#India- After 6 months in jail as ‘terror suspect’, a journalist returns


Johnson T A : Bangalore, Wed Feb 27 2013, IE
DF

About six months ago, when he appeared in court for the first time after being named by the Bangalore Police in an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba plot to target local right-wing media personalities, Muthi ur Rehman Siddiqui, 26, a reporter and sub-editor with the Deccan Herald newspaper here, still had the glint of youthful exuberance in his eyes.

But now, the first thing that comes to mind on seeing Siddiqui after his release from prison on Monday, is the disappearance of that enthusiasm from his face. Gone is the glint in his eyes, and in its place is a serious, sad man.

“I always thought the police, media and society at large do not treat terror suspects fairly. That thinking has been reinforced by my experience,” said Siddiqui on Tuesday.

Among 15 youths arrested by the Bangalore Police last August-September from Bangalore, Hubli, Nanded and Hyderabad in an alleged LeT-linked terror plot — that has now been linked to the February 21 twin blasts in Hyderabad — Siddiqui was released on Monday after the NIA, which took over the case, reported no “prosecutable evidence” against him and co-accused Yusuf Nalband, 24.

As the NIA did not name Siddiqui and Nalband, a commerce graduate working in a private firm, in its chargesheet filed on February 20, a special court ordered their release on February 23.

“I feel really relieved that I have been able to come out clean. It is a huge victory for me and the community at large, because this is not one individual’s fight,” said Siddiqui. “People called me the mastermind of the group. If I am the mastermind, then my friends who have been arrested must also be released,” he said.

The arrests were made on the basis of intelligence inputs of contacts between some of the youths and LeT-linked persons in Saudi Arabia. But there was no clear case against Siddiqui. It was alleged that he was providing radical literature and his office computer was seized.

One of five children of a small-time perfume merchant from Hubli, Siddiqui financed his own education, and did not allow the death of his father in 2006 to deter him from obtaining a post-graduate degree in mass communication and pursuing his dream of a career in journalism.

“When I was doing my PG diploma in mass communication, I chose the topic, ‘Media coverage of terrorism suspects’, for my thesis. Unfortunately, my supervisor struck down the topic, saying I may get into trouble. But the subject has always been on my mind. And I saw in prison that people have been stuck there for years, in some cases without a trial,” he said, referring to the continued incarceration of 32 youths arrested from Hubli in 2007.

“I consider myself very fortunate that I have been released after six months. Trial takes about seven to eight years. When you are declared innocent after seven or eight years, it is like a slap on your face. My sympathies were always with terror suspects, and that feeling has become stronger now,” said Siddiqui.

During his time in prison, Siddiqui memorised a significant part of the Quran. “That is one of the positive things this experience has given me,” he said. Siddiqui said he also tried to engage himself constructively by teaching two of his co-accused who are illiterate (Mohammed Sadiq Laskhar, 28 and Mahaboob Bagalkot, 26).

“Initially I was very optimistic that I would get out soon because they had promised me. We waited and waited, but it did not happen,” he said. As time lapsed, he feared that the police may fabricate evidence against him. With charges being brought under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, the time for incarceration prior to the chargesheet was extended to 180 days.

“The experience has really changed me as a person. When you are kept in confinement, it is very depressing. Now I have a different perspective of the world,” he said.

“I had so much time because there isn’t any responsibility or any work. But it is an advantage in the sense that I had ample time to introspect. I could do some serious introspection about my life, career and the shortcomings in me as a person. I also read a lot,” said Siddiqui.

He has no immediate plans to return to journalism, he wants to spend some time with his family. “I am yet to adjust to this changed environment. I have just returned from an entirely different world,” he said.

Siddiqui hoped that the others accused in the case would also be released soon. “They have resigned themselves to remaining in prison for a while. But the thought is still there each morning, when you wake up, about being free once again,” he said.

Pointing out that DRDO scientist Ajaz Ahmed Mirza, 25, who is also among the arrested, has not been named in the NIA chargesheet, Siddiqui said he expected him to be freed soon.

