Declaring one’s faith in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, and in turn spewing bigotry against ‘Qadianis’, is an immortal golden egg laying goose. There’s no accountability corner that one can’t get out of by wielding one of the eggs.
Have you done your homework? No, but ma’am did you declare Qadianis kafir today?
When was the last time you filed the weekly report? Sir, when was the last time you reported a Qadiani for blasphemy?
It is an omnipresent ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card for every Pakistani.
For Capt (R) Safdar last week, it was one quite literally.
Hours after being temporarily arrested by the National Accountability Bureau, he took to the National Assembly to bellow the card. Of course, there was the superfluous context – hoopla over omissions in the Elections Reforms Bill, 2017 – but it escalated to demands of a ban on Ahmadis being recruited in the Army.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister, Khwaja Asif, known for his passionate speeches against the establishment, who last month was putting ‘our house in order’ in the US boldly naming and shaming the jihadist groups that the state continues to shield, went on national television to use the same card and nonchalantly share how he has started asking people who ask for selfies with him whether or not they are ‘Qadianis’.
Khwaja sb’s corner? Being spotted in a gathering with Ahmadis in the US.
Although Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal have mustered the bravado to condemn Capt (R) Safdar – even if one won’t expect anything similar against Khwaja Asif – and even former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to ‘protect minorities’ rights’, but it has come with his own defensive reiteration of reverence for an ‘unalienable part of Islamic faith’ which has been ‘etched in the Constitution forever’.
So the cause was endorsed and effect condemned. The cause is not a holy allegiance to one’s faith – it is the very foundation of apartheid.
In vowing to protect the rights of the minorities, simultaneously upholding the sanctity of the Constitution, while distancing himself and his party from Capt (R) Safdar’s diatribe, Nawaz Sharif – like most of us – overlooked the crucial area where the two overlap.
Article 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution grants every citizen the ‘freedom to profess, practise and propagate his religion’. By not granting that right to one community in particular, not only does the state breach the Constitution – via the Constitution itself, paradoxically – it sanctions apartheid against that community.
No matter how much you vow to ‘protect’ the community, acknowledge their rights as citizens or indeed condemn hate speech and the ensuing violence against them, it is this breach of the Article 20, through the Second Amendment that would perpetually endorse those very crimes against Ahmadis that you pose to denounce.
It is the Constitutional status of Ahmadis that necessitated Articles 7B and 7C of the Conduct of the General Election Order 2002 at a time when Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf was ostensibly undoing separate electorates. It is these articles that have sanctioned a separate voters list for Ahmadis, the omission of which has generated legislative pandemonium over the past couple of weeks.
These clauses, of course, are supposed to ensure that no ‘impostor’ is able to ‘pose’ as a Muslim for a voting exercise, which in more civilised parts of the world does not request religious identities, let alone any theological declarations.
It is the demand for that religious vow targeting one specific community, etched in law through multiple routes, that is the heart of the problem. For, once you’ve not only excommunicated a sect, but have also criminalised their ‘posing’ as Muslims, you’ve already established them as ‘traitors’ of Islam through the Constitution.
Is it then really outlandish to suggest that ‘traitors’ be kept out of the Armed Forces and the Atomic Energy Commission?
How does one distance oneself from the latter but repeatedly endorse the former?
And yet, perhaps the most criminal aspect of this ubiquitous endorsement of apartheid is its persistent utility as self-defence.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government passed the Second Amendment in 1974 to save his government amidst the rise of increasingly incandescent Islamist groups – Zia-ul-Haq passed the 8th Amendment to the Constitution in 1985 for separate electorates and mandated documentation to denounce the founder of Ahmadiyyat, just as his false promises of failing to pass over power to an elected government were being called out – and now the PML-N leaders are endorsing the Constitutional denial of a basic human right to the Ahmadiyya community.
It is those upholding the apartheid in self-defence, and simultaneously claiming to be defendants of the rights of the community, whose duplicity is perhaps the most repulsive.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.