Pakistan’s Medieval Constitution

Courtesy Wall Street Journal

By MIRA SETHI

In the early hours of May 28, Khalid Solangi was shaken awake by his wife. She told him that she’d heard news of a bloody attack on two Ahmadi mosques in Pakistan. Khalid’s older brother, an Ahmadi Muslim American, had recently flown to Lahore for a wedding and they feared he was one of the victims. “My wife said to me, ‘Your brother has never missed the Friday prayer.'”

And so Khalid dialed his sister-in-law’s number. She confirmed the worst: Her husband had called from his cellphone minutes earlier, asking her to pray for him and the others trapped inside the mosque. “The next thing we heard was that my brother had been martyred,” said Khalid. “He had gone to Pakistan for a wedding. He didn’t even live there.”

When the dust from the bombs settled and the Taliban gunmen stopped their shooting, nearly 100 innocent Muslims lay dead inside the mosques where they had gathered for Friday prayer. This wasn’t the first act of terror committed against this minority Muslim sect.

Since 1953, when the first anti-Ahmadi riots broke out in newly independent Pakistan, the Ahmadi community has lived under constant threat. In 1974, Pakistan amended its constitution to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims.

Ten years later, among a slew of anti-blasphemy laws—one of them famously known as “Ordinance XX”—the military dictator Zia ul-Haq made it a crime for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims. They were forbidden from declaring their faith publicly, using the traditional Islamic greeting, and referring to their places of worship as mosques. In short, virtually any public act of worship or devotion by an Ahmadi can be treated as a criminal offense punishable by death.

Unsurprisingly, attacks on the Ahmadi community followed. In 2005 eight Ahmadis were gunned down in a mosque in a small town in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. A year later a mob burned down Ahmadi homes and shops in a small village in the province, forcing more than a 100 Ahmadis to flee.

Last winter, while I was home in Lahore, I drove to a beige building near my house to get my passport renewed. The officer, in a small effort to assist me, made Xs next to the lines that needed my signature. First I signed the badly photocopied sheet, again and again. Then I found myself being asked to confirm that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad—a 19th century Punjabi reformer and founder of the Ahmadi movement—was an “imposter.”

This is standard. Every Pakistani Muslim applying for a passport must sign a statement deriding Ahmad, but I had forgotten about the procedure.

I asked the officer what would happen if I didn’t sign above the line. He looked at me blankly: “You don’t want passport?”

Later that day I went with my friends to a restaurant in Old Lahore—the city’s historic quarter—where cramped alleys lead to centuries-old Mughal mosques, forts and gateways. We ate kebabs and shared a hookah. On our way home, passing Lahore’s busiest road, I saw a banner on a building facing the Lahore High Court: “Jews, Christians and Ahmadis are enemies of Islam.” We passed a patch of grass where a bronze statue of Queen Victoria had once stood. It has been replaced by a tall glass box containing a Quran.

That the Ahmadi movement agrees with every tenet of Islam, save the additional belief that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad came to the Muslim community as a promised messiah, is irrelevant. The legal system has left minorities such as Christians and Hindus, and within Islam, Ahmadis and Shiites, socially and politically isolated.

Routinely, the graffiti along Lahore’s stylish boulevards will proclaim that Shiites are infidels. More than 100 Christian houses were burned in a town in central Pakistan last year over a claim that a Christian had defiled the Quran. That same year, 37 Ahmadis were charged under the blasphemy laws.

Pakistan is the only Muslim nation to explicitly define who is or is not a “Muslim” under its constitution. This serves only one purpose: to embolden groups like the Pakistani Taliban who use the laws as justification to declare Ahmadis as “wajib ul qatl” or “worthy of death.” As long as the state continues to decide who is and is not a Muslim—a personal, private question—we will continue to see attacks on minorities and medieval banners in the public square.

Ms. Sethi is a Robert L. Bartley Fellow at the Journal this summer.

35 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

35 responses to “Pakistan’s Medieval Constitution

  1. Straight Talker

    @ Ms. Mira Sethi

    It is despicable to witness butchering of Qadiani-Ahmadis on regular basis. Carnage on May 28, 2010 was the worst.

