GRAVE DESECRATION: NEW WOES FOR PAKISTAN’S AHMEDIS

The Pakistani Constitution officially declared the Ahmadis sect of Islam to be “infidels” and barred members of the community from “posing as Muslims,” which the vandalized graves were found guilty of. The community members allege that there is government complicity … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

Pakistan’s Ahmedi or Ahmediyya community is facing a new woe of late: Graves of its dead are being dug up and their body remains are thrown away. Over fifty such cases have been detected in Punjab and in and around Peshawar.

The latest case reported by the Friday Times (May 27, 2022), happened in a village near Peshawar. The body was that of Ishfaq Ahmed, son of one Dr Sarwar of Sangu village in Peshawar. He died in Ukraine 27 years ago. The desecration took place on May 19, according to Saleem ud Din, the spokesperson of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan.

A day earlier, a 36-year-old Ahmadi man was stabbed to death in front of his two children in Okara. The murderer, who is reported to be affiliated with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was a student at a local madrassa, the weekly reported.

Ahmedis are Muslims who were declared non-Muslim by Pakistan in 1973. They are subjected to increased discrimination from the government and the society at large dominated by the majority Sunnis. There are also frequent moves to ensure that they do not sport Muslim-sounding names.

The Pakistani Constitution officially declared the Ahmadis sect of Islam to be “infidels” and barred members of the community from “posing as Muslims,” which the vandalised graves were found guilty of. The community members allege that there is government complicity. Many cases are hushed up and even when cases are registered, investigation and prosecution are weak and the culprits go scot-free.

“Even mainstream political leaders do not refrain from dragging minorities in their speeches at rallies, which ends facing even more cases of hate crimes.

“Ahmadis also face mistreatment from the justice system, as many lose their lives while being tried for blasphemy, the weekly said in its report. A few sections in the media report these incidents. The press, by and large, ignores violence against the Ahmedis, unless it takes place on a large scale, attracting international attention.

Earlier this year, a 70-year-old Ahmadi man on trial for blasphemy died in Bahawalpur Jail due to alleged mistreatment despite his ill health. He was awaiting his bail hearing scheduled for later this year.

An earlier report of August 23, 2021, quoted historian and lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani, former BBC Urdu editor Tahir Imran Mian and human rights activist Rabia Mehmood and Ali Warsi to discuss how arms of the state are complicit in this violence against this minority community.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif

They alleged that while Pakistan accuses the world community of indulging in Islamophobia, its own people engage in that more frequently and violently when it comes to the Ahmedi community.

In a detailed report cum analysis in The Diplomat journal (February 14, 2022), Kunwar Khuldune Shahid pointed to Dr. Abdus Salam (1926-1996), a renowned physicist and Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate. Despite his pioneering work in establishing many of Pakistan’s institutions of learning and research in physics, he was not allowed to return home despite several pleas. He remained a Pakistani national and died a dejected man in Paris.

Yet, his grave in Rabwah was damaged. The word “Muslim” has been erased from the phrase “the first Muslim Nobel laureate in the English inscription.”

Shahid also dwelt on the desecration of dead Ahmedis’ graves – this time by the Punjab Police. It desecrated 45 graves belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect in Hafizabad town.

“Police personnel damaged the tombstones and removed Islamic inscriptions in accordance with the law.”

“In addition to desecration of graves, the police also regularly demolish Ahmadi mosques over similar allegations of masquerading as Muslim worship places. Ahmadis are barred from giving the Islamic call to prayer, or even displaying “Muslim names” in front of their homes.

“Most ominously, the Ahmadiyya sect remains the most vulnerable to Pakistan’s violent blasphemy laws, with at least 13 Ahmadis killed and 40 wounded since 2017 owing to their identity. This is in addition to the jihadist attacks on the community. In 2010, twin mosque terror raids in Lahore killed at least 94 Ahmadis.

The persecution of Ahmadis is rooted in the sect’s faith in its 19th-century founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, which representatives of other Islamic sects deem sacrilegious. Ahmadis’ beliefs “are dragged into astonishingly unrelated realms in Pakistan.

In 2018, the incumbent Imran Khan government backtracked on the appointment of renowned economist Atif Mian as financial advisor owing to his Ahmadiyya faith. Besides accusing the Ahmedis of being collaborators with “India and Israel,” the Ahmadi sect “is held responsible for pretty much any predicament, including the outbreak of COVID-19.”

Shahid writes: “What Pakistan unquestionably has in place is veritable religious apartheid….. Indeed, Pakistan is indubitably more phobic of the Ahmadiyya sect, and their interpretation of Islam, than most of the states that Imran Khan vocally deems “Islamophobic.” In Pakistan, Ahmadis have been arrested for purchasing literature, partaking in Eid celebrations, or even reciting the Quran.

“The government’s Islamic advisory body has even incited genocide against Ahmadis. Ministers have called for “beheading of blasphemers,” which, incidentally, is the law in the country, used by Islamist mobs to get away with murder,” Shahid writes.

This apartheid is deepening and widening strife. “For Pakistan, ignoring the apartheid against Ahmadis has resulted in similar calls against Shia Islam being echoed in, among other places, the parliament. It has further emboldened a three-way turf war among Sunni jihadist groups, which root their Islamic terrorism in takfir, the belief that they have the right to determine who is and isn’t a Muslim.”

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