– See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/after-6-months-in-jail-as–terror-suspect–a-journalist-returns/1080262/0#sthash.Z71lgbX1.dpuf

Guilty until proven innocent? #fabricated #illegalarrests #minorityrights


  hoot.org
Siddiqui is, of course, not the first journalist to be implicated in terrorism-related cases, though he is certainly among those whose predicament has not attracted due attention from media colleagues or civil society, says AMMU JOSEPH.
 

A charge-sheet against 12 persons accused of links with banned terrorist organisations and involvement in an alleged plot to kill certain individuals, including a couple of journalists and a publisher, was submitted by the National Investigation Agency to the NIA Special Court in Bangalore on 20 February 2013.  Eleven of the accused have been in custody for nearly six months while one is believed to be out of the country. 

Four of the 15 individuals arrested in August-September 2012 by the Central Crime Branch of the Bangalore Police have not been named in the charge-sheet.  Among them is a young journalist, Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui, who at the time of his arrest was a reporter with Deccan Herald, covering education.

 

The NIA has reportedly stated that the investigation against the four left out of the charge-sheet is still pending, and the possibility of a supplementary charge-sheet naming them has not yet been officially ruled out.  However, the young men’s advocates and families claim that their exclusion from the first charge-sheet indicates that the investigating agency has no evidence against them.  The legal team of the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) is likely to submit an application for bail for the four who have not been charged with any crime despite months of incarceration. 

 

Siddiqui’s arrest had initially caused a sensation in media circles, especially since police sources (ubiquitous and omniscient as ever) claimed that he was “the mastermind who identified high-profile personalities for assassination by his associates.”  The Times of India, for example, carried a headline stating this clearly premature allegation as fact (“Scribe was mastermind”) even though the story went on to say that people who knew Siddiqui said he was “a soft-spoken person who was serious about journalism and helpful to colleagues,” and “never wore his extremist beliefs, if any, on his sleeve.” 

 

(Other articles and blog posts about media coverage of the involvement of journalists in the case, as accused and/or as targets, are available here:  “Bangalore journo in plot to kill editors, publisher?”;  “Anti-minority bias behind foiled bid on journos?”;  “Police, media and the creature called ‘terrorist’”.)

 

Siddiqui’s situation was among the several triggers that led to a panel discussion titled “The framing of a ‘terrorist’ – Risks and lessons for the media” organised by Media Watch Bengaluru(MWB) in the city on 16 February.  Although the dots drawn by the police to suggest that those detained were linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and/or Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) did not appear to connect, and even a former chief of RAW questioned the quality of evidence in the case, there was unfortunately little follow-up or independent investigation by the media into what has been described as “one of the most thrilling pre-emptive terror arrests.”

 

Journalists implicated in terror cases

Siddiqui is, of course, not the first journalist to be implicated in terrorism-related cases, though he is certainly among those whose predicament has not attracted due attention from media colleagues or civil society.

KK Shahina, Kerala-based Assistant Editor of Open, is scheduled to appear on 22 February at the sessions court in Somwarpet in Kodagu district, Karnataka, in the first hearing of the two criminal cases booked against her in two separate courts, which will necessitate two trips a month to and from the state. 

 

Already, since July 2011, when she was granted bail by the High Court of Karnataka, she has had to make fortnightly visits to Bangalore to present herself before the investigating officer.  Speaking at the MWB event last Saturday she described the ordeal she has been through since November 2010, when the Karnataka Police charged her under several sections of the Indian Penal Code as well Section 22 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 – all for doing her job as an investigative journalist then with Tehelka (as described in her recent article, “Prisoner of an image,” and her speech at the 2011 Chameli Devi Jain award ceremony, “I am a Muslim, not a terrorist”). 

 

Despite protests and statements against such harassment by journalists’ organisations (like the Kerala Union of Working Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists) and others, the cases against her seem all set to march on.

