More And More Young Pakistanis See Fellow Citizens As Wajib-ul-Qatl | Opinion
A belief that has no disagreement in any religion is; “God (Allah) is the one who gives life or sends death.” How in practice this belief is ignored can be traced from a number of incidents that occurred in the country very recently.
Two teenagers hailing from Layyah district of Punjab attacked their own headmaster, an Ahmadi by faith, chanting devotional slogansIn their belief, they considered an Ahmadi deserving to be killed – Wajib-ul-Qatl. Surah Al-Anum (6:151) in the Holy Quran says, “Do not take a ˹human˺ life—made sacred by Allah—except with ˹legal˺ right.” Make note that this Surah simply talks of a “human life” and makes no mention of a Muslim or non-Muslim. Those who believe in declaring believers of other sects or faiths worthy for murder (Wajib-ul-Qatl) may have to make a minor exception in their minds that Ahmadis or other non-Muslims don’t fall into the category of “human life” that is referred to in this Surah. As any omission or addition in the Holy Quran is forbidden, how would such act of addition be regarded in terms of our religious faith? That is a question worthy for religious scholars deal with.
Declaring an Ahmadi “Wajib-ul-Qatl” by two teenagers is not a first-of-its-kind incident in Pakistan. An under-trial prisoner, Tahir Ahmad Nasim, accused of blasphemy and an Ahmadi by faith, was gunned down inside a Peshawar court by a 24-year-old young man (later declared to be under 18 years old). On August 28, 2020, a security guard Jamaat Ali had killed his colleague, Muhammed Azam, in Lahore on blasphemy charges – even though Muhammed Azam was a Hafiz-e-Quran. This incident was reported by online news media but found no coverage in the print media.
A month later, a bank manager was shot dead by its own security guard, allegedly over blasphemy allegations, in Punjab’s Khushab district on 5 November 2020. His crime was that he belonged to the Ahl-e-Hadith school of thought and considered Sunnah cycles of prayer as non-binding. In these three cases of extrajudicial killings on religious grounds, two were undisputed Muslims and one was Ahmadi (i.e. officially declared non-Muslim in the country). Even if the teaching of Surah Al-Anum is considered to be inapplicable to a non-Muslim – though no such classification is available in the Surah – the other two individuals, by all means, fall within the classification of the Surah since they are not only human beings but also followers of the same faith as that of their killers. Did they commit a sin against humanity and the religion that they follow?
Although it is for the Almighty to decide whether or not an act is a sin, the overwhelming greetings and showering of praises onto these killers by members of the public and some religious leaders reflected a growing trend in the country that sanctifies and justifies these crimes without caring for the religious or legal aspect of it. Other than these illegitimate expressions of support, a conspicuous black-out of some of these incidents by the mainstream print media leaves these crimes unrecognized by the society.
This self-censoring policy might have been driven by a desire to restrain widespread coverage of reports that may trigger an international media trial or paint an excessively bleak picture of the country. But the fact remains that there is no end in sight to these crimes. They are rather multiplying and going from bad to worse.
Four gruesome incidents of religiously motivated crime occurred in a week – causing no jolt to this country. A large majority of people remained oblivious of them because of a silence observed by the print media.
To add to these, two incidents took place on 28 January 2021; a Christian nurse Tabita Gill was beaten by her colleagues at Sobhraj Maternity Hospital in Karachi on blasphemy charges and a British Pakistani, Humayun Pasha, was arrested in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, on similar charges. There are reports on social media that the latter was severely beaten by other jail inmates. This incident was covered by social media only.
Two days later, on the 30th of January, a young man in Faisalabad killed his father with a brick for not getting up to offer prayers in the morning. On the 1st of February, two teenagers attacked an Ahmadi headmaster declaring him “Wajib-ul-Qatl”. Two of these incidents were reported on a single online newspaper, one was covered by a Christian community website, and another one was covered by social media.
While print media remained silent about these incidents, the role of our religious and political leaders was no different either. No comment or condemnation against this growing trend of extrajudicial killing of people on religious grounds was expressed by the political or religious leadership – a conspicuous silence that denies all those claims that define us as the followers of a religion that teaches peace. A recent press report made a startling revelation that the number of blasphemy-related incidents during the last year was the highest in the history of Pakistan. Of the 200 reported cases, 75% of victims were Muslims, with the Shia sect of Islam accounting for 70% of them. Ahmadis were 20%, Sunnis 5%, Christians 3.5% and 1.5% were Hindus.
Pakistan is a country that is claimed to have been created in the name of religion. Despite being overwhelmingly Muslim-majority, Pakistan is now a country where crimes against religion (blasphemy) appear to have the highest incidence in the whole world – with a majority of the “perpetrators” being Muslim!
The question is: “Are all those accusations true?”
On 16 January 2021, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Bahawalpur announced the death sentence for a young student, Khateeb Hussain, who had killed professor Khalid Hameed of Government Sadiq Egerton College on blasphemy charges in 2019. The Christian nurse, Tabita, was also found to have committed no blasphemy once the police intervened and found the allegations to be false. The most famous case of blasphemy against Aasia Bibi was also declared by the court as false – but a large section of the religious lobby remained divided on this verdict and they still hold Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of former Governor Salman Taseer, in great esteem – for he, in their opinion, killed a blasphemer.
Partiality and emotionalism are the tendencies that reign high in cases of blasphemy accusation in the country. Even a whimsical sign of disrespect to Islam becomes a very serious issue for the Muslim community but a similar or rather a more outrageous act of disrespect to other religions fails to draw any attention. The British Pakistani in Mirpur was quickly arrested on charges of blasphemy for tearing some posters carrying religious content, but an attack that wrecked and burned down a Hindu Temple in Karak by 1,500 Muslims was never considered an act of blasphemy. This, even though the blasphemy legislation PPC 295 clearly says that damaging or defiling any place of worship is an act of blasphemy.
Whether we remain indifferent to these crimes or apply censorship to such reports, the rise in religious extremism is an issue that has to be dealt with in all sincerity. Intolerant tendencies are no longer a hallmark of outlaws only: in fact, innocent people and more importantly teenagers are indulging in these crimes with a sense of justification that they derive from a mindset that has been created in the country for years.
So perhaps the real question to ask is: “What is it that we are teaching to our students that they, instead of protecting their teachers, are declaring them “Wajib-ul-Qatl?”
The author is a freelance journalist and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Research and Security Studies