clerics were warning the Benazir Bhutto government to forget about any reversal of Zia’s Islamisation. Malik Saleem and his community paid the price. He kept his people out of harm’s way and as it is the Ahmadi tradition, there was no retaliation or violence in return.

The main outfit behind most anti-Ahmadi violence in Pakistan is the Aalmi Majlise Tahaffuze Khatme Nabuwwat (AMTKN). Various AMTKN publications reveal how much this organisation and its various allies were historically involved in the so-called Afghan “jihad”. Their current focus, in addition to their bread and butter anti-Ahmadi propaganda, is targeting of the secular thought leaders in Pakistan. Clerics associated with AMTKN travel all over Pakistan and even overseas to mobilise their followers against the Ahmadis. In dozens of mob attacks in recent years, AMTKN affiliated clerics have taken active part in criminal activities against the community. 
28 years later, Malik Saleem Lateef paid the ultimate price for his faith. On 30 March 2017, this mild-mannered, hospitable and kind-hearted human being was gunned down in broad daylight in what appears to be a vigilante attack. His murderer killed him because he believed the deceased to have committed blasphemy. Just like Mumtaz Qadri, he appears to have done the deed with an aspiration to be hailed a hero. Some people are already calling him a “ghazi”, a meritorious warrior in the cause of Islam.

The sequence of events is quite predictable from now onward. The murderer will gain cult following in Punjab. Judges will hesitate to pass the maximum sentence for his crime. The victim and his community will be slandered and abused in the media to gain the maximum benefit for this criminal and his facilitators, the clerics.

The main outfit behind most anti-Ahmadi violence in Pakistan is the Aalmi Majlise Tahaffuze Khatme Nabuwwat (AMTKN). Various AMTKN publications reveal how much this organisation and its various allies were historically involved in the so-called Afghan “jihad”. Their current focus, in addition to their bread and butter anti-Ahmadi propaganda, is targeting of the secular thought leaders in Pakistan.

Soon after her first election in 1988, Benazir Bhutto visited the Saudi king, assuring him of her allegiance to the Kingdom. A daughter of a Shia mother from Iran, Benazir had to establish her credibility as a legitimate leader of a majority Sunni state. She continued with the Zia doctrine of pro-jihad policy in exchange for Saudi economic support.

Just like Malik Saleem, Benazir was also assassinated by a religious fanatic. Her political career now defined not only by her appeasement of the clergy, but by also by her unfortunate demise by the very forces she helped nurture during her rule.

It is common knowledge that not all Saudi money was coming through proper channels. A lot of it was donated directly to various religious outfits to train the Mujahideen and promote Wahhabi puritanism in Pakistan. Along with a host of other anti-Shia organisations, AMTKN has been a beneficiary of this funding. Clerics associated with AMTKN travel all over Pakistan and even overseas to mobilise their followers against the Ahmadis. In dozens of mob attacks in recent years, AMTKN affiliated clerics have taken active part in criminal activities against the community.

But when it comes to murders, both the target killings and vigilante actions are commonly attributed to the more militant organisations like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, named after Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, a notorious anti-Shia cleric. It seems to be the main group responsible for Ahmadi and Shia killings across Pakistan. There is a whole spectrum of Deobandi groups, ranging from hard-line Taliban to the Punjab based Ahle-Sunnat-wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) which are known to have instigated or perpetrated violence against Ahmadis on a regular basis.

Even the less puritanical Barelvi sect is no stranger to anti-Ahmadi violence. In fact, the mob violence against Ahmadis is usually instigated in rural Punjab by Barelvi clerics. Nankana Sahib hosted a major Barelvi anti-Ahmadi conference a few years ago. Guest speakers included a retired high court judge, who called for the implementation of death penalty for apostasy. Speeches were made by the representatives of major Sufi shrines from across the region, all of whom vowed to persecute the Ahmadis until their last breath. What hope is there if all Sunni denominations in Pakistan are hell-bent on making life as miserable for Ahmadis as possible? The government has always been a willing ally of the clerics against the Ahmadis. Add to the mix the resurgent blasphemy focused groups, Ahmadis in Pakistan are in even greater danger now than ever before.

Lutful Islam is a pharmaceutical development scientist by profession, and blogs about Pakistan, history and Islam in Europe. His Twitter handle is @lutfislam.

 

There is 1 Comment

No one can deny this truth that Ahmadies were and are still persecuted by majority of Muslim Pakistani clerics and governments in Pakistan but this blog is completely deviate from four absolute facts . 1: Ahmadi persecution started just from the beginning i:e since 1948 after the death of founder of Pakistan and not from the democratic era of Z A Bhutto or Benazir Bhutto. 2: Blogger didn't mention at any part of the Blog that it was BB who released some Ahmadies from death cell who were trialed for a murder which actually a case of self defense and given capital punishment .If she was under clergy pressure or having biases against Ahmadies she never let that happened . 3: The biggest flaw in this blog is the deliberate avoidance of Pakistan Muslim League role in Ahmadi persecution. The blogger seems to be keen to blame PPP governments and more specifically Bhuttos for all the Ahmadi persecution in Pakistan. The fact is that Punjab with 56% of Pakistan population having worst of biases against Ahmadi community. And unfortunately most of the national assembly seats and the majority in Armed forces, Intelligence agencies , judiciary, media and Clergy all comprised of Punjabi ethnicity and so are their biases . And last but not the least 4 : PPP governments never got majority in National Assembly after 1977 elections which aborted by a army coup of General Zia but at the same time PMLN always got the "heavy mandate" since 1990. So instead of blaming democrat governments of PPP that never got majority ( thanks to Punjabi Army establishment) Ahmadies should ask and then blame the Nawaz/ Shahbaz & co for their alliances with anti ahmadiyya clergy. Hope next time when the same blogger will write a blog he will surly take care of historical facts and set aside his biases against a specific political party/ clan or ethnicity

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