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What is happening in Islamabad with Faizabad Dharna, still ongoing at the time of

the writing article, is a disturbing development, which needs to be appreciated


better by the powers that be in our country.

Barelvi Sunnis were long held to be the Low Church or softer face of Sunni Islam in
Pakistan. This does not mean of course that their views regarding Ahmadis for
example were any different but that by and large they were willing to live and let
live. Now they are baying for blood. Where even the 1974 Assembly that declared
Ahmadis Non-Muslims for the purposes of law and constitution, a move that will
forever poison the well in this country with takfir, undertook to ensure their
religious freedom and fundamental rights, the dharna protesters in Faizabad will
not rest till Ahmadis are made to wear something akin to a Jewish yellow star from
Nazi era.

There is no denying that this mindset is all-pervasive. Do not be fooled by the


relatively lower numbers in attendance. Last year we saw the same thing happen at
Lahores Hafeez Center. Then again when a civil servant who doubles as a TV
personality began his hate campaign against this community in his television
program earlier this year and was rightly sent a show cause notice by PEMRA, a mob
of lawyers attacked PEMRAs council of complaints and tried to manhandle the
members of the body for daring to send a show cause notice. It is amazing how a
relatively small community numbering at most half a million in all of Pakistan is
deemed to be such a threat by the countrys Sunni Muslim majority which even by the
most conservative estimate numbers above 150 million. No honest person can deny the
remarkable contributions made to our national life by this tiny Ahmadi community. I
have written about these in detail in my previous articles and I would spare the
regular reader repetition.

Nation after nation condemned Pakistans discriminatory laws against Ahmadis and
religious minorities during the recently concluded Universal Periodic Review at the
United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights

Times are changing though and we in Pakistan must realise that no nation is an
island unto itself in this increasingly globalised world. Nation after nation
condemned Pakistans discriminatory laws against Ahmadis and religious minorities
during the recently concluded Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations
Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (UNOCHR). These laws that Pakistan
promulgated in the 1980s also vitiate the very notion of equal citizenship in a
modern nation state that was promised explicitly by the founders of this country.
This is especially true in the case of Ahmadis who were ensured by Jinnah himself
that their religious status as Muslims would never come under question in Pakistan.
Indeed the founding father had advised Muslims not to raise sectarian issues of
this kind as the same would not benefit anyone but would lead to division. For this
he was attacked by the religious parties repeatedly who called him the great
infidel. The Ahmadi issue was conveniently raised by these religious parties to
split the vote bank of the Muslim League but they failed to do so in 1946 elections
because Ahmadis stood with the League to the last man.

In 1953 the religious parties saw a fresh opportunity and started a countrywide
movement against Ahmadis again. This time around they were patronised certain
opportunistic politicians in Punjab who wanted to bring down the government of
Khawaja Nazimuddin in the center. In 1974 Ahmadis again became victims of this
vicious power play and were conveniently sacrificed by their erstwhile ally
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto himself fell victim to the same game in 1977 with the
Nizam-e-Mustafa Movement in almost identical manner. It is a great irony that
Bhutto who boasted of having resolved the 90 year old religious dispute himself had
his Muslim credentials questioned in open court. This dangerous game persists till
today.
Given this history, it is impossible to contend that the dharna in Faizabad is an
independent outpouring of sentiment over a mere formality vis--vis an oath in the
election forms which means nothing at all. The real target lies elsewhere. Rather
one imagines this to be part of a fresh new power play, which would mean further
marginalisation of Pakistani Ahmadis who are, as always, collateral damage in this
sort of thing. Even more surprising was the order by the Islamabad High Court,
which seemed to suggest that the government should accede to the protesters and
provide them with a list of Ahmadis in its service. That would be tantamount to
painting a target on their heads. Such orders mean ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Let us consider a few hard truths. Pakistan is not exactly a popular country around
the world. We are accused of providing safe haven to some of the worlds most
notorious terrorists. Indeed the most notorious of them was caught hiding under our
noses. The world is concerned about our treatment of minorities, which we must
frankly admit is woeful. Our record in womens rights and other areas of human
development is equally bad. We are seen as a crazy maniacal people who will
willingly cut the nose to spite the face. The US which had given us the Major Non-
NATO Ally status in 2004 is steadily moving in the opposite direction. Make no
mistake about it. Even China will not tolerate us becoming a liability globally. It
has its hands full with North Korea. In these circumstances what message does the
blockade of the main artery between Islamabad, the Federal Capital, and Rawalpindi,
the military headquarters, give to the world given our status as a nuclear power?
It tells a sorry tale of a state that has lost control.

So for the sake of Pakistan I hope and pray that there are elements in our civil
and military leadership who are willing to stem the rot at even this late a stage.
They must act in unison not just against the few dharna protesters in Faizabad but
against the mindset that keeps Pakistan hostage and a victim to its own internal
contradictions. Pakistan must rise up as a responsible nation state that can show
the world that it is able to put its own house in order.