Abolish the License to Kill in Pakistan
By C. Naseer Ahmad
“With malice toward none; with charity for all” was coined by Abraham Lincoln. And, “with love for all; hatred for none” is a way of life for the Ahmadis around the world. We mean well and have served humanity all over the globe.
But enormous carnage occurred during the unprovoked attacks on our innocent members in “Dar-az-Zikr” - House of Meditation and “Bait-An-Noor” - House of Enlightenment in Lahore, whose only sin was to engage in a purely religious act of prayer. This murderous attack took about a hundred lives and maimed many others forever.
From the Peace Village in Toronto the tragedy has radiated throughout all Ahmadi homes in Canada and the USA.
For a closely knit community, when someone succeeds, everyone rejoices And if one Ahmadi gets hurt, everyone feels the pain. When almost a hundred die, everyone is in mourning and is trying to make a sense of it all.
By whose authority was this massacre sanctioned? This is a reasonable question. Now, it is for the Pakistani authorities to figure out the details and furnish an answer to humanity. But there is little doubt as to where the extremists got the license to kill.
A Pandora’s Box was opened by Pakistan’s political elite when in 1974 a mendacious amendment declared the Ahmadis as non-Muslim and when in 1984 laws were promulgated making it a crime for the Ahmadis to practice the religion of Islam which they had been doing for over a hundred years since the inception of the community. Now the political elite can no longer deny that demons have been released from the Box and that it will be next to impossible to get them back into the Box.
Here in the US such a demon has taken inspiration from the growing hatred in Pakistan. That demon is none other than the failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. His inspiration came from the cauldron of hatred that is now widespread in Pakistan.
Intolerance against the Ahmadi community has long roots, inflamed mainly by political leaders such as Nawaz Sharif. In 1989, Sharif, then as Chief Minister in the Punjab, wrote to an extremists’ religious conference in Chicago using the words about “invoking death penalty” to those who did not agree with the extremists’ interpretations.
It wasn’t always so. The Pakistan I grew up may not have been a paradise on earth but it was surely a bundle of fun. While in the Forman Christian College Lahore, I distinctly remember lively debates with Sunni and Shia friends about all kinds of issues. When a poor Christian student needed help, we all chipped in. Back then, it did not matter what you believed in as long as one did not misbehave.
I know the hallowed halls of Bait-an-Noor and Dar-az-Zikr like the palm of my hand because I prayed there often with my father and friends. I spent many nights in my teenage years as an unarmed guard in perhaps the very same spots where my people died.
Having worked in the struggle for human rights in Pakistan, my colleagues and I have interacted with many Pakistani leaders. Most of them privately condemn such acts of cruelty, but the majority of them lack the courage to publicly call for the repeal of the mendacious constitutional amendments which encourage violence not just against Ahmadis but Christians also.
From personal experience, statements from Pakistani officials are not credible. One official tried to convince me to stop bringing up the cases of human rights violations to the knowledge of my Congressman who has a strong human rights record. This was right outside in a hall of my Congressman’s office, after the diplomat agreed to follow up on the cases I brought up.
Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of a long nightmare of human rights abuses in Pakistan? Time will tell.
But certainly it is clear that policy-makers in Pakistan, the US and Europe cannot afford to do business as usual with the Pakistani political elite - until these amendments are repealed.
The ugly relationship between the demons – unleashed out of an unholy Pandora’s Box - and Pakistan’s political elite must be broken. Otherwise, this mayhem might be repeated not just in Lahore but in the US and European cities as well.