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On 10 December 2016 we have received a request for help from people close to the Ahmadiyya Community, who complained about the lack of information about the persecution of Ahmadiyya in Pakistan. We have also informed two European NGOs, who have taken up our request. On 21 December 2016, finally, the Intergroup of the European Parliament on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) condemned the police raid and the persecution of the community and asked EEAS to intervene in order to protect the community.

Camillo Maffia interviewed Imam Ataul Wasih Tariq about the Ahmadiyya Communiity’s situation in Pakistan.

Could you tell us about the dramatic condition the Ahamadiyya community is facing in Pakistan?

Since 1974, when the second amendment to the Pakistani Constitution declared Ahmadies as Non-Muslims - and thus Ahmadies became a minority - the situation has worsened. Clerics incite their people that whosoever kills an Ahmadi will enter paradise. This is why lives from many Ahmadies have been taken. The government has failed to control this situation. Life in Pakistan for Ahmadies has all the more become more difficult since the Ordinance XX in 1984, when Ahmadies are not only declared Non-Muslims but are also not allowed to “pose” as Muslims. Daily religious habits, such as saying “salaam”, or praying, calling the Adhan, calling the place of worship “mosque” and reading the Quran have become punishable for up to three years of prison for Ahmadies. Recently, on December 5th, the Counter-Terrorism Department has made an illegal armed raid at our headquarters in Rabwah and tortured and arrested 4 Ahmadis. A few days later, a mosque in Dulmial (Chakwal), has been attacked by a mob. Reports say their number was around 2000 people, throwing stones at the few Ahmadies who had barricaded themselves inside the mosque. The local police, promised the Ahmadies to safely leave and that the mob will not be allowed to enter the mosque. Yet they did not stop the mob to coming in and destroying the furnitures etc. inside the mosque. Only when the army came in, the mob was dispersed, yet, instead of taking action against the perpetrators of violence, they gave in to the demands of the mob and sealed the mosque . On the issue of Ahmadiyya mosques, since Zia’s anti-Ahmadi Ordinance XX (1984) to date 27 Ahmadiyya mosques have been demolished, 33 sealed by authorities, 21 set on fire or damaged and 16 forcibly occupied.

What's the situation in Pakistan for what concerns freedom of religion and belief?

The devastating consequences of the so-called “blasphemy-laws” in Pakistan are not a secret. Minorities, such as Christians and Ahmadies are discriminated and not protected. At the very least, the christians are allowed to call themselves what they believe to be, Ahmadies are not to call themselves or pose as Muslims. This is enshrined by the second amendment of the constitution of Pakistan and Ordinance XX by dictator Zia-ul-Haq. A detailed article on the persecution of Ahmadies is attached.

Why are Ahmadi persecuted?

The opposition started at the very beginning of its foundation by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian, India (under the British rule). Mirza Ghulam Ahmad strongly condemned any form of violence in the name of Islam and explained that Prophet Muhammad, after thirteen years of severe persecution was given the permission to only defend himself. Never has he raised his sword to spread Islam, but it was only to protect its mere existence . This strong condemnation of violence has cost lives of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s two companions who came from Afghanistan.
Recently when more and more islamic clerics have revised their own stance of violent Jihad, the persecution still continues but under a different reason. They claim that Ahmadies do not believe in Prophet Muhammad as the seal and the last of the prophets. This is used to stir up the emotions of crowds against Ahmadies, saying that we - God forbid - disrespect the Holy Prophet of Islam. Yet they conveniently leave out the fact that all Muslims are also awaiting Jesus, who will come and who will be a prophet after Muhammad, the only difference is, that we Ahmadies believe that Jesus will not come in person who lived 2000 years ago, but this prophecy needs to be understood differently. As Jesus was a follower of Moses, a follower of Muhammad will come as the Messiah for the Muslims.

Could you describe the Ahamadiyya belief for us?

Ahmadies are Muslims who believe that Allah is One, and Muhammad is His messenger and the seal of prophets. Ahmadies believe that the Holy Quran is the word of God, and all its teachings are complete. Ahmadies believe that according to the Holy Quran, Jesus was delivered from the death on the cross and traveled to find the lost tribes of the house of Israel and lived a respected and honourable life till his natural death. Ahmadies believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has come in the role of Jesus, as the Messiah of the latter days as prophesied by Prophet Muhammad himself. Ahmadies are known in the world by one of their mottos: “Love for All - Hatred for None”.

