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PAKISTAN: More Muslim than the Muslims

An Article by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: More Muslim than the Muslims
National Data Base Authority (NADRA)creates a new religion with the name of Qadiani in religion column of identity cards' forms.

By Rabab Fizah and Anna Thorning

The persecution of Ahmadis, a black listed minority sect of Islam, continues and during the first two months of this year three members from the minority sect, the Ahmadis, were murdered in target killings. In response to the persecutions in an effort to prove themselves more Muslims than the fundamentalists, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has created a new religion in Pakistan with the name of 'Qadiani' in the online forms for new national identity cards.

In a state where every issue is seen through the spectacles of Islam obviously religion becomes a mockery of what is happening in the country. In an effort to make a mockery out of the dominating religion of the country the NADRA has created a new religion with the name of Qadiani in the column of religion. NADRA has adopted the policy of entering religion Qadiyani for Ahamadis in its computerized national identity card forms. On the new online form issued from the NADRA center, Chiniot, Punjab province, where Ahmadis have resided in large numbers for a century, are now categorized in the entry number 15 and written in Urdu AS ''15 Mazhab (religion) Qadiani''. Before that there was a column of religion where one had to choose between 'Muslim' or 'Non Muslim' and here Ahmadis would choose 'Non Muslims' or writing themselves as Ahmadis, which was accepted by the 'online form'. But now the word Qadiani has been introduced in the 'online form' by the Punjab government which threatens the very existence of the Ahmadis and appeases the fundamentalist Muslim groups who are united under the banner of Khatm-e-Nabowat Conference.

The change in the national identity cards by the national data base authority is to ensure the authenticity of citizenship in the country and has nothing to do with religion. Yet, the introduction of a distinction between Muslims and Ahmadis or any other minority serves the purpose of pushing them towards the fringes of the Pakistani society. National identity becomes equated with religious affiliation. You are only Pakistani if you belong to the Muslim majority. The other problem is in the column of 'non Muslim' which doesn't define whether the non Muslim person belongs to the Hindu faith, Christianity or Sikh faith or any other particular religion. So, all persons who tick off the 'non Muslim' box are treated as 'Qadiani'.

This madness of the Punjab provincial government has not been limited to the national data form but has seeped into the educational institutions. Now, every schoolchild has to mention whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim in the admission forms. This foolishness has even been replicated by the Punjab government to the roll number slips that the students fill out in their annual examinations. On every roll number slip a column specifically asks to state your religious affiliation. Please see the examination slips.

The function of the roll number slip is to give access to the examination hall, so why state whether one is Muslim or non Muslim. The purpose of this is to divide the student body along lines of religion and this leads to sectarian hatred. It is a discriminating practice against students based on religion and it places the lives of the religious minorities in Pakistan in danger.

This seemingly innocent practice leads to a segregated Pakistan, where minorities face persecution and it radicalizes Pakistani society.

Pakistan is a country where the religion of Islam is frequently used as a pretext to usurp fundamental rights of the ordinary citizens. The militancy present in Pakistani society has been strengthened by the promotion of state led religious intolerance. The misuse of Islam and the blasphemy law has affected the Pakistani state aversely and turned it into a deadly weapon targeting openness, tolerance, enlightenment, progress, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, civil rights and freedom of speech.

The Islamisation process in Pakistan has gone so far as to turn into Talibinisation, so that is it is hard to differentiate between the process of Talibanisation and Islamisation. In one case the Chief Justice of Pakistan refuted the legislative authority of the parliament and stated that if the parliament was free to legislate, the parliament would make laws promoting secularism.

The judiciary supports powerful groups that work against the freedom to adopt a religion of choice and the rights of religious minority groups. In many cases the courts have prosecuted minority groups for breaking the blasphemy law even though there has been no evidence. The courts feels threatened by the fundamentalist groups and therefore quickly pass sentences. In relation to the Ahmadis, the judicial officers have attended conferences inciting hatred against Ahmadis and in many cases these conferences were held inside the court premises.

Introducing a national identity card where one has to state religious affinity negates the very foundation of citizenship. One is a citizen of the Pakistani state regardless of one's religion. What is needed is a strong movement that fights against instrument that segregates the Pakistani society along lines of religion. The mockery of putting a religious category in all official documents should be stopped so that all citizens are equal before the law.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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