LAHORE - Punjab Assembly on Tuesday accepted the explanation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah over his controversial statement about the status of Qadianis in Pakistan.

The matter was actually settled in the meeting of the Business Advisory Committee chaired by the Speaker before start of the Assembly proceedings.

According to the agreement reached in the meeting among Parliamentary leaders of different parties, there would be speeches by Maulana Ilyas Chinioti, Dr Wasim Akhtar of JI and Opposition leader Mahmoodur Rashid and the Law Minister would endorse their views on finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Everything went according to the script and the Minister came clean on this sensitive issue.

“Qadianis cannot be given the status of other religious minorities in Pakistan like the Christians and Hindus etc”, came a categorical statement from Rana Sanaullah which was in contradiction to his earlier utterances on same subject. Though the Minister is now apparently out of the hot waters, but confusion still persists over Qadianis being a minority or something else in Pakistan.

Keeping in view the statements of the Minister made in the House on Tuesday and his earlier utterances at a news channel couple of days back, it seems that the Law Minister is actually confused over Constitutional status of the Ahmadis. But his confusion is understandable given a visible contradiction in the Constitution itself.

On the one hand, there is Article 260 (clause 3b) in the Constitution which declares the Qadianis as “Non-Muslim” bracketing them with other religious minorities like Christians and Hindus. Clause 3(b) of the Constitution reads: "Non-Muslim" means a person who is not a Muslim and includes a person belonging to the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Parsi community, a person of the Qadiani Group or the Lahori Group who call themselves 'Ahmadis' or by any other name or a Bahai, and a person belonging to any of the Scheduled Castes.”

On the other hand, there are amendments made in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP), 1898 during 1984 through a Presidential Ordinance depriving the Ahmadis the status of a minority. (Two new Sections: 298B and 299C were added in the PPC and an amendment was made in Section 99a of the CCP) at that time).

According to amendments made in the PPC and the CCP in the light of second constitutional amendment of 1974, “An Ahmadi calling himself a Muslim, or preaching or propagating his faith, or outraging the religious feelings of Muslims or posing himself a Muslim shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine”.

Besides, there are also punishments for the Qadianis over misuse of the epithets, descriptions and titles etc reserved for certain holy personages or places.

Though the Qadianis don’t consider themselves a minority, the Constitution, however, declares them so in Article 260. And if they are to live like minorities, they are supposed to have the Constitutional rights as given to the Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and other communities.

Rana Sanullah’s earlier statement was perhaps incited by the interpretation of clause 3(b) of Article 260 of the Constitution; and   the criticism he received from the religious quarters was based on the punishments prescribed for Ahmadis in the criminal laws.

Perhaps, there is need to bring clarity in the relevant laws about the Constitutional status of Qadianis in Pakistan.