Last week, brutal attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore killed nearly 100 people, and wounded nearly 150 people. The attacks garnered a wave of responses from the media, and many of my fellow bloggers noted how such a tragedy was the culmination of years of discrimination against Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community. Below, Madiha Kark, a Pakistani who is pursuing her masters in journalism in Texas, shares her very personal perspective on the attacks:
I am an Ahmadi. Since I was a little girl, I have walked into the mosques that were plundered on May 28. Holding my father’s finger in one hand and fixing my dupatta with the other, the six year old me sat and listened to the ‘khutba’ (Friday sermon), in the same halls that were covered by the blood of my brothers, uncles and family friends last week.
I grew up hearing of the atrocities committed against my ancestors, how sons were tortured in front of their mothers, how husbands were dragged on stone roads while their wives watched and sobbed from within the house, how sisters were raped in front of their brothers. For me these were stories of a history, tales of gallantry and heroism, of conviction and strong faith, tales of a time that had no effect on me. But today these stories are no longer history, they resonate a past that characterizes Pakistan’s flawed human rights.
The brutal attacks last Friday left 92 dead and 150 injured. Within 24 hours, the same attackers brought their wrath on innocent people admitted in the Intensive Care (ICU) and Critical Care Units (CCU) in Jinnah Hospital who had sustained injuries in the mosques. Many of my cousins, my kin and blood relatives were present in those mosques last week. While some managed to escape, others were wounded and more lost their lives.
One cannot deny the fact that religious extremists have a disregard for the sanctity of life or the teachings of Islam, or that state funded madrassas preach human barbarianism by brainwashing teenage boys to kill in the name of God. The Ahmadiyya predicament however is different. The targeting of minorities and other religious factions in Pakistan have increased considerably in recent years, but atrocities on Ahmadis have occurred throughout the history of Pakistan, most notably in 1953, 1974, and the 1980s. The laws that discriminate against Ahmadis have been part of the Constitution for almost three decades now. [Editor’s Note: Also see Tazeen’s post and Chapati Mystery for more background on these laws.]
Currently, Pakistan’s Constitution contains several articles specifically discriminating Ahmadis. Article 298B and 298C state that any Ahmadi who “directly or indirectly poses himself as a Muslim, or refers to his faith as Islam, or propagates his faith by words either written or spoken, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims shall be punished with imprisonment for up to three years.” The laws extend to barring Ahmadis from saying Assalam-o-Alikum (peace be on you) or calling their places of worship a masjid (mosque). No other minority in the world is subject to such discriminatory laws.
The day after these attacks, two Ahmadis were stabbed to death. The father died on the spot and the son was transported to a hospital in a serious condition. Drive down Mall Road (in front of the Punjab state assembly offices) in Lahore today and you will see banners inciting hatred against the Ahmadi community and urging the killing of Ahmadis. Extremist religious organizations convene conferences on the topic of Ahmadiyya persecution and their status as non Muslims. Religious leaders routinely announce on broadcast television that the killing of an Ahmadi is indeed a pious attack. The passport and the NIC (national identity card) demand mandatory signatures affirming “Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to Lahori Party or Ahmadi or Qadiyani group, to be non Muslim.” The Ahmadiyya community has historically been subjected to a legitimized discrimination that no other community faces in Pakistan.
These blatant signs of hatred are witnessed by the people, bureaucracy and the judiciary on a daily basis. Media and politicians refuse to take a stand on the issue because if they even dare to highlight some of these atrocities and injustices, they are subsequently labeled “Ahmadis.” As a result, many public figures have had to publicly and categorically deny that they are Ahmadis, because it has been drilled into the Pakistani psyche that Ahmadis are disloyal to their country and have a hidden agenda in whatever they do.
I am proud to be an Ahmadi. Ahmadis are instilled with high patriotism and strong respect for their nation. Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize winner Dr. Abdus Salaam was exiled from his country because of his religious beliefs. Chaudry Zafarullah Khan, who served as the first foreign minister to Pakistan, was also discriminated against for his religious beliefs. These extraordinary men served their country even if their country refused to serve them.
In the face of fierce and repeated state sanctioned persecution, the Ahmadiyya community has always maintained a peaceful stance. The community refuses to demand anything from the state or any person in the government because they have repeatedly claimed to rely on God alone to help them through any difficult challenge. However, this does not mean the government is absolved of any responsibility to protect them.
I need our nation’s supposed guardians to stop making hollow promises and stand up, be courageous enough to take a firm stance against the persecution of Ahmadis. You say it is not God who lies in my heart, but tell me does He live in your heart? You who kill His people in His home, do you think God lives in you?
The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.