A Religio-Political Dilemma: How Far Can Parvez Elahi Afford To Take Anti-Ahmadi Bigotry In Punjab?

A Religio-Political Dilemma: How Far Can Parvez Elahi Afford To Take Anti-Ahmadi Bigotry In Punjab?
Since the 1950s, the anti-Ahmadiyya card has been used in Pakistan’s applied and electoral politics for extra milage. Particularly after being declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani parliament in 1974, Ahmadis boycotted the political process to preserve their religious identity. Pakistan’s political system and so-called democracy has completely failed to provide Ahmadis with their basic rights as human beings and fellow citizens. Factually, after the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it was the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq that snubbed Ahmadis and deprived them of religious rights with the Anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance of 1984. Despite violating the Constitution of 1973 and international human rights charter of 1948, he succeeded to address and engage the masses’ extreme religious sentiments to divert their attention from his illegitimate dictatorial rule.

The Anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance (No. XX of 1984) ensures involvement and dictation of the state in citizens’ beliefs and religious practices. Moreover, the misuse of PPC sections 295, 295A, 295B, 295C, 298, 298A, 298B and 298C against Ahmadis jeopardises the existence of Ahmadis within the geographical boundaries of Pakistan. These legal and judicial constraints and curbs have exposed the Ahmadis to risks way beyond one’s imagination, as a one-sided state-supported poisonous propaganda against Ahmadis allows no platform to respond and leaves no options for Ahmadis but to flee or to hit rock bottom. If Ahmadis complain about their issues, state-sponsored media, political elites, the justice system, and the social and religious fabric all start twisting laws to suppress their voices and put their lives at risk.

On the basis of this inhuman propaganda, Ahmadis are socially exploited and deprived of their basic human rights in the very name of religion. That is not all: the speeches and statements of imprudent politicians likes Raja Farooq Haider, Raja Parvez Ashraf, Parvez Elahi and the leaders of religiopolitical organisations like JUI and TLP are poisoning society, by subjecting it to their political agendas as well as to sabotage their personal and political failures. The most recent example would be the unnecessary remarks of CM Punjab Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who governs the most populous province, literally comprising more than half the country’s total population. Yet, in a speech, he used anti-Ahmadiyya sentiments to score political mileage.

His ill-informed statements have a certain history. A tradition runs in the family’s politics to use anti-Ahmadiyya stances and attract religious clerics for political benefits. Consider, for instance, the extreme standpoints of his uncle Ch. Zahoor Elahi against Ahmadis, as he pressed the government of Z. A. Bhutto hard on the issue. He had taken the position that the state’s response to Ahmadi beliefs was not a secondary issue but a primary subject, from which Z. A. Bhutto can emerge as a hero – and the latter did, indeed, act accordingly in 1974. Parvez Elahi has often referred to and praised the role of his uncle Zahoor Elahi in this context.

It is evident that Bhutto used anti-Ahmadiyya postures to nourish his political drive, compromising his honesty with the state. This is because the state should have no concern with religion – a matter which belongs to the citizens of the state. And no parliament should be able to hold the mandate to decide the religions, beliefs and sects of its citizens.

Often in public gatherings, Parvez Elahi and his party leaders have given anti-Ahmadiyya statements. On 05 June 2020, as Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, Ch. Parvez Elahi strongly welcomed the decision of not including Ahmadis in the National Minority Commission. Likewise, he and others have described Ahmadis as traitors of Islam and Pakistan just to score political mileage with religious lobbies.

Usually in Pakistan, religious and political leaders use the theological terms around the issue to instigate illiterate people against Ahmadis. In his speech, Parvez Elahi, while announcing good news regarding construction of a mosque following the model of the Blue Mosque in Turkey, went on to say that it must be written on this Mosque ‘’the entry of Qadianis is prohibited’’ – an intolerable sentiment which made it sound as if it were the sole purpose of building the mosque. His statement generates some questions.

  1. There are many religious sects in Pakistan: is he building it for one group specifically?

  2. As CM Punjab, why did he use the derogatory term “Qadianis” for the country’s Ahmadi community?

  3. What is the purpose of this ignorant announcement other than incitement?

  4. Can religion be used for enrage public sentiments for one’s socio-political objectives?

In Islamic history, mosques are the places where enemies were spared. How can they be used for political purposes and hatred by Parvez Elahi? His remarks come across as both unnecessary and irrational – and moreover, an underhand attempt to distort the true face of Islam and its peaceful teachings.

In 2006, Parvez Elahi as CM Punjab established Rescue 1122 service. Is it also prohibited for the Rescue 1122 to serve the Ahmadi community in Punjab? As CM, he is not supposed to serve a particular religious community but the entire population of the province. His political services entertaining only the religious majority of the province neither do justice to his portfolio nor to basic human values. No religious community is answerable to him unless they engage in any anti-state activity or violate the civic rules.

The felonious silence of PTI leadership on Elahi’s statement suggests endorsement of the activities and beliefs of Mr. Parvez Elahi. Because of these extreme fanatic thoughts of political and religious leaderships in Pakistan, 279 Ahmadis have been killed (including the 3 Ahmadis that have been target killed in 2022), 31 Ahmadi mosques demolished, 44 sealed by the authorities, 36 set on fire and 18 forcibly occupied by mobs from April 1984 to 15 September 2022. The situation is still worsening for Ahmadis in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, Parvez Elahi as a public office holder is targeting the Ahmadis particularly in Punjab, while hundreds of thousands of Ahmadis are living in this province. The headquarters of the Ahmadi community, ‘Rabwah,’ is also situated in Punjab. The state supported anti-Ahmadiyya drive under CM Punjab Parvez Elahi is poisoning the social and political environment of Punjab in particular. This cynical use of religion for temporary political gains is not serving the nation but only dividing and exploiting them. As CM Punjab, he is defying articles 2, 6, 7, 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as articles 8, 17, 19, 25, 26, 27 of the Constitution of 1973 – putting the future of the country and its social fabric in jeopardy.