August Issue 2013
Licence to Discriminate
Nearly 39 years ago, on September 7, 1974, the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by a special committee of the National Assembly in an in-camera session that began on August 5, 1974. The proceedings of that session were declassified by the former speaker of the National Assembly, Fehmida Mirza on the orders of the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Mr Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, in January 2012 in response to a petition filed by a Toronto-based barrister, Bashir A. Khan, who needed a copy of the proceedings for his academic research.
Interestingly, between 2008 to 2012, barrister Khan wrote 2,000 letters to members of the National Assembly, the Senate and the Punjab Assembly asking for the same, but to no avail. Dr Mirza supplied Barrister Khan the first copy of the above debate comprising 3,083 pages. A part of the proceedings have been published in book form by the Ahmadiyya community. Titled: Doosri Aainee Tarmeem, 1974: Khasoosi Committee May Kia Guzri [Second Constitutional Amendment — What Happened During the Special Committee’s Proceedings], it consists of 525 pages.
In the wake of a resolution that was presented by Shah Ahmad Noorani in the National Assembly which sought to have Ahmadis declared as non-Muslims, a committee was constituted by then prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The committee, headed by Attorney General Yahya Bakhtiar, was tasked to determine whether a person who does not consider Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) as the final prophet is a Muslim or not.
It comprised all members of the National Assembly that was being chaired by the then Speaker, Sahibzada Farooq. Among them were Mufti Mehmood (Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam); Sherbaz Mazari; Shah Ahmad Noorani (Jamiat Ulemai Pakistan); Ghulam Faruq; Sardar Shaukat Hayat; Abdul Hameed Jatoi and Maulvi Ghulam Ghaus Hazarvi. The opposition welcomed the resolution without even hearing the viewpoint of the Ahmadis! “It was clear that the decision to declare the Ahmadis as non-Muslims had been taken and the special committee’s proceedings were just an eyewash,” claims the book.
The Ahmadis insisted that they considered Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) as the final prophet and, therefore, were Muslims. They also stated that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was an Ummati prophet i.e. he did not bring in a new shariat but that he was there to further propagate the shariat of the final prophet — Mohammed (PBUH).
The explanation did not satisfy the committee members. Their interpretation was that there is no possibility of another prophet after Muhammed (PBUH) and that Mirza was a kazaab (liar). Subsequently the entire committee, including the Shias, unanimously declared the Ahmadis as non-Muslims.
The Ahmadis were not provided with a copy of the statements that they had recorded, which was grossly unfair. Every witness, according to the law, is supposed to be provided with a copy of their statement. To add insult to injury, Yahya Bakhtiar, who did not even have an adequate knowledge of religious affairs, absurdly stated: “The Ahmadis’ rights will be protected if they are declared non-Muslims!”
“In that case, we don’t want our rights to be protected!” retorted the Ahmadi delegation.
The Ahmadis had voted for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the 1971 elections. They thought if the PPP, which was a new and secular party, was not supported, right-wing parties like the Jamat-i-Islami, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, who were strongly opposed to the Ahmadis, were likely to come to power.
It is generally believed that after hosting the Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore on February 22, 1974 successfully, Z.A. Bhutto entertained ambitions of becoming the leader of the Muslim world. He wanted the support of Saudia Arabia in this regard, and his inner coterie advised him to give Shah Faisal, who reportedly wanted Ahmadis to be declared non-Muslims, the title of ‘Quaid Millat Islamia.’
However, Bhutto threw secularism to the winds when he inserted a clause related to the finality of prophethood in the oath of the prime minister and president — a modification that is wrongly attributed to the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. The President’s oath under the 1956 Constitution was as follows:
“I … do solemnly swear that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of president of Pakistan according to the law, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan, that I will preserve, protect and defend the constitution, and that I will do right to all manner of people according to the law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”
The oath under the 1973 Constitution for both the prime minister and president is as follows:
“I … do solemnly swear that I am a Muslim and believe in the unity and oneness of Almighty Allah, the books of Allah, the Holy Quran being the last of them, the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) as the last of the prophets and that there can be no prophet after him, the day of judgment, and all the requirement and teachings of the Holy Quran… That I will strive to preserve the Islamic ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan.”
It is generally believed that after hosting the Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore on February 22, 1974 successfully, Z.A. Bhutto entertained ambitions of becoming the leader of the Muslim world. He wanted the support of Saudia Arabia in this regard, and his inner coterie advised him to give Shah Faisal, who reportedly wanted Ahmadis to be declared non-Muslims, the title of ‘Quaid Millat Islamia.’ Additionally Bhutto wanted the 1973 Constitution to be passed unanimously by all members of parliament and he believed that declaring the Ahmadis non-Muslims was a good way of appeasing the clergy and ensuring that there were no road blocks.
But Bhutto did not stop at that. Besides declaring the Ahmadis non-Muslims, he banned alcohol and horce racing, and declared Friday a weekly holiday. However, these politically expedient steps failed to protect him and he was ousted by his army chief General Zia, who later sent him to the gallows.
Incidentally, even though Bhutto had declared the Ahmadis as non-Muslims, they had the freedom to practice their religion. It was General Zia who whipped up the anti-Ahmadi sentiment by signing Ordinance XX, which took away that freedom by bringing the following changes in the Pakistan Penal Code: 298-B. Misuse of epithets, descriptions and titles, etc., reserved for certain holy personages or places: (1) Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name, who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation- (a) refers to or addresses, any person, other than a Caliph or companion of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), as “Ameer-ul-Momineen,” “Khalifatul-Momineen,” “Khalifa-tul-Muslimeen,” “Sahaabi” or “Razi Allah Anho” (b) refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), as “Ummul-Mumineen”; (c) refers to, or addresses, any person, other than a member of the family “Ahle-bait” of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), as “Ahle-bait”; or (d) refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship a “Masjid”; shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine. (2) Any person of the Qadiani group or Lahori group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name) who by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation refers to the mode or form of call to prayers followed by his faith as “Azan,” or recites azan as used by the Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.
298-C. Person of Qadiani group, etc., calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith: Any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
Z.A. Bhutto is generally regarded as a visionary leader but his decision to allow the parliament to determine the religious status of a community was a violation of human rights and totally against spirit of democracy. Moreover, Did he not know that those clerics of different sects who had banded together to declare the Ahmadis as non-Muslims had earlier declared their rival sects as non-Muslims too? How could those who did not consider each other as Muslims, declare others kafir? Unfortunately, Bhutto’s folly opened the floodgates of intolerance. It encouraged the clerics to target Shias later on. A college classfellow of mine, who was an active member of the Anjuman Sipah Sahaba (ASS), used to proudly proclaim how close his outfit was to having Shias declared kafir through an act of parliament, just like in the case of the Ahmadis. That plan died with Zia’s demise but the manner in which Shias are being exterminated is indicative of the designs of groups like the ASS and Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP).
The policymakers of this country should have learnt by now that religion has failed to keep the nation united. Instead, it has been extremely effective in dividing the people and creating anarchy.
Pakistan was created in the name of religion and now it is disintegrating in the name of religion.
A study of the National Assembly proceedings instituted to declare the Ahmadis non-Muslim’s gives a valuable insight into how political expediency overrides principles. Incidentally, this report has been kept under wraps and is not available to the general public. It has always been the practice of our establishment to keep the people blissfully ignorant. Commissions are constituted and investigations are carried out in order to conceal facts instead of making them public.