    To resolve, this issue, all parties in conflict need to correct their behavior towards other.
    It is a shame that all the parties in history of Pakistan did NOT prevent their causes and consequences, as a result after 1953 came 1974, then 1984, and now the latest 2010. With each episode vengeance increased.

    You wrote:
    “Then I found myself being asked to confirm that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad—a 19th century Punjabi reformer and founder of the Ahmadi movement—was an “imposter.””.

    The last I checked, few years ago, Pakistani Passport application does not use word “reformer” for Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Rather it uses word “Nabi (meaning prophet)”.
    FYI: It is Qadiani-Ahmadis hold belief, that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was “Nabi (meaning prophet)”[Nauzubilah].
    Where as Lahori-Ahmadis hold belief, that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a reformer.

  2. Jamal

    “To resolve, this issue, all parties in conflict need to correct their behavior towards other.”

    I see the bigot is back. What behaviour are you talking about? Is the behaviour of Ahmadis in contravention of their human rights under the universal convention of human rights to which Pakistan is a signatory? No. So Ahmadis are OK and well with in their human rights to believe and profess their faith, its the other parties who are persecuting Ahmadis that need to correct their behaviour.

  3. Sahal

    This law against the Ahmadies is one of the biggest patches on our nations history. It should not be the governments responsibility to declare someone Muslim or not.

    Why does the government not declare the TTP to be non Muslims as they are in clear violations of the fundamentals of Islam.

    The day these laws are repelled, that day the Great Pakistan envisioned by Jinnah will emerge.

    Until then we must suffer and this suffering is God given.

  4. Parvez

    I don’t know a much about Ahmadis. Could some one detail what they added or subtracted from Suni
    doctrine.

  5. Jamal

    Parvez; check alislam.org

  6. Straight Talker

    Muslims, Christians and Hindus sharing the same grave yard in Pakistan.
    I hope this becomes the case for Ahmadis and their critics.
    BBC Urdu video:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/multimedia/2010/06/100624_pak_common_graveyard.shtml

  7. yasserlatifhamdani

    One wonders what our “Muslims” would do if Christians in the West turned the clock back and became like us and then made the kind of third rate laws our Mullahs have forced upon our heads.

    Sometimes I hope everyone gets a taste of their own medicine.
    *** This Message Has Been Sent Using BlackBerry Internet Service from Mobilink ***

  8. Bin Ismail

    @Straight Talker (June 26, 2010 at 9:29 pm)

    Your logic is as transcending as ever. To quote your words of wisdom:

    “…..It is Qadiani-Ahmadis hold belief, that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was “Nabi (meaning prophet)”[Nauzubilah].
    Where as Lahori-Ahmadis hold belief, that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a reformer…..”

    Are you in any way inferring from this that the lives of the Lahori Ahmadis are sacred and the lives of (Qadiani – as you call them) Ahmadis are dispensible?

    You have a unique suggestive way of justifying persecution.

  9. Jamal

    Fear and silence: WHY are Ahmadis persecuted so ferociously in Pakistan?
    dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/fear-and-silence-760

  10. An ordinary man

    @Straight Talker: If I am not wrong, along with Ahmadis, Lahoris were also given an audience in the 1974 assembly. Why did the assembly declared Lahoris as also non-Muslims, if they are fundamentally variant from Ahmadis? I thought the Lahoris believed that Mirza sb was the same Messiah as awaited by the Muslims. Am I wrong or has the belief changed?

  11. Bin Ismail

    @ An ordinary man (June 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm)

    It is irrelevant, whether the Assembly declared the Lahoris non-Muslim along with the Ahmadis, or not. What is relevant is the fact that the assembly went out of bounds to set foot on territory that is meant for God alone.

    This infamous decision has set a legal precedent for the Assembly to define the religion of any group of citizens of the State of Pakistan. A new brand of dictatorship came into existence with the second amendment of 1974 – Parliamentary Dictatorship.

