Jinnah, The Ahmadi Issue, And Imran Khan
Imran Khan’s statement on minorities made at the USIP is very encouraging. If Imran Khan can implement Jinnah’s 11 August speech and give equal rights to Pakistanis of every faith, he will win over naysayers like me as well. He said though that there was one thing even he could not talk about. The Prime Minister was most probably talking about Ahmadis and their continuing travails in Pakistan.
The hatred against Ahmadis runs deep in the Pakistani psyche. Former Pakistani High Commissioner to India Mr Abdul Basit took to TV recently saying that Ahmadis should not even be called Ahmadis. I had shared a stage with this doyen of Pakistan’s Foreign Service a few months ago in Karachi at Jinnah Anthology. During my speech, I said it clearly and unequivocally that the 2nd Amendment to the Pakistani constitution cannot coexist with Jinnah’s inclusive vision of Pakistan. Jinnah had after all said in no uncertain terms on 23 May 1944 that if Ahmadis of the Qadiani Jamaat profess to be Muslims, they are Muslims to him.
After all religion is a matter between man and god. A state cannot decide who is a Muslim and who is not for the simple reason: State is NOT God. At the time, Mr Abdul Basit could not muster the courage to argue with me. So upon listening to his claim that Ahmadis had no right to call themselves Ahmadis even, let alone Muslims, I wrote to him telling him how ashamed I was that I even shared a stage with him.
The former High Commissioner wrote back saying that the Quaid believed in law and constitution and that Pakistani Constitution says what it says. A rather odd claim from a person who held such a high post. No sir, Mr Jinnah is not your Quaid. Quaid of people like Mr Abdul Basit is someone like Ataullah Shah Bokhari but more on that in a minute.
First of all obedience to the Constitution does not mean one has to agree with every aspect of the Constitution. The Constitution has declared Ahmadis Non-Muslim for the purposes of law and constitution but the Constitution cannot tell Ahmadis to think of themselves as Non-Muslims. That would be a violation of the constitutional fundamental right under Article 20. To say that we will give Ahmadis rights when they declare themselves Non-Muslim is therefore nothing but hogwash.
Finally perhaps the former High Commissioner hasn’t read the Constitution because it is the Constitution that calls that community Ahmadis. So how then can he demand that Ahmadis stop calling themselves even Ahmadis?
The rot has set in deep indeed when you have people like Mr Abdul Basit saying the stuff that they are. It also shows how little these people take the time out to think. Victims of narrow-minded religious bigotry, these people have made Pakistan the laughing stock for the world. The whole world looks at us in horror as we jail an old man in his 80s for the crime of selling books – books of his religious sect – in his store in the Ahmadi majority town of Rabwah. When that man finally gets to speak up, we cry and whine that it is a conspiracy against Pakistan. No sir, people like Abdul Basit are a conspiracy against Pakistan.
Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam used to call Pakistan Kafiristan and Jinnah Kafir-e-Azam. They called Jinnah this because Jinnah refused to turn Ahmadis out of the Muslim League. That was their main objection to Jinnah. In 1936 and then throughout the 1940s they tried to get Muslim League to agree with them. While some in the Punjab Muslim League were willing to play ball, Jinnah refused to give in to blackmail by the Ahrars. Ahrars then joined hands with the Congress and started their campaign against Jinnah. After the creation of Pakistan, Ahrar were kept under close watch by the Pakistani intelligence for their nefarious and hateful activities. By 1970s though they had gotten so strong along with Jamaat-e- Islami and Jamiat-e-Ulema as to strong arm Zulfikar Ali Bhutto into getting the issue decided by the Pakistani parliament.
General Zia took the persecution to the next level. In 1984 by ordinance he made it unlawful for Ahmadis to even consider themselves Muslim. This is as clear a violation of Article 20 of the Pakistani Constitution as any. In a judgment that is quoted world over for what not to do, the Pakistani Supreme Court upheld the ordinance as constitutional. It was not Pakistan’s finest hour. This is what Imran Khan means when he says, he cannot talk about it. No Pakistani with even a modicum of justice and fairness can talk about what is essentially the horrible blot on our name.
People like Mr Abdul Basit and others like him will continue to wreak havoc on Pakistan and Pakistan will continue to be the laughing stock of the world. Apparently this is good enough for most Pakistanis. Ahmadis are effectively disenfranchised. When PML-N government tried to rectify that, PTI supported Khadim Rizvi and his band of horrors against the government. It was made a national issue by these people. Even the law minister had to resign and we know what happened to PML-N government. So Imran Khan will not speak about it because Imran Khan knows what it means to speak about it. After all, reasonable or decent he might be, but he also lacks the courage to do the right thing.
The writer is a lawyer and commentator. He is also the author of the book ‘Jinnah: Myth and Reality’.