The tombstone of Pakistani scientist Abdus Salam, a member of the Ahmadi community and Pakistan's only Nobel laureate, in the in the town of Rabwa.— Photo by Reuters
The tombstone of Pakistani scientist Abdus Salam, a member of the Ahmadi community and Pakistan's only Nobel laureate, in the in the town of Rabwa.— Photo by Reuters
Tahir Ashrafi, head of the Ulema Council of clerics, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad December 13, 2013.  “We are against the killing of any innocent... Such attacks are not acceptable or allowed, but if they break the law, we have a right to go to the police,” he said. — Photo by Reuters
Tahir Ashrafi, head of the Ulema Council of clerics, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Islamabad December 13, 2013. “We are against the killing of any innocent... Such attacks are not acceptable or allowed, but if they break the law, we have a right to go to the police,” he said. — Photo by Reuters

LAHORE: A 72-year-old British doctor is in prison in Pakistan for “posing as a Muslim”, charges that reveal an escalating ideological fight that often spills over into violence.

Masood Ahmad is a quiet, reserved widower who returned to Pakistan to open a pharmacy in 1982 after decades of working in London to pay his children's school fees, his family said.

He is also an Ahmadi. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims, and Ahmadis can be jailed for three years for posing as a Muslim or outraging Muslims' feelings.

Some clerics promise that killing Ahmadis earns a place in heaven. Leaflets list their home addresses.

Three years ago, 86 Ahmadis were killed in two simultaneous attacks on Friday prayers in Lahore.

There have been no mass attacks since then, but targeted killings are rising: last year 20 Ahmadis were killed, up from 11 in 2009.

And legal prosecutions are on the rise, say Ahmadis, some of which they say are linked to property grabs.

Ahmad was arrested in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore last month when two men posing as patients questioned him about his faith and used mobile phones to secretly record him reading a verse from the Holy Quran.

“He (the patient) said you are like a father to me, please help me with some questions,” said the doctor's older brother, Nasir Ahmad. “When (my brother) answered, they began beating him and dragged him outside by his neck.”

One of his accusers, religious teacher Muhammad Ihsan, told Reuters that Ahmad had preached to them illegally.

Last year 20 cases against Ahmadis were registered, up from 10 cases in 2009.

A bank clerk was arrested for wearing a ring with a Quranic verse and an entire family was charged for writing a Muslim greeting on a wedding invitation.

Clerics have twice sought the arrest of an entire town of Ahmadis, 60,000 people, for holding religious celebrations.Residents were serving food, giving out sweets and displaying bunting, the complaints said.

“We would not have a problem with them if they did not use the name of Islam and the symbols of Islam,” said Tahir Ashrafi, head of the powerful Ulema Council of clerics.

“We are against the killing of any innocent... Such attacks are not acceptable or allowed, but if they break the law, we have a right to go to the police,” he said.

“His children watched him die”

There are about half a million Ahmadis in Pakistan, their leaders say. Many only feel safe in Rabwa, a town they bought when Pakistan was created in 1947. On its main streets, banks of security cameras monitor fruit vendors and dozing dogs.

Near the playing fields, blocks of flats house families that fled other parts of Pakistan after loved ones were murdered.

Rafiatta, who asked her last name not be used, moved to Rabwa after gunmen killed her husband in 2010 in front of their young children.

“He was just a hard-working man who loved his family,” she said. The family fled after two Ahmadi neighbours were also killed and men tried to kidnap Raffiata's young son.

The Ahmadi are also targets outside Pakistan.

In Indonesia,a gruesome YouTube video recorded a mass lynching in 2011 as police looked on.

Ahmadi publications are banned in Bangladesh, where a festival site was torched earlier this year.

In Britain, Ahmadi buildings have been vandalised and leaflets have appeared forbidding them to enter shops and urging Muslims to kill them, British media have reported.

But Pakistan is the epicentre of persecution.

Jailed with no bail

Last April, a 25-year-old hospital clerk and his father were at home in Lahore reading an Ahmadi newspaper when a crowd broke down their door, the clerk said.