  12. Nusrat Pasha

    Thirteen and a half centuries ago, the Assembly of Yazeed declared Imam Hussain a non-Muslim, by a unanimous vote. Thirty six years ago another Assembly declared the Ahmadis non-Muslims, again by a unanimous vote.

    “Wo tum ko Hussain banaatay hain aur aap Yazeedi bantay hain
    Yeh kya hee sasta sauda hai dushman ko teer chalaanay do”

  13. Straight Talker

    @An Ordinary man:

    “Why did the assembly declared Lahoris as also non-Muslims, if they are fundamentally variant from Ahmadis? I thought the Lahoris believed that Mirza sb was the same Messiah as awaited by the Muslims. Am I wrong or has the belief changed?”

    My information, a reliable one, is that ZA Bhutto did NOT want to decalre Lahoris as non-Muslim. But Mufti Mahmud said, “Qadianis are very ‘bay-iman’ (dishonest) people and they will hide behind Lahoris and call them selves Lahoris and continue their business, so decalare everone one kaffir”. So it was a politcial decision by ZAB in cabinet meeting on FIRST DAY OF DISCUSSION, when only Lahori representataive, my uncle, testified and Qadiani repsentative had NOT even started testifying.

    i will answer second part of your question in next post, to avoid making my post “religious” and risk deleting.

  14. Straight Talker

    @An Ordinary man:

    Lahoris hold belief that Mirza Ghulam ahmad was a Mujjaddid (reformer) and belive in him is NOT necessary for a muslim.

    lahoris always held the same belief i.e. before 1914, after 1914 and after 1974 etc
    Lahoris believe Mirza Ghulam ahmad sahib was the Promised Massiah (Massih Mahud) and he is one mentioned in hadith. But he is NOT the same person who we know as Eisa AS (Jesus of Nazarath).

    I hope OMLK may answer you in more detail.

  15. Jamal

    Fear and silence

    The collective result of this is to silence and impose fear not just on the few per cent of Pakistanis who are Ahmadis, or even on those who are Christians and Hindus, but on all of us. The message is clear. Speaking out against the problem means you are the problem, so you had better be quiet.

    Our coerced silence is the weapon that has been sharpened and brought to our throats.

    This is why Nawaz Sharif’s statement in defence of Ahmadis met with such an angry response. Because the heart of the issue isn’t whether Ahmadis are non-Muslims or not. The heart of the issue is whether Muslims can be silenced by fear.

    Because if we can be silenced when it comes to Ahmadis, then we can be silenced when it comes to Shias, we can be silenced when it comes to women, we can be silenced when it comes to dress, we can be silenced when it comes to entertainment, and we can even be silenced when it comes to sitting by ourselves, alone in a room, afraid to think what we think.

    That is the point.

    dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/fear-and-silence-760

  16. An ordinary man

    @Straight Talker:

    I found the following on the website of Lahori Ahmedis……

    START
    The Claim of Messiahship
    Hardly a year and half had passed before a third period of his life started when he announced that it was disclosed to him that Jesus Christ was dead and the Messiah whose advent was promised to Muslims would be a mujaddid of this nation and that the prophecies relating to the advent of the Messiah were fulfilled in his own person.

    He further made it known that the reports relating to the appearance of a Mahdi also referred to the coming of the Messiah who would spread Islam in the world, not by the sword as was commonly believed but by arguments and reasoning relating to the spiritual force which underlay the truth of Islam. The coming of Mahdi who would propagate Islam at the point of the sword, he said, was against the express teachings of the Quran.
    FINISH

    Would you still say that Lahoris only take Mirza sahib as mujaddid and not as promissed Messiah and Imam Mehdi?

    I had always thought that the only difference between Lahoris and other Ahmedis was the Nabuwwat matter. However, you are confusing things for me. Can you please read your own material before making any statements!

  17. An ordinary man

    @Straight Talker:

    If a person has been appointed by God as Masih Mahud, then how come “believe in him is NOT necessary for a Muslim”?

    Is this a Masih Mahud or a joke where you decide to laugh or not!