The community has been the target of attacks not only in Islamic countries, but also in European nations like Germany, and it has been described as a “cult” in a not circumstantial way. Tell us what your comment is on this issue.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Germany is the first Muslim community in Germany that has been officially recognised as a public corporation in Germany, this could not have happened until the German authorities have thoroughly investigated our statute. Since it is the first Muslim Community to see eye to eye with the church and has more than 47 visible purpose-built mosques in Germany, it is natural that there will be some groups who can not bear the success of a Muslim Group and therefore try to defame it. In regard to being a sect, the understanding of this term varies, normally the first thing that comes in mind is that is it is group that isolates its members from society and has strict internal orders and secrets.
The members of the Ahmadiyya Jama’at are known world-wide for its openness, our national and international annual gatherings are visited by many Non-Muslims, our mosques are always open for dialogue and friendly encounters. The level of education amongst the women and men is comparatively higher than the average and in all spheres of life Ahmadies have successfully integrated themselves in whatever society they live. Currently they are present in more than 200 countries in the world.

How's the life of an Ahmadi in Italy, from the point of view of freedom of belief and relationship with society?

Thankfully we enjoy our religious freedom and rights in Italy. Some Ahmadies have migrated from Pakistan to Italy to be able to freely live according to their religion. In Italy we have many converts from other Muslim countries, such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, etc. where they were not allowed or encouraged to seek or investigate freely about Ahmadiyya.

At a personal level, there are some discriminatory acts by Pakistanis in Italy, especially among those refugees who live in camps, who have to hide their identity as Ahmadies as not to be bullied by the other Pakistanis. It has been reported how in some camps others do not use the same plates as used by an Ahmadi and throw out the clothes of Ahmadies, whilst the local authorities consider those matters to be a general “misunderstanding” between refugees.

A Brief on recent Hostile and Vicious Moves against Ahmadis in Pakistan

(Note: This brief follows Ahmadiyya office Flash message dated December 5, 2016 and the Urgent message of December 9.)

An armed raid was carried out on Ahmadiyya central offices in Rabwah on December 5, 2016 by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Punjab, and a few days later anti-Ahmadiyya riot occurred in Dulmial, District Chakwal in the Punjab resulting in loss of lives and major disruption for the Ahmadi residents of the village. The two incidents and the prevailing state-supported anti-Ahmadiyya environment in the country deserve notice of all sections concerned with human rights and freedom of religion in this country. A brief note follows.

Unlawful, entirely unwarranted, surprise raid on Ahmadiyya central offices and the printing press. Following facts are relevant, inter alia:
a. The raid was mounted by the CTD. The FIR charged the accused under the Anti-terrorism Act. The authorities should point out even a single violent incident in the past 30 years, in fact ever, perpetrated by Ahmadis. The raid was malafide.
b. This is the first time ever that such intervention was officially undertaken against Ahmadiyya central offices. It is most unbecoming to a democratic government. The raid was authorized by the provincial capital.
c. Three of the four arrests made were at random. These were Ahmadi men who serve humanity through religion. They were beaten up while in custody. No civilized police beats up ‘priests’ who have neither committed nor preached violence. This unscrupulous conduct of CTD has spread fear among Ahmadis who are the most peaceful and law-abiding group in Pakistan.
d. The FIR of the incident makes no mention of the raid on the central offices and arrests made therefrom – that betrays its fabrication.
e. The initial official order issued by the provincial Home Department (on recommendation of the Ulama Board) mentioned that the material therein is ‘treasonable and seditious’. The Home Secretary should point just one line from the 12 previous issues of the monthly, or the 365 issues of the daily Alfazl, that is even remotely ‘seditious’ or ‘treasonable’.