They beat the two and looted their home. Then a gunman forced the pair into a car without license plates, the clerk said. He asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

Their kidnappers went free but the two were eventually charged with impersonating Muslims in special anti-terrorist courts designed to combat the Taliban.

The clerk was released after a month, but his father, who has not yet been convicted, has been in prison for nine months.The family has since fled their home and the man now occupying it is refusing to pay them for it.

“Nobody has the courage to give him bail or dismiss the case,” the clerk said.

And that's what Masood Ahmad's family fears. He has had three bail hearings. One was picketed by scores chanting anti-Ahmadi slogans and his frightened lawyer skipped the next two. British authorities are giving him consular assistance.

His son, one of seven children in Britain and Australia, said the family suspected someone was trying to steal his father's dispensary.

“I feel so angry because I can't do anything from here,”said 39-year-old Abbas Ahmad, a cab driver in Glasgow. “It's awful to know that people were plotting against someone you love.”


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Comments (7) Closed




farooq Mughal
Dec 15, 2013 05:37pm

Does any leader have courage to speak out against this madness.

Laeeq,NY
Dec 15, 2013 05:46pm

Life and religion is no ones property.

bkh
Dec 15, 2013 05:52pm

Treatment of minorities indicates the religious extremism that prevail in Pakistan. Very sad indeed.

Jehan Mir. MD
Dec 15, 2013 06:43pm

The Government of Pakistan is making religious Rulings as to who is Muslim and who is not. That is very strange and highly improper for any govenment of a country to act as an arm of any sect and promote any set of beliefs or doctrine. That is an anti State or anti Pakistan act. It creates division amongst people and ferments discontent and a culture for enemies of Pakistan to exploit against the interests of Pakistan.

A religion is a personal matter and based on faith. It is a faith because Pakistan Government like any other government of a country cannot prove or disprove that any set of beliefs is any more or less credible than any other belief or faith. Pakistan must reverse General Zia's institutionalized persecution ofAhmades, Christians and all others including atheists.

Khurram Awan
Dec 15, 2013 06:47pm

Even Allah will not forgive Pakistani Muslims in the hereafter because their laws permit non Muslims to read Quran and abstain them from reading the Islamic verses. Quran is not a property of Pakistani Muslims rather it is a Word of Allah ( God ) and all Human beings can read Quran since Allah is the creator of all Human beings. Allah is the creator of all Human beings and all human beings can have access to their Almighty Creator and its Holy Book.

Also Hazrat Muhammad ( PBUH ) is Rehmat Ul Alimeen not Rehmat Ul Muslemeen and there is no such rule in Islam where you can disallow anyone to use The name of Prophet Muhammad ( PBUH ) or Use any verse of Quran.

It is said that even Birds pray to Allah ( God ) and I am afraid that Pakistani Muslims will eventually start killing birds for posing as Muslims or reciting the verses to glorify the Allah ( God ) as according to them Islam is their Soul Property and no one else has any right on Anything in Islam. .

sakib
Dec 15, 2013 06:55pm

I am ashamed of being called a Muslim and that with a Pakistani origin. The only place where people would kill you from being wanting to be like you...a Muslim. I truly believe Pakistan is getting what it deserves. And, yes I do believe most Pakistanis are partners in crime when it comes to persecuting someone for their faith. I have seen endless number of Pakistanis living in and outside Pakistan who on the face of it are educated and so called broad minded but as soon as you start talking about Ahmadis, their real face comes out in full force and brutality. I only wish and pray that somehow majority of people in Pakistani open their hearts to others with differing opinions and at least let them live, otherwise I don't see Pakistan in existence for long. I am saying this with a very heavy heart because for 40 years I had been a true Pakistani by heart with never ending love but no more...Today's Pakistan is not what I loved and cherished...and I don't love it any longer....it does not deserve my love and affection and it's because of the people who live there...Shame on you all who keep quite on these everyday atrocities that happen around you and you don't stand up. I pray for you all.

ali
Dec 15, 2013 07:00pm

Attacks against minorities should stop forthwith, the government cannot look the other way about this matter.