New Delhi: A professor, a trader, a pharmacist, an 82-year-old grandfather, a US citizen and now a 31-year-old doctor — the long long list of targeted killings in Pakistan of the Ahmadiyya community is never-ending.
A teenage boy pumping bullets into Dr Tahir Mahmood and his family members Friday afternoon in Murh Balochan area of Nankana Sahib is another gory episode added to the deplorable plight of Pakistani Ahmadis, one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Mahmood had sat down to offer Friday prayers with his father and uncles when a teenager – who later confessed of having ‘religious differences’ with the Ahmadi family – barged in, incessantly spraying bullets at everyone. While the young doctor succumbed to his injuries, his father and uncles remain in a critical condition.
Brazen attacks on the Ahmadiyya community are now a routine affair in Pakistan. Earlier this week, an Ahmadi’s shop was targeted in Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar. The owner was late to work but his salesman, a non-Ahmadi and the sole breadwinner for his family of five, died at the spot.
A few months ago, as reported by IndiaNarrative.com, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, a US citizen charged with blasphemy under the Pakistan Penal Code, was shot dead in a Peshawar courtroom. In August, 61-year-old Meraj Ahmed, another Ahmadi Muslim, was shot dead near his medical store in Dabgari Gardens, Peshawar. He and his brother had repeatedly complained to the local police about an online hate campaign launched against them. Last month, Naeemuddin Khattak, a zoology professor at a government science college in Peshawar, was shot dead on the International Teacher’s Day. Earlier this month, another innocent Ahmadi, 82-year-old Mahboob Ahmad Khan, who was visiting his daughter, was shot dead in Sheikh Mohammadi area of Peshawar because of his faith.
These crimes against the Ahmadis were highlighted on social media. But there are dozens of other incidents this year, and thousands over the past many two decades, which have gone completely unreported.
“In Pakistan, Ahmadis are not even safe inside their own homes. They cannot perform their basic religious obligations inside the four walls of their home. They are killed at their doorsteps as there is little protection… The hate campaign is going on unchecked,” tweeted Saleemuddin, the spokesperson of Jamaat Ahmadiyya Pakistan.
Ahmadiyyas constitute just 0.22 per cent of Pakistan’s population and were declared as non-Muslims in 1974 for considering their sect’s founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1836-1906) as a prophet. Tortured for decades in Pakistan, the Ahmadis are now escaping to neighboring countries like Nepal.
“Pakistani police have destroyed Ahmadi copies of and commentaries on the Qur’an, banned the profession of faith (kalima) on Ahmadi gravestones, prohibited the construction of Ahmadi mosques, and even forbade the use of the term masjid (‘mosque’) by an Ahmadi, among other prohibitions. Ahmadi Muslims have also been targeted with violence,” a religious literacy project by the Harvard Divinity School explains the shocking state of affairs for the community in the Pakistani deep state.
In its 2020 Annual Report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended Pakistan as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom since 2002.
The USCIRF believes that the religious freedom conditions across Pakistan continue to trend negatively and the systematic enforcement of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws – and authorities’ failure to address forced conversions of religious minorities including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs, to Islam – severely restrict freedom of religion or belief.
“It is imperative that the Pakistani government repeal its blasphemy law,” says USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore. “Until this happens, we call on the Pakistani government to enact reforms, including making blasphemy a bailable offense, requiring evidence by accusers, ensuring proper investigation by senior police officials, allowing authorities to dismiss unfounded accusations, and enforcing existing Penal Code articles criminalizing perjury and false accusations.”
However, in a country where the commission for minorities has just been formed – and had immediately refused to include representation from the Ahmadiyya community – there’s only a dark road ahead for anyone who opposes the majority, radical Sunnis. And, as the recent past has proved, this road usually leads to death and destruction for the minority communities of Pakistan.