Punjab's Quest For Majoritarianism Likely To Endanger Minority Groups

Punjab's Quest For Majoritarianism Likely To Endanger Minority Groups

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) vice-president Malik Ilyas Awan wants Ahmadis out of Khushab.

In a letter to district authorities dated July 30, the party vice-president, who is also a member of the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Supreme Council, claimed the Constitution of Pakistan proscribes public acts of devotion on part of Ahmadis. He alleged that this was exactly what was transpiring at the residence of one Ahmadi where weekly prayers were regularly organised. The venue, much to Awan’s chagrin, was secured by police.

The PML-Q vice-president said such instances constitute a flagrant violation of the Constitution. Police deployment at the residence, he said, was tantamount to compromising the force’s confession. This, he added, did not bode well for minors either. Awan concluded his letter by calling for Ahmadis to be expelled from the district.

Suffice to posit that the pertinent Amendment to the Constitution only declares the Ahmadis a non-Muslim “minority”. It is Ordinance XX, separately, that practically proscribes public acts of devotion on part of the community.

Why the PML-Q is focusing on the religion card after assuming power in the Punjab constitutes a pressing question. Analysts hold this as an attempt to consolidate the centre-right vote encroached on by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik-e- Pakistan. In 2018, the TLP candidates secured 5.72% of vote in the Punjab elections. Since 2018, they have emerged as a major religio-political force. Traditionally conservative factions of Pakistan Muslim League and other mainstream parties increasingly feel threatened by the long-term consequences. While it is politically expedient to secure this vote bank, such moves by the PML-Q or other parties to play politics on the Finality of Prophethood will have adverse long-term consequences for all religious minorities and especially the Ahmadis.

In the 2022 by-elections, TLP could not make a mark but managed to obtain 124,035 votes across 20 provincial assembly seats. An Ahmadi was killed in a targeted attack on May 17. The burial of two Ahmadis was impeded separately over the year. An Ahmadi worship place was sealed in Mirpur Khas. The graves of 173 Ahmadis have been desecrated. Thirty-one confession-based cases have been lodged.

No provision, irrespective, empowers the State to infringe on Ahmadis’ private lives. Any attempt to do so or compromise the safety of a much-beleaguered minority is a mere representation of the stark reality confronting the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya in Pakistan today: emigrate or confront annihilation.

Pervaiz Elahi, the current chief minister Punjab, introduced the Punjab Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill 2020 in his stint as speaker of the provincial assembly. His first major policy decision as CM was to include the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat provision in the nikahnama (marriage certificate). Pakistan is the sole country to undertake such measures.

The PML-Q and its hardline associates such as Awan must be counselled against such antics with dangerous consequences. Attempting to marginalise an already persecuted community in an attempt to acquire publicity and a sprinkling of hard-line votes will not revive the PML-Q’s flagging fortunes. The timing of the moves are emblematic of its agenda for a majoritarian Punjab which is a negation of Pakistan's inherent diversity and  promise of plurality enshrined in the Constitution.