A Critique of Two Anti-Ahmadiyya Programs
Dr. Mirza Sultan Ahmed
Why do you not see the beam in thine own eye?
The media recently reported that during a recent cabinet meeting, the Pakistani government decided that Pakistan should establish a national commission for minorities. The media further reported that the cabinet decided to include Ahmadis in this commission. This report about including Ahmadis in the commission is intriguing because Ahmadis never demanded inclusion in such a commission. Indeed, in this regard, the position of the Ahmadiyya Community is clear and has been oft-repeated.
This was a unilateral decision made by relevant authorities and some members of the cabinet. But as soon as the news about the commission became public, an unfathomable hue and cry ensued all across the country. Initially, the Minister for Religious Affairs, Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri stated that while this issue was certainly discussed, no decision had yet been taken. Qadianis, he further proclaimed, were non-Muslims according to the Constitution of Pakistan. After him, others chimed in. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Pervez Elahi, speaker of Punjab Assembly, and Tariq Bashir Cheema, a federal minister, stated that a Pandora’s box had been opened unnecessarily. Another federal minister, Ali Muhammad Khan, issued a different statement. He claimed that Imran Khan had actually opposed this proposal and had argued that Qadianis were ineligible to become a member of any governmental commission until they accepted that they were non-Muslims.
Subsequently, different media outlets started airing incendiary programs about this issue. As usual, there was no effort to educate the listeners or to discuss any concrete legal or theological issues involving this issue. Instead, representatives of different political parties were invited and baited to fight like prized gamecocks being provoked to fight in a cockpit in Punjabi village of yore.
In this article, we will only critique two such programs titled ‘Nadeem Malik Live’ which aired on a Pakistani television network called Samaa TV on May 5 and May 6, 2020. Nadeem Malik hosted these two programs. Sadaqat Abbasi, a representative of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (“PTI”), Ali Muhammad Khan, a PTI federal minister, Palwasha Khan, a member of Pakistan People’s Party (“PPP”), and Talal Chaudhry, a representative of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (“PML-N”) appeared as guests.
Before proceeding further, we wish to clarify that the purpose of this article is not to get entangled in pointless political banter or to launch a political attack against someone. We simply want to highlight that this reckless campaign against the Ahmadiyya Community is causing grave and irreparable harm to Pakistan.
What was the Background of the Decision?
In 2014, a church was bombed in Peshawar. Remarkably, the Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo moto notice of this bombing and commenced proceedings to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Supreme Court acted because places of worship in Pakistan were increasingly being attacked due to heightened sectarian strife. This is a trend that continues unabated today. The Supreme Court rendered its decision in June 2014 and called on the government of Pakistan to establish a council for Pakistan’s religious minorities. The council was tasked with sending its recommendations for the protection of minority rights under the constitution to the federal and provincial governments. The Supreme Court also ordered the creation of a special force for the protection of minority places of worship. In addition, the court ordered the government to incorporate new materials concerning religious and cultural diversity into the school curriculum to foster and promote an environment of religious tolerance in the country. Details of atrocities against Baluchistan’s Hazara Shia community were submitted to the court. The court remarked that the guarantee of religious freedom contained in the constitution is important but this guarantee alone did not suffice. It was the duty of the government to ensure that this guarantee is practically implemented as well.
The decision of the Supreme Court was ignored for many years by successive governments but once again the issue of the establishment of this council has been raised in Pakistan’s cabinet. It is ironic that the raison d’être of the 2014 Supreme Court decision was to promote religious tolerance in Pakistan but its belated and botched implementation is further fuelling the fires of hatred against Ahmadis in Pakistan. This article, as mentioned already, will comment only on the two Samaa TV programs.
The Comments of the Programs’ Host
In the beginning of the program on May 5, the host Nadeem Malik disingenuously recounted the story of the formation of the council and the imaginary inclusion of unsuspecting Ahmadis in this council, as if it were some great national tragedy. Before posing any questions to his guests, he generously offered his “expert” opinion on the constitutional aspects of this controversy.
The gist of Nadeem Malik sahib’s remarks was that a 1974 constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims but they bizarrely refuse to accept this designation and insist on calling themselves Muslims. This can only mean that they do not believe in the constitution of Pakistan. Similarly, an anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance was promulgated during the reign of General Zia-ul-Haq. Ahmadis do not accept this ordinance either. Ahmadis can be included in the proposed commission on minorities only if they first admit that they are non-Muslims and then the government formally declares that they are a minority. Ahmadis must not be allowed to become a member of this commission by deceit or treachery. Nadeem Malik sahib threw down the gauntlet during his program and demanded that those who allegedly do these things in secret should step out from the shadows and face him.