  18. Bin Ismail

    @Straight Talker (June 27, 2010 at 10:22 pm)

    Most of your posts have been revealing and rewarding, but this one is exceptional. With reference to your quotable words:

    1: “…..ZA Bhutto did NOT want to decalre Lahoris as non-Muslim. But Mufti Mahmud said, “Qadianis are very ‘bay-iman’ (dishonest) people and they will hide behind Lahoris…..”

    Iss saadgi pe kon na mar jaa’ey aye khuda

    2: “…..to avoid making my post “religious”…..”

    Your posts are not “religious” anyway, so why worry. If anything your posts are somewhat “sacrilegious”.

  19. An ordinary man

    @Straight Talker: Even a class monitor appointed by a teacher is expected to be accepted by the class as its monitor. Imagine the announcement by the teacher: “I appoint X as your class monitor. Now it is up to you guys whether you accept him a monitor or not. I won’t mind either way.” I don’t think it is difficult to guess what will happen.

    Your statement that believing in your Masih-Mahud is NOT necessary for a Muslim is at best funny. At least it caused a lot of laughter to me… lol

  20. yasserlatifhamdani

    Frankly after reading straight talker’s views, I am glad Lahori jamaat got a taste of their own medicine. I am sure they were behind the whole sordid affair.

  21. Straight Talker

    @An Ordinary man:

    I could be wrong, but to me you seem to be a Qadiani, who wants to start religious discussion on this forum.
    If I start answering you and start providing quotes and links to support my points it will un-doubtly make my post religious and risks deletion by moderators, as this is a secular forum. If you have question you can come on Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement Blog. That is better place for such discussion.

    “If a person has been appointed by God as Masih Mahud, then how come “believe in him is NOT necessary for a Muslim”?”

    So, by your definition all those Muslims who had born and died before the of Mirza Ji was born to Chirag Bibi in the town of Qadian NOT qualify to be called Muslim, as there was no such thing as “Masih Mahud”. Are you willing to call all the great personalities of Islam before Mirza Ji as (NAUZUBILAH) a Non-Muslim?

    “Imagine the announcement by the teacher: “I appoint X as your class monitor. Now it is up to you guys whether you accept him a monitor or not. I won’t mind either way.””

    Yaseer Latif Hamdani sahib, please watch out what An Ordinary Man is threatening you with. He is warning you if you don’t believe in Mirza Ji, teacher (AOM) will spank you. Now it is up to you if you like it;-)

    Dear Yaseer:
    I am making a serious proposal to you:
    I understand you are practicing law in Islamabad.
    If 18th amendment is repealed by Pakistan Supreme Court, and precedence is set. Is it possible for you to file petition in PSC for repeal of 2nd amendment? I’ll like to hire you.
    What are your thoughts?

  22. An ordinary man

    @Straight Talker:
    Fortunately, I am a Hanafi. I normally am a silent reader on this blog but your statement was so absurd that I could not resist the temptation to ask the question.

    I would like you to respond to the question following simple and common sensical approach. I do not want to get into theology. My simple question is: What is the incentive of believing in your Masih Mahud if not believing in him does not make any difference. Why did God appoint him if the poor fellow had to be left like that?

    I don’t understand your point regarding people who were born before Mirza sahib. Has that got any relevance to my question? Clearly, they did not get any opportunity to accept or reject him. But those who were born after he made a claim got an opportunity to accept or to reject his claim.

    Would you please answer my question on the sheer basis of logic!

  23. Straight Talker1

    @AOM:
    “My simple question is: What is the incentive of believing in your Masih Mahud if not believing in him does not make any difference. Why did God appoint him if the poor fellow had to be left like that?”

    Many people did NOT accept Shah Wali Ullah Muhaddas Delhvi. They remained Muslim.
    Mirza Ji himself has said it is NOT must for Muslims to belieev in me. So, what else you want me to say?
    Go to Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement blog they have special person to answer online questions his name is Dr. Zahid Aziz
    You ask him questions and i will learn from you two.
    This is secular forum. Discussion of right or wrong beliefs is not permitted here, only discussion on their politcial implications are permitted here.

