1974: More humiliations in store for Ahmadis of Pakistan

The Times, September 25, 1974

The adoption earlier this month by Pakistan’s national assembly of a Bill conferring non-Muslim status on the Ahmadiyya sect, was a depressing victory for religious bigotry.

The assembly’s decision must greatly strengthen the hand of the more rigidly orthodox “Ulema” (professional theologians) and the Muslim fundamentalists of Maulana Maudoodi’s politically active Jamaat-i-Islami a group Mr Bhutto once described to me as ” antediluvian and obscurantist “.

It is sad that the Pakistan Prime Minister should have surrendered to forces with which he has little personal sympathy. It is sadder still that the anti-Ahmadiyya resolution was supported even by supposedly progressive and secular opposition groups such as the National Awami Party. The excommunication of the Ahmadis, for questioning the ” absolute and unqualified finality” of the prophet Muhammad, was the climax to a peculiarly unpleasant, pogrom like heresy hunt, which began with a clash last May between Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis at Rabwah in the Punjab, where the sect has its headquarters.

The disorders spread to other parts of Pakistan, causing heavy loss of life, very much on the pattern of the anti-Ahmadi riots of 1953, which were finally contained only by the imposition of martial law.

On this occasion, Mr Bhutto resorted first to large-scale arrests of Muslim clergy and student leaders, many of whom have close links with the Jamaat-i-Islami. The riots came to an end, however, only after he had promised a debate in the national assembly to determine once and for all the status of the Ahmadiyya sect.

Thereafter, social and political pressure steadily intensified. Now, with the passage of the anti-Ahmadi Bill, members of the sect, estimated to number anything from less than one million to as many as four million, are reduced to the second-class status of other religious minorities in Pakistan, such as Hindus and Buddhists.

The Times, September 25, 1974