After the agreement between the Pakistani government and Tehrik-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) protesters who besieged Islamabad last month, the Ahmadiyya community fears a surge in violence all over the country.
The Ahmadiyyas belong to an Islamic sect excommunicated by the Pakistani constitution since 1974 over the perceived, and often misinterpreted, theological differences in belief regarding the Prophet Muhammad as the final messenger of Islam. The sect believes that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is their messiah, as was predicted by the Prophet Muhammed. This was interpreted as heresy and members of the sect continue to face persecution in Pakistan.
TLY is a radical Islamist group that was protesting a change in the recently passed Elections Reforms Bill, among other issues. The bill altered the oath in candidate nomination papers regarding belief in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (Finality of Prophet-hood) and also omitted clauses 7B and 7C of the Conduct of the General Election Order 2002, which ask for a separate voters list for Ahmadiyyas. The siege came to an end after the Pakistani government capitulated and agreed to the demands made by the mob.
The government undid the alterations and omissions in the original draft immediately after they were pointed out, terming the changes a result of a “clerical error.” By then, the radical Islamists already had sufficient reason to take to the streets. TLY leaders on multiple occasions have not only clamored for genocide of the Ahmadiyya community, they often demand the “harshest punishment” for those who lend any support to them.
Hence the government’s agreement with the faction of the TLY led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi included the resignation of federal law minister Zahid Hamid, with the Islamist group giving their word not to declare him wajib-ul-qatl (liable to be murdered). The agreement with the Ashraf Asif Jalali-led TLY faction in Lahore included an understanding that the government would “take action against Ahmadiyyas.”
And so, celebrations of Eid Milad un-Nabi (the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad) across the country on December 1 were accompanied by mass incitement to violence against Ahmadis. In Karachi’s Saddar area around 15 people charged toward an Ahmadi leader’s house chanting inflammatory slogans and damaging the property by throwing stones. Three bikers defaced an Ahmadiyya mosque in Rawalpindi with graffiti, while the imam of a mosque in Lahore’s Gulberg area ordered the worshipers to attack the place of worship of “Qadianis,” a derogatory term for Ahmadis.
‘It’s a shame that we, a small community of 500,000 people, who were instrumental in the creation of Pakistan, cannot live in peace in the same country’
While violence was avoided that day, Ahmadiyya leaders say the community feels increasingly vulnerable.
“As has been the case over the past 40 years, we have been thrown to the wolves by a shaky government under the pressure of the mullahs,” Ahmadiyya community spokesman Saleem Uddin told Asia Times. “Not only is there fear of mass-scale violence, many in the community are looking for an escape route, which could further increase the exodus of Ahmadis.
“It’s a shame that we, a small community of 500,000 people, who were instrumental in the creation of Pakistan, cannot live in peace in the same country,” he added.
Amir Mehmood, in charge of the Ahmadiyya Media Cell, says hate speech and incitement to violence against Ahmadis have increased manifold in the past couple of months.
“There were at least four to five times more news stories targeting the Ahmadiyya community in the month of November – including incitement to murder – than there normally are,” he told Asia Times. “And none of the media houses actually ever bother to take our side of the story, all the while giving airtime and print space to those who are openly calling for genocide.”
Lahore’s Baghbanpura area became a focal point amid nationwide manifestations against the community, where mock graves were openly displayed declaring “death to Ahmadis.”
“We fear for our lives every day. There have been so many instances of mob violence across the country, that you never know when another bloodthirsty group might break into our house,” Harris Malik*, an Ahmadi resident of the area, said while speaking to Asia Times.
Yasir Ahmed told Asia Times that local mosques had been openly calling for murder without any check. Ahmed’s cousins Mubasher, Ghulam and Ehsan were sentenced to death by Sheikhupura sessions court in a blasphemy case from 2014 amid the hate campaigns against Ahmadis.
“They have become more powerful than ever,” he said. “We live in groups of a few adjacent houses in a locality that the mullahs earmark for us. We usually leave the area when there’s any threat. No Ahmadis have returned to their houses in the locality since my cousins were sentenced to death.”
The fear is palpable and things seem to have taken a turn for the worse for the Ahmadiyyas.
*Some names have been changed to protect people’s identity.