Pakistan’s minority Ahmadiyya community, who are shunned by staunch followers of Islam, face more persecution after a ruling on March 9 by a High Court judge.
A judge at the Islamabad High Court has ordered that applicants for jobs in the public service declare their faith before being considered for any positions. The court urged state institutions to ensure that citizens are “easily identifiable” by faith.
The verdict was handed down by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who last year declared blasphemers “terrorists” and worse than jihadists.
The verdict was delivered after hearings on amendments to the controversial Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, or finality of prophethood, clause in the Election Reforms Act, 2017, which would have eliminated a separate voters’ list for Ahmadis, an Islamic sect declared heretics in Pakistan.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution excommunicated the Ahmadiyya Muslims in 1974, enshrining belief that Khatm-e-Nabuwwat was integral to the Islamic faith.
Islamist military dictator Zia-ul Haq then added Ordinance XX to Pakistan’s Penal Code a decade later in 1984, barring Ahmadis from “posing as Muslims,” a “crime” that still carries prison sentences for members of the community if they use Islamic titles, greetings, scriptures or calls to prayer.
Throughout the hearings, Justice Siddiqui targeted the Ahmadiyya community through what were seen by many as discriminatory orders. The judge asked for data about the number of Ahmadis in Pakistan and also those who “converted from Islam” to the Ahmadiyya sect, along with their travel history.
However, for many the most troubling aspect of the judgement was its wording, with paragraph 6 of the verdict asking the parliament to “take measures which can completely terminate those who scar (the belief in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat).”
“This is clear hate speech,” lawyer and human rights activist Jibran Nasir told Asia Times. “What is the judge asking them to be terminated from? Their jobs? Doesn’t that take away their basic right to life and dignity? The Supreme Court should take suo moto action against the verdict.”
Legally the Islamabad High Court verdict, like the Second Amendment and Ordinance XX, contradicts Article 20 of the Constitution, which grants freedom of religion, and Article 27, which maintains there should be no discrimination during recruitment for public offices.
However, for the local Ahmadiyya community, the fears are much graver.
“Considering the petitioners are those that have openly called for our genocide, the Islamabad High Court verdict isn’t surprising,” a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan told Asia Times. He was referring to political party Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY), which held the capital hostage last November, demanding violent persecution of Ahmadis.
“The most shocking aspect of the case itself is the fact that while the court was actively campaigning against us, not a single Ahmadi was called to the court to listen to our side of things. Is this what you call justice?” Amir Mehmood, who is in charge of the community’s press office, said to Asia Times.
‘Ruling could be deadly’
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said it was “appalled” by the ruling, saying its consequences “could be deadly for members of the Ahmadiyya community, given their already precarious personal safety situation in the country.”
Maintaining it was shameful for a court to order a declaration of faith for citizens wanting to join the public office, a lawyer from the Ahmadiyya community suggested the verdict went “beyond discrimination.”
“It’s unclear what the exact order is, because it doesn’t say ‘terminate from office’, or ask for rights to be terminated. The use of ‘completely terminate’ on its own is menacing and could easily be construed as a call for violence,” the lawyer, who requested anonymity, told Asia Times.
Legal experts believe the most tolerant view of the verdict calls for discrimination and can even be interpreted as denying jobs in the government, Army and judiciary altogether. More dangerous interpretations could lead to a violent marginalization of the community.
“The (High Court judge) is clearly suffering from insecurities in his faith. This is how you lay down foundations for apartheid,” said lawyer and human rights activist Jibran Nasir.
The legal way out is for the verdict to be challenged in a double bench High Court hearing, or by the Supreme Court.
But for the Ahmadiyya community, this is only the latest instigation of violence against them.
“This is nothing new for us. There’s constant call for violence against us and our extermination,” said Saleem Uddin. “However, they forget that Pakistan isn’t the only country in the world. The Ahmadiyya community is now present in over 200 countries worldwide.”