Sunday, June 19, 2011

Writing on the pamphlet

News on Sunday, Pakistan
Writing on the pamphlet
Dreaded messages have reappeared in Faisalabad to haunt the threatened Ahmadi community
By Aoun Sahi
June 19, 2010
Two brothers, Sheikh Ashraf Parvez and Sheikh Masood Jawed, owners of Murad Cloth House and Murad Jewellers, in Faisalabad’s Rail Bazaar, refused to leave the country after a mob destroyed their shops back in 1974 during the anti-Ahmadi riots. Luckily, in only a few months, they were able to establish their businesses again and, in the coming years, Sheikh Ashraf Parvez became the senior vice-president of Rail Bazaar traders’ association.

Word Mosque removed from boardThings were going well until early 2010 when a pamphlet was distributed in Faisalabad condemning the Ahmadi community and exhorting the Muslims in the city to boycott the traders and businesses owned by the Ahmadis. Distributors of the pamphlet listed some shops and businesses owned by people belonging to the Ahmadi community. The names of Murad Cloth House and Murad Jewellers featured at number three on the list.

A couple of months later, on April 1, 2010, Sheikh Ashraf, Sheikh Masood and his son Sheikh Asif Masood were killed by ‘unknown people’ on the road at around 10 in the night when they were returning to their homes from their shops. A case was registered. However, no suspect has been arrested so far. “They were killed only because of their faith,” says Sheikh Ashraf’s son, requesting not to be named, who sits at the shop. His worries are not over yet.

Two weeks back, another pamphlet was distributed in Faisalabad that labelled members of the Ahmadi community as “Wajibul Qatl” (liable to be persecuted), and inciting people to publicly attack followers of the faith. “Their punishment is death. Killing these people amounts to jihad,” read the leaflet. The pamphlet contained names and addresses of Ahmadi traders, industrialists and doctors. This time, Murad Cloth House was on top of the list.

“I don’t know how to react; our lives have been disturbed, our sanity badly affected,” says the 28-year-old son of the slain Sheikh Ashraf. “We are very vulnerable. I cannot concentrate on my business. I suspect every customer is a potential attacker!”

“I don’t expect justice,” he goes on.

Talking to TNS, another person on the ‘hit list’ relates how he was forced to move somewhere else after last year’s pamphlet was circulated. “It seems we are being watched all the time. They seem to know everything about us which is obvious from the way they’ve given the latest addresses of our homes and businesses,” he says. “We feel like petty outcasts.”

According to him, as a matter of routine, the situation becomes tense every year in April-May when the annual event of ‘Khatm-e-Nabuwat’ is held in the city. “Every speaker condemns and abuses the Ahmadis. We have put up our complaints before the administration, to no avail.”

Pamphlets distributed in Faisalabad urging Muslims to kill AhmadisHe laments the fact that things have gotten to a point where introducing oneself as Ahmadi means inviting trouble and public isolation.

So far, no security has been provided even to those who were mentioned in the pamphlet. On June 2, 2011, Mahmood Ahmad, Jamaat’s secretary in Faisalabad, sent an email to the home secretary and the police chief of Punjab as well as Faisalabad’s regional police officer, but nothing has been done to help the matter.

“Our mouths have been shut, our hands are tied. I am writing this in the hope that somewhere, somehow this letter finds its way to a compassionate and patriotic police official who shall dare to stand up for us, for the sake of Pakistan,” reads the email.

“Distribution of pamphlets against Ahmadis in Faisalabad is a regular practice,” Mahmood Ahmad tells TNS, adding that whereas the tone of these papers was “mild” in the past, their lives were jeopardised.

“Last year, the pamphlet had only asked the ‘Muslims’ to band together against the businesses owned by the Ahmadis which resulted in the persecution of at least five people belonging to our community, apart from instances of dacoity, kidnapping for ransom and expulsion of some of our students in mainstream educational institutions.”

Mahmood fears more violence if proper steps are not taken by the government. He also blames the Punjab government for ignoring the myriad protests lodged by the Ahmadi community in the province. “Religious fanatics are being encouraged by a lack of action on the part of the government agencies,” he says.

Police officials in Faisalabad do not seem to have taken the issue seriously so far. “I have deputed one person from the department to arrest the people whose cell numbers are mentioned on the pamphlet,” says Asmatullah Junenio, Superintendent of Police (SP), Faisalabad, talking to TNS.

He claims that the security of the Ahmadi community has been beefed up. “The number of police officials deputed to safeguard our worship places has been increased.”

Munir Ahmed, whose cell number is given on the pamphlet and who admits to be working for an organisation on the finality of Prophethood, informs TNS that he is in Lahore these days. “I have nothing to do with this [pamphlet] and I firmly believe they [the Ahmadis] are lying. The law should take its due course to punish them and the blasphemers.”

According to Saleemuddin, the Jamaat spokesperson, Ahmadis are being threatened all across the country. “Anti-Ahmadi wall-chalkings, pamphlets and stickers are a common phenomenon these days,” he says, adding that Faisalabad has become the most hostile towards the Ahmadis. “Most hate material is being generated or funded there.”

Legal experts believe inciting people to kill others is a serious crime as per the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). “According to the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, inciting somebody to kill others falls under the definition of terrorism. 153A, 505 and 506 sections of PPC also address such crime,” says Asad Jamal, advocate High Court.

Jamal, who has been working on human rights issues since long, believes that the police is bound to act against such activities.

Human Rights activists also believe there is no political will to protect the minorities, especially the Ahmadis. “They are indeed the most vulnerable group in Pakistan. Printing and distribution of hate material against them is a grave concern for us. We have already brought such activities by religious fundamentalists into the notice of the authorities, but no action has been taken against the culprits so far,” contends Zohra Yousuf, Chairperson, HRCP.

“Many members of this community have already migrated to other countries. The government will have to assert itself strongly to protect the community.”

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