William Butler Yeats said: “Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution.” These wise words were certainly not heeded by Pakistan’s rulers.
In 1974, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government declared the Ahmadis ‘non-Muslims’ under the Constitution of Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorial regime made it even worse for Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community when it promulgated the draconian Ordinance XX, which restricts religious freedom of the Ahmadis. The Ahmadiyya community has suffered at the hands of religious extremists for decades now due to successive governments’ (both civilian and military) criminal apathy. Mr Bhutto and his government made a criminal mistake by passing the Second Amendment; what makes it even worse is the fact that no government has had the guts to repeal it. Nobody dares (or cares).
In 2010, terrorists carried out simultaneous attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore. More than 90 Ahmadis were martyred in those deadly terror attacks.
Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), was right in pointing out how “obscene” it is that “two years after the worst massacre in Lahore since the partition of India, the government has still not brought the suspects apprehended at the scene to trial.” Such is the apathy with which our ruling elite treat the Ahmadis. It is no wonder then that members of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Taliban ransacked an Ahmadi graveyard and desecrated around 120 headstones in Lahore earlier this week. Should we expect the state to take any action against those perpetrators of this heinous crime? This is the same state that watches its citizens being slaughtered in the name of religion as if it is just a silent spectator and nothing more. I did not know what to say when an Ahmadi friend asked me if we cannot just let the Ahmadis rest in peace after death. Even if I had wanted to, I could not have managed to say anything that would not have sounded hollow and untrue. No words can describe the anger and frustration one felt after this horrendous incident but there is hardly anything concrete that we can do to stop this madness. The ball lies in the ruling elite’s court because it is the duty of the state to protect its citizens.
Unfortunately, it seems that we Pakistanis are living in a lawless jungle where the country is governed by headless chickens who will not dare challenge the might of the rightwing forces and terrorists for fear of a backlash. They are afraid of the consequences if they ever stand up to the extremist forces. Well, our rulers must put themselves in the shoes of the Ahmadiyya community; they face this backlash every second, every minute, every hour, every day…and they will continue to face it for the rest of their lives if the Second Amendment is not repealed.
The state cannot heal the wounds of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community but it can certainly undo the wrongs committed by Bhutto and General Zia. Let’s take some steps in the right direction so as not to turn Pakistan into a state of the living dead.
The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org