Op-Ed: Ahmadis and Jinnah

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For the past few weeks one has noticed a spike in hatred against the tiny Ahmadi community in Pakistan. Ahmadis it must be remembered have already been declared Non-Muslim through two legal instruments – the 2nd Constitution Amendment of 1974 by the National Assembly and the 3rd Constitution (Amendment) Order 1985 by General Zia ul Haq. The second instrument is of questionable and dubious legality and should have been undone by the 18th Amendment. However the legal position is that Ahmadis are classified by the Constitution as a Non-Muslim minority.

Recently the Government announced out of the blue (and for reasons best known to them) that Ahmadis will be made part of the National Minorities Commission and that led to a new campaign of hate against the community. Apparently the hatemongers do not even want Ahmadis to enjoy the little rights and protection that the Constitution affords them, even though no Ahmadi wants to be a part of the Minorities Commission. Nevertheless it is also clear that the rights of Ahmadis under the Constitution are not subject to them accepting their status. Every citizen of Pakistan has a fundamental right to believe as he or she wants and therefore no one can stop Ahmadis from thinking they are Muslim. It is an inalienable right.

Jinnah appointed Zafrullah Khan to represent the Muslims at the Boundary Commission in 1947 and on his own birthday appointed Zafrullah Khan as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan

While one accepts the constitutional position as it stands, one cannot help but narrate historical facts. Denying historical facts is not healthy for a nation. We may consider Ahmadis Non-Muslim under the constitution today but there can be no denying that Jinnah – the father of this nation- refused to strip Ahmadis of their right to religious identity as Muslims. Jinnah’s contact with Ahmadis dates back to the Nehru Report days, when the head of Ahmadi community Bashiruddin Mahmood met with him to convince Jinnah of the separate electorates. Jinnah had long wanted joint electorates and had only agreed to separate electorates as a temporary measure. Next it was in London where an Ahmadi prayer leader visited Jinnah on behest of the community to convince him to return to Pakistan. Jinnah also paid a visit to Bait-al-Fazl on Gressenhall Road in Southfields London. Indeed contrary to the popular myth, Iqbal had nothing to do with Jinnah’s return. Jinnah was said to have been convinced at Gressenhall Road to return.

In 1936, a faction of the pro-Congress nationalist Muslims called Ahrars joined the Muslim Unity Board led by Jinnah (Muslim Unity Board itself was allied with the Congress in 1937 elections). Almost immediately they began to pressurize Jinnah to turn Ahmadis out of the Muslim League. Jinnah stalled them and Ahrar became anti-Jinnah and started calling him Kafir-e-Azam. Ahrar ironically was backed by Congress and Pandit Nehru in his correspondence cited them as one of the many organisations that supported Congress and not the Muslim League. The Punjab Muslim League, meanwhile under the influence of Iqbal, introduced an oath that required every elected member to work to get Ahmadis declared a separate community from Muslims. Jinnah quietly had this removed once Iqbal was no longer on the picture. In 1939 during a famous speech in the Indian legislature Jinnah described Sir Zafrullah Khan in these words: “I wish to record my sense of appreciation – and if I say so coming from my Party- to the Honourable Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, who is a Muslim and it may be said that I am flattering my own son.” This can be found on Page 973 of “Speeches Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam” Volume II published by Bazm-e-Iqbal. Jinnah knew full well that Zafrullah Khan was an Ahmadi. Jinnah considered him a Muslim. This was in essence Jinnah’s reply to those pestering him on the Ahmadi issue.

For some years the Ahmadi issue receded. It came to the fore once again in 1944, when anti-Ahmadi bodies started agitating for the expulsion of Ahmadis from the Muslim League. Dawn and Vatan, Jinnah’s own newspapers, reported on 4 May 1944 that Jinnah had promised Pir Akbar Ali MLA that Ahmadis would be treated at par with every other sect of Islam. Almost immediately Jinnah received a barrage of letters. One came from the Sunni Imam of JamaMasjid Batala, Nazir Hussain, who asked him if it was true that Ahmadis were allowed to join the Muslim League and that Muslims were perturbed at the news. Jinnah replied on 16 May 1944 saying that he had quoted the clause of membership in the Muslim League which stated that any Muslim resident of British above age 18 could be part of the Muslim League. The clause actually also provided for others if approved by provincial leagues but that was a separate matter. To the Ahmadi Nazir-ul-Umoor Jinnah pointed out the same thing. Critically Jinnah refused to deny the contents of the newspaper reports in either letter.

If there was any ambiguity still, Jinnah laid it to rest on 23 May 1944 in Srinagar. He was asked by the press about the status of “Qadianis” who had recently been banned from Kashmir’s Muslim Conference. Jinnah replied that as far as Muslim League was concerned any Muslim could join it without regard to sect or creed and that Muslims of Kashmir should not raise such sectarian questions. The newspaper men persisted. Jinnah’s reply was historic: “Who am I to declare a person Non-Muslim who calls himself a Muslim.” Consequently the Muslim Conference of Kashmir also opened its doors to Ahmadis and many of its leading members were Ahmadis. In Jinnah Papers we come across M A Hafeez Khan Farabi’s letter dated 6 June 1944. This chap Farabi called Mr. Jinnah ignorant, telling him that it was Iqbal who thought of Pakistan and Iqbal considered Ahmadis traitors to Islam. He further warned Jinnah that all the Muslims will leave the Muslim League if Jinnah did not turn Ahmadis out of the League. Jinnah felt no need to reply to this letter. It is incredible the pressure Jinnah sustained on the matter but what is more incredible is that he refused to budge on the issue. A lesser man like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi would have buckled easily. This is the difference between a real leader like Jinnah and jokers we have become accustomed to.

Ahmadis supported Muslim League en masse in 1945-1946 elections and even left their holy city of Qadian to come to Pakistan. Jinnah appointed Zafrullah Khan to represent the Muslims at the Boundary Commission in 1947 and on his own birthday appointed Zafrullah Khan as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. It was Zafrullah Khan’s advocacy that won the day on the Kashmir resolution debate. Tragically a sitting minister of the current government is inciting genocide of Ahmadis today. This is not Jinnah’s Pakistan.

The writer is an Advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan

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