  24. An ordinary man

    @Straight Talker1:
    “Many people did NOT accept Shah Wali Ullah Muhaddas Delhvi. They remained Muslim.”

    Did Shah Waliullah claim to be Masih Mahud? You are comparing apples with oranges here.

    I don’t want to get into a religious discussion, man. Your argument does not stand the test of plain logic.

    “Mirza Ji himself has said it is NOT must for Muslims to belieev in me. So, what else you want me to say?”

    If this is correct, then there was some problem with that man I guess and I am sure his claim is not worthy of consideration at all. Hey Ahmedi / Lahori guys here, is this correct that your Mirza sahib himself said that it is NOT must for Muslims to believe in him?

  25. OMLK

    @ylh

    This is the second time you have accused the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement of instigating the “whole sordid affair.” This is shocking and in the light of the persecution that the Lahori Ahmadis face on a daily basis from the state and the mullahs, rather distasteful. Do you have even a shred of evidence to support what your are saying?

    @AOM

    The position of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement is that it is not necessary to believe in the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (HMGA) to be a Muslim. You can be a perfectly good Muslim without being an Ahmadi. From the start the LAM has followed a non-sectarian agenda. However, HMGA as the reformer and promised Messiah was fulfilling certain tasks and correcting certain wrongs. As all persons reap what they sow, the cost of rejecting the mission of HMGA will be the natural consequence of adhering to wrong beliefs. For examle the wrong notion of violent Jihad that HMGA pointed out over a 100 years ago, and even identfied the tribal areas of persent day Pakisan as one place where this notion will be a major source of mischief if allowed to grow. His views were rejected and now the the crop that was sowed is being reaped. At the same time many Muslims have now turned to the HGMA view of Jihad (even if they do not acknowledge him as a reformer) and this will be to thier betterment.

    To put it simply just like it is not necessary to be a Muslim to be a good human being, it is not necessary to be an Ahmadi to be a good Muslim. However, both Islam and Ahmadiyyat aim to corect certain wrongs so their relevent constituencies can realise the ultimate objective. Certain things are relative, and one cannot make simple black or white type of distinctions.

  26. yasserlatifhamdani

    The bile and venom spewed against Qadiani Ahmadis by Lahori “Ahmadis” is rather disturbing and leads me to believe what I do.
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  27. An ordinary man

    @OMLK:

    You have said everything except answering my question. Here I repeat….

    What is the incentive of believing in your Masih Mahud if not believing in him does not make any difference in the eyes of God?

  28. OMLK

    @ylh

    And how many Lahori Ahamdis have you talked to to arrive at your conclusion? I am 100% sure you know that your accusation on the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement is no small one. Perhaps you said what you said in emotional haste as response to one person’ rant: but your words on this forum carry some wieght. I would advise caution against passing such judgements on communities that are already suffering in this country, and the last thing they need is yet another “you deserve it” accusation.

    @AOM

    I have answered your question. Allow me to copy paste for your benefit:

    “What is the incentive of believing in your Masih Mahud”

    Pasted from earlier reply:

    “..the cost of rejecting the mission of HMGA will be the natural consequence of adhering to wrong beliefs. For examle…”

    “.. both Islam and Ahmadiyyat aim to corect certain wrongs so their relevent constituencies can realise the ultimate objective..”

    In short the “incentive” is to go back to the pure Islam, the one un-corrupted by the ignorant Mullahs and the one based on the Quran.

  29. An ordinary man

    @OMLK:

    You are not getting the point. Why should you assume that anyone not believing in your Masih Mahud believes in the wrong interpretation of Jihad (or Islam in a wider context)?

    If I am already following the same principles as propagated by your Masih Mahud, and I do not accept him (or say categorically reject him) as a Masih Mahud, does that carry any consequence for me in the eyes of Allah?

  30. OMLK

    @AOM

    “Why should you assume that anyone not believing in your Masih Mahud believes in the wrong interpretation of Jihad (or Islam in a wider context)?”

