The question of being a minority

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The newly constituted National Commission for Minorities was in the news over lack of Ahmadi representation

The federal government came up with a plan to include the Ahmadi community in its reconstituted National Commission for Minorities in April. The federal cabinet took up the matter to give representation to the Ahmadiyya community in the commission for safeguarding minorities’ rights.

However, the government withdrew its plan soon after certain right-wing sections of society started criticising the government and began targeting the Ahmadiyya community for not endorsing the amendment to the Constitution declaring them non-Muslim.
Some sections of the media too became a part of this campaign, grilling and bashing the federal government for the proposal.

“Ahmadis are not Muslims but they do not accept this amendment to the Constitution. Unless they publicly say that they are non-Muslim and respect the constitutional amendment they cannot become part of any minority commission. In-fact, they are a different [kind of] minority,” said Noorul Haq Qadri, the religious affairs minister a couple of times. The statement came following a campaign against the Ahmadiyya community on the electronic media and on social media.

The recently set up minorities’ commission is already under fire for lacking autonomy, inclusion of Muslim clerics, and handpicking of members from minority communities. However, the issue of inclding Ahmadiyya community in the commission caused further controversy, allowing the right-wing sections of society to launch an anti-Ahmadi campaign.

Soon after the issue surfaced, the Punjab Assembly passed a unanimous resolution, saying that the Ahmadiyya community should be included in the minorities’ body only after their top leaders submit in writing that the community accepts their non-Muslim categorisation.

The Ahmadiyya community says that no individual or state has the right to determine the faith of any person or community. They are opposed to the constitutional amendment and anti-Ahmadi laws.

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The Jamaat-i-Ahmaiyya, in a recent statement, condemned hatred against the Ahmadis. “When it comes to Ahmadis everyone considers it their national duty to spew venom and hate against the community. This makes the already persecuted Ahmadiyya community very insecure.”

“We believe the state has no right to decide someone’s faith,” says Saleem Ud Din, the spokesperson for the Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya Pakistan, adding, “The issue is our persecution that continues on different pretexts.” He says no government official had formally or informally contacted the Jamaat and whatever they heard in this regard was from the media.

“Ahmadis have never wanted to be part of such commissions nor do we aspire to be part of them in the future. We can never compromise on our faith and basic principles to be part of such toothless commissions. We do respect the Constitution of Pakistan but we do not accept that specific faith-based amendment declaring us non-Muslim,” he maintains.

“The best course of action by the state would have been to officially invite the Jamaat to nominate its member for the commission. If they did they the issue would have stood resolved,” says Qibla Ayaz, chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology. He adds:

“Generally, state or governments seem reluctant in taking decisions on such matters because of political expediency.
“Such steps lead to persecution and show that such communities are not considered entitled to their rights. If the Ahmadiyya community is not a minority in Pakistan then their citizenship is being effectively removed,” says Ali Usman Qasmi, a Lahore-based historian and teacher, adding, “Denying rights to a constitutionally protected minority is simply absurd and a dangerous precedent. Surrendering to the demand that they are not such a minority is saddening. It seems that [some] right-wing elements want to put them in the operative category of blasphemer.”

Qasmi says such situations and measures leave the marginalised community in absolute vulnerability and at the mercy of extremist groups.

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