Who is a Traitor to the Constitution?
It is absurd to insinuate that Ahmadis are attempting to become a member of this commission through deceit or otherwise. Ahmadis never asked to be included in this commission. The fact is that no one can be accused of disobeying the constitution for merely being critical of a constitutional provision or for trying to use constitutional means to repeal such a provision. It definitely cannot be implied that they are a traitor to the constitution. Indeed, just recently, several government ministers criticized the 18th amendment to Pakistan’s constitution and called for it to be repealed. Does this mean that they too do not obey the constitution and are traitors to it? Over the years, Pakistan’s constitution has been amended more than twenty times by different governments. Needless to say, the governments making such amendments did not agree with certain existing constitutional provisions and decided to amend them. Were all such governments revolting against the constitution?
It is exasperating to hear the loud and indignant chorus of “Ahmadis are traitors to the constitution”. Like a seasoned Qawwali singer who keeps on repeating the same couplet ad nauseum to ensure that it becomes firmly etched into the listener’s mind, Ahmadis are being mind-numbingly accused of being traitors to the constitution. During this ever-growing public clamour, no one has the good sense to pause and actually look at the constitution and see how the constitution defines a traitor?
According to Article 6 of the Constitution:
“Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.”
“Any person aiding or abetting [or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.”
It should therefore be obvious that simply disagreeing with a provision of the constitution is neither a crime, nor an act of treason.
Is the Freedom of Conscience and Belief subject to Legal Restraints?
These days one keeps on hearing the frivolous accusation that the constitution of Pakistan declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslim and yet the Ahmadis brazenly continue to consider themselves Muslim. This is a travesty of justice. It would have made more sense if our opponents had at least looked at the relevant constitutional provisions before feigning extreme distress and faux concern. But before we parse the constitutional provision which declared Ahmadis non-Muslims, it might be useful to first summarize the principled view of the Ahmadiyya Community concerning this issue:
First, let it be clear that the Ahmadiyya Community has always been of the view that it is not the remit of any government, parliament or constitution to decide an individual’s religion. The constitution of Pakistan itself prohibits this. The constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadis non-Muslim is in stark contradiction to Part 2 of the same constitution which enumerates the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, including the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate one’s religion. The 1973 constitution, as ratified, guarantees the freedom to profess, practice and propagate one’s own religion. It is clearly stated in the beginning of Part 2 that any laws that are inconsistent with or in derogation of fundamental rights are void.
Therefore, stripping Ahmadis of their fundamental religious rights through the passage of a subsequent constitutional amendment in 1974 was itself unconstitutional and an affront to the 1973 constitution. In a landmark decision dated August 5, 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan famously held that the parliament does not possess unfettered authority to amend the constitution. For example, the parliament cannot pass a law to abolish any of the inalienable rights enshrined in the constitution.
What Does the Constitution Say?
Article 260 of the constitution deigns to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims. It provides:
“In the Constitution and all enactments and other legal instruments, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context
“(a) “Muslim” means a person who believes in the unity and oneness of Almighty Allah, in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last of the prophets, and does not believe in, or recognize as a prophet or religious reformer, any person who claimed or claims to be a prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad (peace be upon him).”
Article 260 goes on to define a “non-Muslim” as a person who is not a Muslim and lists Ahmadis as one of the non-Muslim minorities. This article only provides that an Ahmadi should be listed as a non-Muslim in “the Constitution and all enactments and other legal instruments, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context”. Nowhere does it state that Ahmadis must consider themselves non-Muslim. No reasonable person would dare to enact legislation that polices what people think and believe.
An Important Clarification by the Attorney General
I am afraid that many esteemed journalists are pontificating about this issue without actually having reviewed the relevant sections of the constitution or the proceedings of the National Assembly’s special committee that approved the constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. During the proceedings of the National Assembly, the then Attorney General of Pakistan, Yahya Bakhtiar, assured the Head of the Ahmadiyya Community that even if the constitution was successfully amended, “nobody is going to violate your right to profess any religion, to practice any religion, to feel what you like, to have any faith you want…..you will be allowed to say your prayers, you will be allowed to call whatever name you want, by the name Ahmadi or whatever you like.” See the Proceedings of the Special Committee, p. 129-130 (1974).
