Why did PTI fail to include Ahmadis in the National Commission for Minorities?

Ahmadis are a constitutionally declared religious minority in Pakistan. However, they have been denied entry into the National Commission for Minorities. Why did the government withdraw its decision? GVS editorial team prepared a special report to explore and explain the situation.

National Commission for Minorities

Pakistan’s federal government has withdrawn its decision of including Ahmadis in the National Commission for Minorities. GVS learned through reliable sources that the government had earlier decided to take ‘a bold decision’ but due to strong opposition and the public backlash, it changed the mind.

According to sources, following recommendations from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the government withdrew its earlier decision to give representation to the Ahmadi community in the minorities’ commission.

They said that the decision was reconsidered after the move sparked fierce criticism from the religious right on mainstream and social media platforms.

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet has approved the reconstitution of the commission. A Hindu community member from Sindh, Chela Ram Kewlani has been named as chairman of the commission. Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad and Mufti Gulzar Ahmed Naeemi will represent the Muslim community in the commission.

Read More: Army rejects Safdar’s demand to ban Ahmadis from joining the armed forces

Three members each have been selected from the Hindu and Christian community, while two members have been named from the Sikh community and one member each will represent Kelash and Parsi communities in the commission. No Ahmadi has been included in the commission. The chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology will be the commission’s ex-officio member while the religious affairs secretary will also act as the commission’s secretary.

Ahmadis: A constitutionally declared non-Muslim community

The state declared Ahmadiyya community non-Muslim in 1974 after a strong campaign initiated and sustained by the major Islamist political parties, religious organizations, student and trade unions; as well as members of opposition parties in the national and provincial assemblies, and public intellectuals publicly demanding that the government declare the Ahmadiyya community a non-Muslim minority; remove all Ahmadis from key positions in state institutions; and that it declare Rabwah, alleged a ‘state within a state’ run by the despotic descendants of Ghulam Mirza Ali, an ‘open city’.

It is worth recalling that the Anti-Ahmadiyya agitation broke out again in 1953 in the province of Punjab, again led by the Ahrar, with the support of the ruling party in Punjab, in particular, it’s Chief Minister Mumtaz Daultana, and the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami.

Read More: Ahmadi, A dangerous word to utter in Pakistan: AC Attock had to apologize

Prominent Political Sociologist and Associate Research Scientist at the University of Yale, USA, argues that “I term this moment in the genealogy of the relationship between the Ahmadiyya community and Pakistani state as the moment of accommodation”.

She further notes that the ‘Ahmadi question’ emerged on the national scene again in 1974. On 30th July 1974. On 13th June, in response to the call for a General Strike by right-wing religious organizations, Bhutto in a televised speech announced that the Ahmadi issue would be placed before the National Assembly for deliberation. “The Ahmadiyya community,” she writes “was unanimously declared a non-Muslim minority and the second constitutional amendment passed by the National Assembly on 7th September. I call this phase the moment of exclusion with regard to the relation between the state and the Ahmadiyya community.”

Why did the government stepdown?

Some analysts criticized Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government for not being able to stand by its decision and include the non-Muslims in non-Muslim commission.

However, sources within the government explained to GVS that the premier ‘does not afford to too far while liberally Islamizing Pakistan’ due to opposition from the religious parties. Therefore, he did not insisted to include Ahmadis to include in the National Commission for Minorities. It is important to note that in May 2013, Maulana Fazlur Rehman declared it ‘haram’ to vote in favor of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Chief Imran Khan and his candidates. He alleged Imran Khan for being sponsored by the West and the Jewish lobby. He also called Imran an agent of “Americans, Jews, Ahmadis and a person of ill character.”

Maulana further attacked Imran’s family and said that “A person who could not make his own children Muslim nor Pakistani, is dreaming of becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan and making the country an Islamic welfare state.”

Read More: JUI-F’s Azadi March Will Not Sustain More Than a Week: Imran Khan

It was interesting to note that when Maulana was asked to identify the reasoning behind the idea that Imran was really an American or Jewish agent, he confidently asserted that “I am asked, ‘what is the proof that he (Imran Khan) is an agent of the Jews,’ I say there is only one proof and it is my own responsible personality. I am so righteous that I would never talk ill against anyone. This is enough that Maulana Fazlur Rehman says that he is a Jewish agent.”

Prior to the National Commission for Minorities fiasco, last year when Mualana’s party held a protest in the federal capital many of his followers were seen repeating what he had said back in 2013. Hence, argued the government’s source, the premier did not insist to include Ahmadis in the National Commission for Minorities.

Rationality losing battle in Pakistan?

Syed Aminah Gilani, a Lahore-based political commentator, spoke to GVS and pointed out that the rationality seems to be losing the battle in this country. “In the struggle between right and wrong”, she argued, “Rationality loses the battle where emotions run high and ideologues are guided by sentiments rather than prudence.” She also said that “Same is the case with the politicization of the issue of Ahmadi community. The tussle between the religious factions and the advocates of liberalism come to the forefront once again, and the government seems paralyzed in its indecisive posture. Imran Khan’s government has glided rather boldly into the realm of politics with the appointment of an Ahmadi as its advisor for the economy, however, it soon succumbed to the vilification of the religious factions.”

Read More: Bilawal alleges PML-N and PTI of alliance with ‘banned organization’ to counter PPP

Moreover, Ms. Gilani maintained that “The point about Ahmadis getting declared non-Muslims has always been supported by the religious ideologues; however, many of them find the constitutional explanation for Ahmadis inadequate. The argument is that despite the law, they [Ahmadi community] still practice, project, and describe themselves as Muslims.

However, the government’s initiative to include Ahmadis as part of minorities’ commission would have been a positive step towards the resolution of this unending feud. The religious figures and their zealots need to realize that proving their Muslim’ness does not require them to lose rationality as “Hikmah” is one of the most significant attributes of a Muslim.”

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