 

 

 

(An update: Today, Shahina secured bail from the Somwarpet magistrate Jitendra Nath in Coorg amidst a lot of tension due to protests from hindu fundamentalists. They tried to intimidate her supporters and gheraoed her ‘hindu’ friend and unsuccessfully tried to dissuade him from standing surety for her! Shahina had decided to have two friends – a hindu and a muslim – to stand surety for her and the hindu fundamentalists targeted the hindu friend.

Also, they tried to snatch the camera of a news channel – media one – and get them to delete the recording.  Shahina and her supporters had to leave the area under police escort. While this case is posted to March 30, she is to appear in another case in madikeri on February 26).   

Syed Iftikhar Gilani’s traumatic experience of a decade ago came back to haunt him within hours of the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru on 9 February. 

Gilani, then Delhi bureau chief of Kashmir Times, was arrested in June 2002.  Despite the lack of proof, he was remanded first to police custody, then judicial custody and finally charged under the Official Secrets Act. If the case had been moved against him, he would have faced a minimum of 14 years in jail. Fortunately for him, an expose in the Indian Express, and follow-up by his family and supporters (including the Delhi Union of Journalists, the Editors’ Guild of India and other media colleagues), established conclusively that the so-called “classified” documents in his possession were reports that were freely available on the Internet.  And so the case against him had to be dropped, albeit seven months after he was detained.

Despite this and despite his track record since then, including an award from theSahityaAkademi, he was again detained and his family (including his children) harassed and intimidated by the Delhi Police just a fortnight ago.

And, of course, there is the ongoing case of Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi, accused of conspiring to bomb an Israeli embassy car in Delhi in February 2012 and finally released on bail in October, after being held in custody for seven months.

In July 2012 a group of senior journalists, academics and activists in Delhi wrote to the editors of The Times of India and Times Now, strongly protesting against stories that were “highly prejudicial to Mr. Syed Kazmi, a journalist himself,” and the apparent “attempt to pass judgement on Mr. Kazmi” through their media outlets.  Unfortunately, that letter – providing details of the offending stories – does not seem to have been published anywhere.

In August-September 2012 the global news agency, Inter Press Service, ran a three-part series by an award-winning investigative journalist (Gareth Porter) titled, “The Delhi Car Bombing: How the Police Built a False Case.” The articles exposed the tactics employed by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, including the leaking of false confessions and evidence to the news media. 

According to the series, the first wave of leaks to the press about Kazmi’s alleged confessions – suggesting that he had admitted to having participated in the embassy car bomb plot – were timed to generate a wave of sensational articles in March 2012, just before his first bail application.  That manoeuvre apparently prompted the court hearing the bail application to admonish the public prosecutor.  Kazmi himself denounced the “disclosure statements” attributed to him as false, stating in a handwritten petition to the court that the Special Cell had coerced him into providing his signature on blank pages, threatening that his family would face “dire consequences” if he did not do as they directed.

A 200-page report titled “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a Very Special Cell,” brought out by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, was released in September 2012, coincidentally soon after Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui and others were  arrested by the Bangalore Police.  The detailed report, relying mainly on court documents, chronicles 16 cases in which people arrested as operatives of various terrorist groups were later acquitted by the courts.  Of course, acquittals do not generally make as much news as arrests – so their names are often not cleared in the minds of the public.

At an interaction organised by the Network of Women in Media – Mumbai in February 2003, Syed Iftekhar Gilani made several interesting observations about the media, which are worth revisiting.  Of particular relevance in today’s context is this comment addressed to media colleagues:  “My message to journalist friends is that if they can do it with me, they can do it with you tomorrow. My case should be a wake-up call for all journalists and concerned citizens. I was lucky to be in the capital of the country and have friends who had the reach in the Government to persuade its political leadership to see the facts. I, however, shudder at the fate of the citizens living in small towns who may be wronged by the arms of the Government who are supposed to protect them. Who will speak for them?”

Bangalore is not exactly a small town.  But, as far as Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui and the other young men who have already been in custody for close to six months are concerned, it might as well be.