The text of Article 260 is very clear. It is unambiguous. Assuming arguendo there was some ambiguity in the original language, these words of the Attorney General (who was one of the main architects of the second constitutional amendment) would be sufficient to decipher the intent of the legislature with respect to Ahmadis. It is a well-known canon of statutory interpretation that when statutory language is not clear, legislative intent of the legislature should be considered.
Does the Constitution Permit Employment Discrimination Based on Religious Beliefs?
The constitution is being invoked ostensibly to support the demand that Ahmadis should not be appointed to any key positions or be included on any governmental councils or commissions. It might be useful if our friends read the actual constitution themselves.
Article 27 of the constitution provides:
“No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth.”
This article makes it very clear that all those who are constantly protesting the inclusion of Ahmadis in a commission or council are themselves guilty of disobeying the constitution because according to the constitution, no one can be denied a position based solely on the grounds of religion.
The declarations of Nadeem Malik are nothing short of mystifying. He requires that Ahmadis should publicly announce that they are non-Muslims. He then wants the government to issue a notification that Ahmadis are in fact non-Muslim. What would be achieved after jumping through all these hoops? Ahmadis will finally become eligible to become a member of the commission on minority rights. Never mind that this commission is for show only and is widely perceived as being powerless. Nadeem Malik should know that the constitution lists the names of all religious minorities. The constitution does not require that the listed minority groups should take out advertisements in newspapers confessing that they are a religious minority. And this should be followed by a governmental announcement that it graciously accepts them to be a minority.
What was the Actual Plan?
If Nadeem Malik had paid any attention to what is said in his own program, he would have gotten the answer to the questions he raised in the beginning of his program: who is the hidden-hand who is secretly doing these things? and why?
During the May 6 program, one of his guests on the show, Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, the Minister of Religious Affairs, stated:
“We did not include Qadianis in the first summary after a lot of deliberation and consideration. We discussed that if Qadianis are allowed to become a member of this commission when the constitution declares them to be non-Muslim, it would signify that Ahmadis have accepted their non-Muslim status.” Incidentally, at this point, the honourable minister also accused the host of misleading people through his show.
The cat is finally out of the bag. The initial proposal had been to exclude Ahmadis from this commission altogether. Put differently, the cabinet was determined to deprive Ahmadis of their fundamental rights. However, when this proposal was presented to the cabinet, it evolved into another, more sinister, proposal: Ahmadis should be offered membership in this commission. If Ahmadis accept this membership, the government will immediately declare that the Ahmadis have finally accepted their status as a non-Muslim. If, for some reason, Ahmadis do not accept membership in this minority commission, it would still be a win-win situation for the government. When questioned about the mistreatment of Ahmadis in Pakistan, the government would now finally be able to tell the world that it offered Ahmadis to become a member of this minority commission to help restore their fundamental human rights. They themselves refused to become a member of this commission and lost this opportunity.
مَکَرُوا وَ مَکَرَاللہ وَاللہُ خَیرُالمَاکِرِین
“And they planned, and Allah also planned; and Allah is the Best of planners.”
(Holy Quran, 3:55)
Before the government could implement this ill-conceived plan, one of the parties in its ruling coalition began leveraging this issue against the PTI. They prematurely declared that the government was unnecessarily opening a Pandora’s box. As a result, the government was forced to announce that a final decision had not yet been taken on this issue. Consequently, they all started fighting with each other.
Who is an Infidel?
Anyways, after Nadeem Malik’s opening diatribe, a spirited discussion ensued. The discussion revolved around levelling allegations against the Ahmadiyya Community and their persistent refusal to accept their non-Muslim status despite the host and the guests considering them complete infidels and despite having been declared as such by the constitution.
A few minutes into the discussion, Palwasha Khan accused the current government of being complicit in promoting the nefarious agenda of the Jews and Christians. It is well known that opponents of Ahmadiyyat have always accused us of (God forbid) conspiring against Islam and the Muslim world at the behest of Jews and Western powers. But in an ironic twist, a major political party, on a live nationally televised program, was accusing the government of Pakistan of conspiring with Jews and Christians to further their anti-Muslim agenda. Those who had been hurling such allegations at Ahmadis for years were now turning on each other and accusing each other.
