Op-Ed: No land for Pakistan’s Ahmadis

We as a nation are very globally conscious; when the Muslim teenager in Texas was arrested for making a clock, we headed towards social media to highlight Islamophobia in the West, when Muslim actors faced criticism in India, we made sure that the Hindu nationalists knew that we were listening, but when it comes down to our own discriminatory behaviour towards Ahmadis we tend to remain silent.

​A few weeks back, our ‘enlightened’ citizens decided to put their faith in gossip, appointing themselves as judge, jury, and executioner they marched towards defending their religion from the wraths of a defenseless community. Burning down a factory and a mosque while displacing dozen’s of people, these self-appointed crusaders may have slept that night thinking that they had protected their city from the ruthless arms of minorities.

But the same night, two-year-old Sabiha Ahmad was among dozens who were forced to flee the city, leaving behind their livelihoods, these families now face uncertainty in a nation that refuses to recognize her or her kind. The response of the media, the people and the government remained lukewarm at best, ignoring the underlying problem of bigotry in our society, the government chooses to remain silent rather than take on the conservative electorate.

The prosecution of Ahmadis is nothing new, Pakistan has gone out of her way to isolate and victimise the community just because their religious belief doesn’t correlate with the beliefs of the majority. Even going as far as passing constitutional amendments that unfairly targets Ahmadi’s. Even universities, which are supposed to be hubs of intellectual curiosity and social change, aren’t immune to integrating this blatant form of discrimination, one of the leading engineering schools in the country ask’s for an oath from facility to make sure they don’t accidentally hire an Ahmadi.

Imagine the same incident happened in India, a mosque was burned, better yet, imagine the Indian Constitution making it illegal for Muslims to practice their religion freely, imagine it was the Sunni Muslims who would have to face this kind of harassment, intimidation, and persecution. Wouldn’t you be outraged? Yes we all would be, and fairly so, but the fact is this outrage has become conditional, Pakistanis – or at least the vast majority of them – don’t feel the sympathy or pain of the suffering of those prosecuted by us as a nation because changing ourselves is far tougher than pointing at others to change.

Ahmadis are one of many communities who face repeated prosecution in Pakistan, Shia Muslims, Christians, and Hindus haven’t been spared from these ‘social purifiers’ either. Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate in Physics, Dr. Abdus Salam, is erased from Pakistani textbooks just because he belonged from the Ahmadi community, even his tombstone wasn’t spared. According to the Sind government’s figures around 20 to 25 forced conversions take place every month in the province, mainly targeting the sidelined Hindu community. The goest’s of Gojra, a Christian colony which was burnt down, still lingers in the memories of Pakistani minorities. More recently, Pakistan’s Capital Development Authority justified its slum razing by claiming that they host a large number of Christians which could cause ‘demographic problems’ for the capital city.

We have integrated this bigoted behavior in our social fabric, we may laugh at Donald Trump for making bigoted statements towards American Muslims but our actions reflect a deeper and alarming presence of the same behavior. The fact is that today even questioning a social ill can lead one being labeled as a Jewish agent, Indian sympathizer or worse a ‘liberal’. Pakistan risks on becoming an ideologically bankrupt state, where any difference of beliefs or opinions would lead to social exclusion. In a nation where everyone is a judge, there will never be any hope of any justice.

A version of this appeared in Daily Times on 9th December 2015

Published by Shahrukh Wani

Economist at International Growth Centre, University of Oxford.

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