 

 

Twenty-two questions to the Police Commissioner of Hyderabad


Submitted by admin on 25 February 2013 – , twocircles.net

By Advocate Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir

Dear Mr Police Commissioner:

I am told by “the Press” that Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar e Tayyaba / Toiba with several score “sleeper cells” are responsible for bomb blasts at Hyderabad recently. The same press also reports that the Commissioner of Police says it is not yet known who is responsible. The media however, quoting allegedly unidentified yet allegedly reliable police sources, seems to know a great deal more than even the police.

For, scanning news reports I see that over a week, EVERY name of an alleged suspect is a Muslim name. Even names of alleged organisations allegedly linked with the blasts, are Muslim names. The implications, the undercurrent of political, administrative and executive as well as media bias is striking. Once again, the Muslims are the target. To interpret these horrifying signals, not much of a brain is needed. However, in the India of today where the language of political discourse has fallen to abysmal levels, four notable absentees are: brain, shame, truth and justice.

Let me ask you, sir, a few questions:

1. Despite the innumerable Muslim accused having been found by due process of law to be innocent of terror involvement, and despite the confessional statements of right-wing Hindutva group cadre members with those confessional statements supported by independent corroborative evidence, how is it that ONLY Muslims are stated in the press as being investigated, interrogated, searched for ?

2. How is it that despite the confessional statements of right-wing Hindutva group cadre members with those confessional statements supported by independent corroborative evidence, NO non-Muslim name features in ANY of these reports including those citing mysterious sources giving out Muslim names as suspects?

3. Has the police undertaken a questioning of those media rags (sorry, newspapers) and ruts (sorry, channels) which have been promoting this lopsided image of a Muslim community as responsible for such events, to ascertain which “sources” they got these credible bits of information from ?

4. Has the police undertaken a questioning of those mysterious sources to ascertain what information they have and to know whether they are somehow involved, or wish to create red herrings to misdirect investigation?

 

Shafeeq Mahajir is a Hyderabad based lawyer. 

5. Has the police undertaken a questioning of those who control or own these media rags (sorry, newspapers) and ruts (sorry, channels) which have been promoting this lopsided image of a Muslim community as responsible for such events, to ascertain whether they are carefully orchestrating a media blitz to ensure that the direction of investigation serves to deflect the focus from the right wing terror which stands established as a fact?

6. Has the police taken any steps to book cases against these media houses, press reporters and newspapers, for publishing material without reasonable basis, as causes dissensions within society and polarizes it, creating enmity between groups and sections of society along religious lines ?

7. Considering that a speech by an MLA has had charges of sedition and waging war against the State slapped against him, should the same charges not be framed against these media houses, press reporters and publishers and newspapers, for publishing such scandalizing material without reasonable basis, and thereby creating enmity between groups and sections of society along religious lines ? If they have had these bits of information planted by some “sources” should those sources not be identified and similarly prosecuted? Or are Muslim-baiters to be forever immune from prosecution?

8. Is this not indicative of interference with investigative processes and is it not actionable? Considering that, what action has the police taken as against these communalizing elements?

9. If any non-Muslim has even been questioned in these matters, why is it that the media is absolutely silent of that, or do “police sources” only reveal to the media the names of Muslim persons being investigated?

10. Is the police department not aware that the assertion that a named person is being investigated on such serious charges is by itself enough to cause massive trauma in his and his family’s life? Who is behind the publication and the media blitz to defame and demonize the Muslim community?

11. Why is the Police a silent spectator in the matter?

12. Why did the police not sanitize the areas after the events and instead permit VIP visitors with entourages, and were any measures taken to ensure that the entourage members did not interfere with the integrity of available evidence, or even perhaps plant “evidence” ?

13. If the police is yet to analyse the data from the camera that was making a CCTV record of the area/s in question, how is it that named suspects are being spoken of even before that exercise, and all of them happen to be ONLY Muslims ? Or is it a foregone conclusion that ONLY Muslims can be responsible and the police believe in advance that no one else need be suspected?