This opened the flood gates and these stalwarts of Pakistan’s leading political parties started making despicable and heinous attacks on each other’s faith and religion. The representative of PTI accused the representative of PPP of having a hypocritical and self-serving Muslim faith that manifested itself in a primitive, native way internally and as a more liberal avatar before an external audience. The lady representing PPP, whilst rebutting this accusation, counter attacked by alleging that Imran Khan is PTI’s god. The PTI representative responded sarcastically and shot back by saying that “God have mercy on us, PPP is going to start teaching us about Islam now”. This enraged Palwasha Khan who addressed PTI’s Abbasi and loudly declared that he “was definitely a Jew”!
Abbasi was taken aback and wanted to confirm that she had called them Jews? Palwasha Khan did not back down and said that she had indeed called them Jews! Abbasi had participated in this programme to get the opportunity to issue fatwas against Ahmadis for being infidels. He was therefore understandably upset when one of the guests turned on him and accused him of being a Jew instead. Until this happened, the participants had believed that they somehow had the right to judge the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Community. But now that their own faith was coming under attack, Abbasi was forced to protest:
“Who is she to issue a fatwa against us?”
Nadeem Malik, the program’s host, had thus far been acting as though he had the full right to decide all questions related to the faith of Ahmadis. But when he saw that his own guests were now starting to declare each other non-Muslim, he was forced to intervene: “You cannot challenge anyone’s faith.”
Very well, Nadeem Malik. But who then gave you the right to challenge the faith of Ahmadis?
History Repeats Itself
We have seen many times in the past that whenever the opponents of the Jama’at gather in order to declare the Ahmadiyya Community infidels, they inevitably end up declaring each other non-Muslim. For example, violence erupted against the Ahmadiyya Community in 1953. The rioters were demanding that Ahmadis should be declared non-Muslim. The Government established a commission to investigate these disturbances. They summoned various Islamic scholars who were opposed to the Ahmadiyya Community as witnesses. But instead of focusing on the Ahmadis, they started declaring each other non-Muslims. Some examples are listed below:
- On 3rd September, 1953, the President of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan, Allama Abul Hasnaat Sayyed Mohammad Ahmad Qaadri, appeared before the commission as the 13th witness. He declared that the Ahl-e-Hadith were Kafir-i- Qatai or Definite Infidels. He further testified that there is a fatwa that declares that the Deobandis are also Kafir-i- Qatai or Definite Infidels. He also mentioned a third fatwa that declares that the Shia are Fiqhi Kafir or jurisprudential infidels.
- Moulana Abdul Hamid Qadri Badayuni testified that I personally do not consider every Deobandi an infidel, but some other scholars have declared a number of them to be infidels.
- On 21st October, 1953, Mawlana Muhammad ‘Ali al-Siddiqi al-Kandhalawi appeared in the court as the 76th witness. He testified under oath that he considered the Mu’tazila and the Ahl-e-Quran to be infidels.
- Maulvi Muhammad Shafi Deobandi was the 17th witness to appear before the inquiry commission. The respected judges asked if he was aware that Ahmed Raza Khan Berelvi and Syed Muhammad Ahmad Qadri had declared that the Deobandi were infidels. Initially, he claimed that this fatwa is incorrect and has been falsely issued. But later, in an answer to a question by the judge, he admitted that according to a Hadith, if a person falsely accuses another Muslim to be an infidel, the person making the accusation himself becomes an infidel.
- Similarly, Maulana Tufail Muhammad of Jamaat-e-Islami was summoned by the court on the 14th October, 1953. When he was questioned on his stance concerning the Ahl-e-Quran, he first expressed his ignorance about their beliefs. The Judge asked him what if they did not believe in the Sunnah and the Hadith? He responded that in that case, I would consider them to be infidels.
(See for more details http://archive.lums.edu.pk )
The situation is crystal clear. Whenever fatwas of kufr or infidelity are heaped upon the Ahmadiyya Community, the end result has always been that the opponents of the Jama’at start hurling fatwas of disbelief at each other. This destroys peace and inter religious harmony in Pakistan. This cycle has repeated itself many times in Pakistan. Our literature contains detailed accounts of this process of takfir. We are omitting the details here for the sake of brevity.