Attack on Ahmadiyya mosque in Dulmial, District Chakwal, Punjab. Briefly, a large procession led by mullas, came forth in this village on December 12, 2016 on the occasion of birthday of the Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The leaders deviated from the authorized route and led the crowd to the Ahmadiyya mosque. Much earlier the mullas had conveyed to the authorities that the Ahmadiyya mosque should be handed over to them, otherwise they ‘would undertake extreme action’. Ahmadis informed the district and provincial authorities that mullas had decided to indulge in violence on this issue on 12 December so please “take adequate measures to protect the life and properties and worship places of Ahmadiyya community.” The authorities apparently took no firm action on the Ahmadiyya complaint and took inadequate steps to stop the assault.
The processionists were armed; on arrival at the mosque gate they indulged in extensive firing, stone throwing and slogan-raising. A group of Ahmadis had closed up inside the mosque to defend it, if the mob came as foretold. They resisted the entry of the mob. A small contingent of police was present and in contact with the two parties. The siege went on for hours. One Ahmadi defender died of cardiac arrest on account of the stress of the happening. Eventually, the police persuaded Ahmadis to depart from a back door, and guaranteed safety of the mosque and made the promise that the rioters would not be allowed to take its possession. However, soon after the Ahmadis left, the mob stormed inside and the police did little to stop them. Once inside, they damaged the mosque, piled up its furniture, carpets etc and set them on fire. The mosque was badly defiled.
Then came the Rangers, even the Army. The miscreants fled. The mosque was sealed by the authorities.
During the siege, one of the processionists was hit by a shot; he died afterwards. Ahmadis insist that they did not kill him; however they do not know who, of the two other parties present at the scene, had shot him.
The police registered one (not two) FIR against the rioters as also against Ahmadis. They arrested two Ahmadis on charge of murder and numerous rioters under the Anti-terrorism Act.
The situation is very tense in the village, although apparently calm on account of troops’ presence.
A number of Ahmadis, some accompanied by their families, have left the village and gone elsewhere for safety. Such flight is a severe hardship in village life.
Two days later, a senior mulla issued a call for countrywide anti-Ahmadi sermons and processions on next Friday, December 16.
This incident shows that the authorities are reluctant to take firm preventive action to protect places of worship of smaller communities, and they leave it to them to save their lives and properties. This happened to Ahmadis in the past at many locations, for example in Takht Hazara in 2000 and in Gujranwala in 2014, that resulted in death of numerous Ahmadis. It also reminds one of the burning of 7 Christians to death in Gojra, and of loot and arson in Joseph Colony, Lahore, in 2013.
The status of the Dulmial (District Chakwal) mosque was never in dispute except with extremist miscreants who look for an excuse to make a riot. The mosque was initially constructed in 1860; at that time there were neither Ahmadis nor non-Ahmadis. At the end of the nineteenth century, a large number of the locals who were land-owners, influential and literate, joined Ahmadiyyat when its founder made a claim to his Divine mission. So the mosque remained under the management and control of Ahmadis. Now, non-Ahmadis have approximately10 mosques in the village, the land for some of these was donated by Ahmadi land-owners. The Ahmadiyya mosque however has never been in the control of non-Ahmadis for a single day. It has been vastly upgraded by Ahmadis. It was not an issue till after the mischief of General Zia’s anti-Ahmadi Ordinance of 1984. Some mullas approached the court, but as they had no case, they stopped pursuing it in the court. At numerous places, even in Islamabad, some mullas laid claim to Ahmadi places of worship on ludicrous grounds that as prior to Ordinance XX of 1984 these places were masjid (mosque) so after 1984 these do not belong to Ahmadis who are not-Muslim in law. The argument is grotesque.
On the issue of Ahmadiyya mosques, the record of Pakistani mulla and state is dismal, even condemnable. Since Zia’s anti-Ahmadi Ordinance XX to-date 27 Ahmadiyya mosques have been demolished, 33 sealed by authorities, 21 set on fire or damaged and 16 forcibly occupied. Unbelievable – but true.
Broadly, at present mullas, politicians in power and the administration (CTD etc.) have formed a trio to strangle the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab. They have banned Ahmadiyya translations of the Quran, all the written works of the Founder of Ahmadiyyat, all the periodicals of the community, targeted their mosques, raided their central offices with CTD force, not handed back the community’s colleges and schools despite their own policy on denationalization, and last but not least, blocked their participation in national politics through elections, etc.
In the initial few days of this December following happened. A prominent mulla raised the issue of a general’s religious belief in the End of Prophethood; the Prime Minister named the Physics Centre in the QA University after Dr Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi; the same day the CTD mounted first-ever raid on Ahmadiyya headquarters; and a week later a mob attacked on the largest Ahmadiyya mosque in District Chakwal, Punjab. Is there a ‘plan’ behind all this – people wonder.
Plan or no plan, these incidents arguably convey the message that the mulla is a power and has a big role in the affairs of the state, and powers-that-be accept and endorse his role, even if it goes against the grain of the National Action Plan, and even if it affects the national campaign against the elements of terror.
The rulers in Pakistan need to be advised in their personal and national interest to reconsider their policy concerning the Ahmadiyya Jamaat. Present attitude at the top, graver than laissez faire, and resultant actions in this context have no merit. The mulla has already done great harm to Pakistani state and society; he should be effectively restrained, otherwise putting an end to terrorism in the country will remain a pipe dream. Zia’s Pakistan should be about-turned to its founding father, the Quaid-i-Azam.

For action: The police case registered after the CTD raid should be dropped and the Chakwal mosque should be handed back to Ahmadis, and peace and harmony should be restored to the village. The police know how to do that, if only directed by their political bosses.

December 21, 2016