14. If in earlier blasts like the ones in Samjhauta Express, Ajmer, Malegaon, Hyderabad, etc., right wing groups are found on NIA investigation to be involved, how and why is it that none of those from those organisations or linked to those accused, are being investigated or their names shown as possibly involved ? Or, to repeat, is it a foregone conclusion that ONLY Muslims can be responsible and the police believes in advance that no one else need be suspected, and if so, considering this and 13 above, how credible is this investigation going to be?

15. The press also reports that the State Police is reluctant to hand over the investigation to the NIA. Why on earth is that? Is it that the State Police desires a certain outcome and the investigation by the NIA can come up with results that a certain section of Indian society holding certain non-inclusive, non-pluralistic, non-secular views would be upset by this?

16. Is the possibility being investigated that a police, paramilitary or military hand may be involved looking at the likely political situation that can unfold while heading towards the 2014 elections? If not, perhaps someone knows why not, considering that in the past there is at least one known army man accused of complicity in terror activities in collusion with some “religious” individuals wearing (and thereby defaming) a certain colour ?

17. Considering the press reports that use of certain chemicals points allegedly to an “IM imprint”, is the possibility being investigated that any group wanting to have an investigation go in a certain direction, would use such methods or means to direct blame towards a specific group?

18. Considering that there is no effort by the police department or other agencies to distance itself/themselves from what the media reports, do we citizens take it that the police also is investigating these matters only along the lines that ONLY Muslims and none other can be involved ?

19. Are the police officials who are investigating these matters screened to ensure they are not persons with anti-Muslim bias or a reluctance to see right-wing hands that evidence points towards? Is there ever any screening to weed out officials who have been found in the past to have targeted Muslims during such investigative exercise or foisted false cases against them?

20. Is it a scheme already in place, with the 2014 elections in mind, that UAPA will be invoked in the aftermath of these blasts?

21. Is it a likelihood, based on the past similar tragedies, that an unknown number of young Indians will be charged, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, police will extract “confessions” under extreme duress, they will be tried on those charges in the courts, accused will have attorneys who will hardly have the experience, resources and support to match the massive resources and influence over the process of the prosecution by government and its agencies and, though none of the accused will be convicted for the alleged crime they will be accused of, nevertheless their lives will be shattered forever ?

22. Considering that 1 out of 7 Indians is a Muslim, 1 out of 8 Muslims of the world live in India, and over 200 million Muslims of India belong to India, and India belongs to Muslims as much as to any other community in India, what do you believe the demand of proper policing is ?


Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir appeared before Justice Bhaskara Rao Commission inquiring into the police firing on unarmed Muslims in the wake of Mecca Masjid blast of 2007. Shafeeq Mahajir with painstaking research work was able to demonstrate the AP Police deliberately fired on civilians. Police claimed that they fired to stop the violent crowd from burning nearby petrol pump. Mahajir proved the police claim false and showed that police fired unprovoked and fired to kill.

 

#Pakistan-Girls’ school on fire in Lahore over ‘blasphemous’ exam questions #Vaw


Press Trust of India | Updated: November 01, 2012 12:59 IST

LahoreA large number of people, including activists of religious parties, ransacked and set on fire a girls’ school in Lahore and clashed with police following reports that a question paper for a test had contained blasphemous references to the Prophet, police said on Thursday.
Activists of groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Islami Jamiat Talba, the students’ wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, and parents of some students were among those who on Wednesday vandalised three buildings of the Farooqi Girls High School, located near the historic Data Darbar shrine.Residents of Karim Park near Data Darbar began gathering outside the school on Wednesday morning following reports that its owner, Asim Farooqi, and teacher Arifa had committed blasphemy.

According to witnesses, the mob surrounded the three school buildings and forced their entry into the complex even after a large police contingent was deployed at the spot.

A sizeable number of activists of the Islami Jamiat Talba and JuD were part of the crowd and they demanded that the police should hand over the blasphemers to them.

The protesters subsequently forced their entry into the buildings after police used teargas in an attempt to disperse them. They let terrified students vacate the buildings and searched for the “blasphemers”.