Even the Lives of Ministers are not Safe
When asked why the extremists have been given a free hand in Pakistan to act with impunity, the government inevitably denies this and always claims that Pakistan is very tolerant, minorities are safe, and their rights are being fully protected. However, during this program, Ali Mohammad Khan, a federal minister, made a very alarming statement. The host of the program, Nadeem Malik, asked him to publicly name all cabinet ministers who proposed that Ahmadis should be included in the proposed commission for minorities. Ali Mohammad Khan’s response was chilling: “This is a very sensitive matter. if I say the name of someone on national network, their lives might be in danger. I consider Qadianis a fitna. They are a grave fitna against Islam. We are the guardians of the honor of the Holy Prophet.”
Nadeem Malik, the host, scolded him like a primary school teacher and demanded that Ali Mohammad Khan list the names of the three ministers on air. The minister once again told him that it would endanger the lives of the ministers involved.
Please note that this is the testimony of a sitting federal minister. What is the crime of those who recommended that Ahmadis be included in a governmental commission? They merely said that Ahmadis should be represented in this new commission. And as we observed earlier, our constitution does not permit anyone to prevent the appointment of an otherwise competent person to any post based on their religious beliefs. It would be unconstitutional. But as the federal minister admitted, airing the names of his minister colleagues could put their lives at risk. When the government is unable to protect its own ministers, and feels so helpless and impotent when confronted with extremists, how then can they be expected to protect the rights of others? If a minister’s life is endangered simply because they recommended within the safe confines of a cabinet meeting that Ahmadis should be included in the commission being established to protect the rights of minorities, imagine what this means for the lives of Ahmadis in Pakistan.
How Blasphemy Charges are Made?
The representative of PML-N, Talal Chaudhary, recounted an incident when his party was in power and they were in the process of making amendments to electoral rules. The extremists mistakenly thought that one part of this amendment could benefit the Ahmadis. The PML-N government succumbed to the intimidation of the extremists and immediately withdrew those amendments. The government also enacted new electoral rules that had the blessings of the extremists.
Despite this, the extremists blocked the main artery between Islamabad and Rawalpindi in protest and made the lives of the residents of both cities a living hell. He further lamented that PML-N was disgraced, humiliated and shot at by the protestors. Their houses were attacked. In every constituency, mosques were turned into election offices and PML-N officials and workers were accused of blasphemy. Talal Chaudhary claimed that in every constituency, tens of thousands of votes were obtained by those who accused PML-N of blasphemy. He rhetorically asked where those warriors of khatm-e-nabuwat were hiding now? He alleged that those protestors had been supported by the PTI and nothing is being done now because there are no looming elections. There is no need for votes. People don’t need to be fooled.
This statement of Talal Chaudhary is available on YouTube, and everyone can listen to it for their satisfaction. His statement makes it abundantly clear that the sacred belief of khatm-e-nabuwat is consistently being exploited to obtain political advantages. This does not concern only Ahmadis. It is shameful that instead of using the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to unite and foster brotherhood among his followers, divisions are being created among Muslims in the name of khatm-e-nabuwat. Political rivals are routinely, and unjustly, being accused of the grievous crime of blasphemy. Blood is being shed. According to Talal Chaudhry, all this is being done with the sole aim of getting enough votes to win elections, and fooling the public.
What is Happening Here?
The Ahmadiyya Community did not have a representative in any of these shows. All these distinguished guests had gathered to show their eager support for the many fatwas declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. But what happened instead? The opponents of Ahmadiyyat began unravelling. They started levelling accusations of lies, deceit and wickedness against each other. They accused each other of being non-Muslims and of being stooges of foreign powers. They accused each other of being Jewish. They admitted that merely expressing one’s opinions puts lives in danger. It makes no difference if you are a federal minister. They admitted that khatm-e-nabuwat was merely a tool used to advance one’s political ambitions. They also conceded that political rivals were wrongfully accused of blasphemy to break their vote banks. Once political opponents are falsely accused of blasphemy, assassination attempts follow.
There is no doubt that the Ahmadiyya Community is being protected by Allah Almighty Himself. If this was a human endeavour, there was no need for such vigorous attempts, as the hand of the Lord is enough to annihilate false claimants of prophet hood. But just look at what their animosity towards the Jama’at has cost Pakistan? Is this the Pakistan Jinnah envisioned? There is no need to engage in extensive debates. Just one look at these two programs should be enough. Are these the moral teachings of Islam?
These programs are available on YouTube, and you can watch them anytime. But a word of caution in the end. Please be advised that these programs are not suitable for young children. The language used in these programs can negatively impact them.
This article was originally published in Urdu at https://www.alfazl.com/2020/05/10/17855/
The Press & Media Office takes responsibility for any errors in translation.