    Obviously I cannot have knowledge of what “anyone” believes, but historically and generaly speaking, the Ahamdiyya view of Jihad was rejected by Muslims. So it is not an assumption but an observation.

    “If I am already following the same principles as propagated by your Masih Mahud”

    Good for you!

    “and I do not accept him (or say categorically reject him) as a Masih Mahud, does that carry any consequence for me in the eyes of Allah?”

    Only Allah can answer this question. Also, as I said earlier, the issue is not a black as white as the answers you seek. If you reject some one, but accept his teaching, then what is your reason for rejection? If the reason is not grounded in “reason”, then that may have its own consequences: which could range from, at best, forgoing the benefit actualisation of a correct belief due to ignorance, to, at worst, Allah’s displeasure at committing intellectual hypocrisy.

    In the end only Allah can judge in these matters, professions on paper cannot be used by any human to determine the spiritual outcome for any other human.

  31. An ordinary man

    @OMLK:

    But I understand that your Masih Mahud had declared it obligatory upon Muslims to recognise and accept his status. I can dig out some references if you want.

    Now you are saying that it is not must for a Muslim to believe in him. Has the belief changed since I last studied some of your literature!

  32. Bin Ismail

    “…Lakum deenukum wa liya deen…” [Quran 109:6]

    Translation: For you is your religion – for me is my religion.

  33. OMLK

    @AOM

    Well what has changed is your question to me! regardless, if you think what I have said is at odds with what HMGA has said; please feel free to “dig out” the references.

  34. An ordinary man

    @OMLK:
    I know for a fact that your Masih Mahud did say that it was obligatory that Muslims recognise his status (I will dig out the refernces, allow me some time) and I had no problem with his demand. To me, his demand made sense as he claimed that his appointment as such was by God.

    Frankly, I never knew that Lahoris did not believe the “obligation” part and hence my follow up question. My primary question remains the same that it makes no sense to me that God appointing someone and not requiring others to accept the appointment. To me, the person must be very “disappointed” about his “appointment”. What is the difference between your Masih Mahud and any other preacher!

  35. OMLK

    @AOM

    First of all the (Lahori) Ahmadis believe in each and every word of HMGA. If they did not…well they would not be Ahmadis, because to the Lahoris the Ahmadiyya movement is not a cult revolving around blind obedience to a personality or his descendents. The test of whatever HMGA says is the Quran and the Prophet (saws). So the only ultimate obligation on any Muslim (Ahmadi or not) is to submit to these two sources; all else (including HMGA claims and teachings) is secondary to, and subject to confirmation with, the Quran and Sunnah.

    Secondly the “obligation” part that you are referring to has to be in the context of the status of HMGA and his mission. Because the Lahori Ahmadis do not raise him to the status of a Prophet and his mission is not bringing of a new religion, it logically follows that HMGA himself cannot make up a new theological rule to suit himself. All his teachings are subject to conformity with the Quran, Sunnah , Hadith (in that order).

    I can understand your confusion in this matter because opponents of HMGA do put forward this argument that HMGA made up new rules to suit himself, especially regarding his alleged status as a Prophet and the “obligation” to accept that status to be a Muslim. However, the Lahori Ahmadis firmly believe that this accusation on HMGA does not hold water and is not supported by the writings of HMGA himself. Many Anti-Ahmadi camps use the views of the Qadiani Ahmadis and writings of their caliphs to support this accusation on HMGA, but the Lahori Ahmadis have consistently argued that the Qadiani Ahmadi views are distorted and that any true picture of HMGA status and teachings should be based on his own writings. Now as you said, you are going to dig out references to prove otherwise, well sure…does that. Either the Lahori Ahmadis, or the Qadiani Ahmadis, or you have misinterpreted what he has written. But this can only be examined after we have the references.

    This discussion nevertheless has so to be contextualized within you original question: that is the “obligation” to accept HMGA has to be based on the consequences of not fulfilling that obligation. Otherwise the “obligation” is meaningless. This question I have actually already answered. What remains to be seen is if that answer conforms to what HMGA himself has stated.