After failing to find them, they ransacked the buildings and torched furniture, property and the car of the school’s owner.

The charged protesters also stopped fire service personnel from entering the buildings to extinguish the fire.

The police tried to disperse them for a second time but were unsuccessful.

Legislators Mian Marghoob and Khawaja Imran Nazir of the PML-N that rules Punjab and senior police officers reached the spot and requested the protesters to go home so that police could investigate the matter.

“I assure you the government will thoroughly investigate the matter and will not spare those involved in blasphemy,” promised Mr Nazir, who is the political secretary to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Later, police claimed they had arrested both Farooqi and Arifa and booked them under the harsh blasphemy law.

A police official told PTI that the private school’s administration had set a question paper for a test a few days ago that allegedly contained “indecent” remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

Police also registered a case against unidentified protesters for ransacking the school buildings.

 

Fasih Mohammed deported from Saudi Arabia, arrested in Delhi


Fasih Mohammad, suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorist, arrested at Delhi airport
New Delhi:  NDTV , Oct 22, 2012
Fasih Mohammad, an  alleged accused of a key role in bomb blasts in Delhi and Bangalore, has been arrested at the Delhi airport after he was deported by Saudi Arabia.India believes that Mohammad, who is 28, is an important member of banned terror group Indian Mujahideen, mentored by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which executed the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed.

Mohammed, an engineer from Bihar had been working and living in Saudi Arabia; he was taken into local custody five months ago. His wife had appealed to the Supreme Court earlier this year for information about his whereabouts, alleging that her husband had been picked up from their home in Saudi Arabia by Indian intelligence officials. India said that at the time, it did not have the engineer from Bihar in its custody.

Mohammed allegedly helped plan a terror attack during an IPL match outside the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in 2010 – 15 people, including five policemen, were injured. In September that year, just before the Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi, two gunmen shot at a tourist vehicle near the Jama Masjid mosque; two people were injured. A short while later, a car parked nearby went up in flames, allegedly because a bomb had been planted inside the Maruti 800.

In June, Saudi Arabia deported Abu Jundal, a man who allegedly served as a handler for the terrorists who ravaged Mumbai in India’s worst-ever terror attacks in 2008. India and the US had spent a year coordinating intelligence inputs and pressuring Saudi Arabia to send Jundal to Delhi, against the wishes of Pakistan.

He has been interrogated by the police forces of different states and the National Investigating Agency (NIA), which is handling the investigation into the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed. Jundal has also been confronted with Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist caught alive during 26/11, who is in a jail in Mumbai and has been given the death sentence by the Supreme Court.
His name cropped up during the interrogation of suspected IM terrorists arrested during the last nine months.

While the Saudi authorities confirmed his detention there, they conveyed that they were closely examining his role and stay in that country.

Fasih’s wife Nikhat Parveen had approached the Supreme Court claiming that her husband was in the custody of central security agencies, a charge denied by the Government.

Pakistan- Run for your life


Map of Pakistan

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Published: March 4, 2012

Eighteen bloodied bodies, shot Gestapo-style, lay by the roadside. Men in army uniforms had stopped four buses bound from Rawalpindi to Gilgit, demanding that all 117 persons on board alight.Those with Shia sounding names on their national identification cards were separated out. Minutes later it was all over; the earlier massacres of Hazara Shias in Mastung and Quetta had been repeated.

Having just learned of the fresh killings, I relayed the news on to colleagues and students at the cafeteria table. Some looked glumly at their plates but, a minute or two later, normal cheerful chatter resumed. What to do? With so many killings, taking things too seriously can be bad for one’s mental health.

In Pakistan one’s religious faith, or lack of one, has become sufficient to warrant execution and murder. The killers do their job fearlessly and frequently. The 17th century philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, once observed that “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction”.

Equipped with just enough religion to hate those with another faith — but not enough to love their coreligionists — Pakistanis have mostly turned their backs on religious atrocities. Exceptionally grotesque ones, such as when 88 Ahmadis quietly praying in Lahore on a Friday were turned into corpses, have also failed to inspire public reaction. Mass executions do not interest Pakistan’s religious parties, or Imran’s Khan’s PTI. For them, only the killings by American drones matter.

