I wrote the following piece for Newsline. Read the full article by clicking here.
Laws are meant to discipline and protect. In Pakistan, not all laws do either.
Recently, especially after the cold-blooded murders of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, a good part of the Pakistani blogosphere voiced opinions against the abuse of the Blasphemy Law. Much has been said – a stronger part of which has been silenced – on its exploitation. However, what I still long to hear from my Pakistani friends is a strong word of condemnation on the specific anti-Ahmedi laws of the country.
The situation is so bleak that many people are completely unaware of these draconian Laws. In April of 1984, Zia-ul-Haq issued the opprobrious anti-Ahmedi Ordinance XX. As if the hatred spread by the mullah brigade was not enough to castigate them, it was decided that rigorous imprisonment and fines would be utilised to chastise the Ahmedis.
Many Ahmedis, including three of my maternal uncles, were rounded up in various parts of the country. Some were guilty of saying the Islamic Creed, the Kalima, which is a proclamation of the oneness of God and the truth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). How ironic. Others were jailed for using words and epithets on wedding and business cards that are supposed to be used by state-defined Muslims only. The law forbade the use of words such as “InshAllah” (God willing) and “Bismillah” (In the Name of Allah). To say the salaam was also declared a crime. Each of these ‘crimes’ was punishable by three years of imprisonment and a fine.
The mullah brigade did not stop there. An important question arose: was the three-year imprisonment enough for such heinous crimes? The death penalty was suggested. Ahmedis were declared worthy of being killed or wajib-ul-qatal. The Azan or call to prayer was banned in Ahmedi places of worship, which were refused the title masjid or mosque. To refer to them as such or to refer to any Ahmedi as a Muslim was declared an offence under the law. Reciting the Quran or praying in public or carrying out any other acts that made the perpetrator appear a Muslim were declared punishable with three years in jail. On one side of prison sat rapists and murderers and on the other sat those who had recited the Kalima or said the salaam.