The title of this essay deliberately excludes Hindus, Christians, and Parsis. The reason: these communities were never enthused about India’s partition (even though some individual members pretended to be). Indeed, they were soon slapped with the Objectives Resolution of 1949 which termed them “minorities”, hence freaks and outcasts dispatched to the margins. Some accepted their fate, keeping a low profile. Others altered their names to more Muslim sounding ones. The better off or more able ones emigrated, taking valuable skills along with them.

But with Shias and Ahmadis it was different. Whatever they might feel now, they were enthusiastic about Pakistan. Mr Jinnah, born a Gujrati Shia Muslim, believed that Muslims and Hindus could never live together peacefully but that Muslims, of course, could. Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan, an Ahmadi leader, was commended by Jinnah for having eloquently argued the Two-Nation theory, and then appointed by him in 1947 as Pakistan’s first foreign minister. Mr Jinnah died early, but Zafarullah Khan lived long enough to see disillusionment. The inevitable had happened: once the partition was complete, the question of which version of Islam was correct became bitterly contentious.

Until recently, Pakistan’s Shias did not have the self-image of a religious minority. They had joined Sunnis in supporting Mr Bhutto’s 1974 decision to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim. But now they are worried. The Tribal Areas are convulsed in sectarian warfare: Kurram, Parachinar and Hangu (in the settled districts) are killing grounds for both Sunni and Shia, but with most casualties being Shia. City life has also become increasingly insecure and segregated; Karachi’s Shia neighborhoods are visibly barricaded and fortified.

But while Shias are numerous enough to put up a defence, Ahmadis are not. Last month, a raging 5,000-strong mob descended upon their sole worship place in Satellite Town, Rawalpindi. Organised by the Jamaat-i-Islami, various leaders from Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Sipah-e-Sahaba addressed the rally demanding the worship place’s security cameras and protective barricades be removed. The police agreed with the mob’s demands, advising the Ahmadis to cease praying. The worship place has now been closed down.

Forbidden from calling themselves Muslims, Ahmadi children are expelled from school once their religion is discovered. Just a hint may be enough to destroy a career. Knowing this, the school staff at a high school in Mansehra added the word ‘Qadiani’ to the name of an Ahmadi student, Raheel Ahmad, effectively eliminating the boy’s chances of getting a university education. The same school also held an anti-Ahmadi programme, distributing prizes to winners.

The latest outrage is that new ID cards, issued by the Punjab government, require the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to insert a ‘Qadiani’ entry in the online forms. Ahmadis now do not have the option of declaring themselves non-Muslims. Instead the government demands that they open themselves to public persecution, a method that Nazi Germany used against Jews.

Even dead Ahmadis are not spared: news had reached the Khatm-e-Nabuwat that Nadia Hanif, a 17-year old school teacher who had died of illness ten days ago, was actually an Ahmadi but buried in a Muslim graveyard in Chanda Singh village, Kasur. Her grave was promptly dug up, and the body removed for reburial.

Pakistan’s state apparatus, for all its tanks and guns, offers no protection to those deemed as religious minorities. Is it just weakness? Or, perhaps, complicity? While swarms of intelligence agents can be seen in many places, they fail spectacularly to intercept religious terrorists. More ominously, recent months have seen state-sanctioned Difah-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) rallies across the country, drawing many tens of thousands. Prominent self-proclaimed Shia and Ahmadi killers, prance on stage while holding hands in a show of unity.

At the Multan DPC rally on February 17, Khatm-e-Nabuwat leaders bayed for Ahmadi blood while sharing the stage with the famed Malik Ishaq, a self-acclaimed Shia-killer. Newspaper reports say Ishaq was freed last year after frightened judges treated him like a guest in the courtroom, offering him tea and biscuits. One judge attempted to hide his face with his hands. But after Ishaq read out the names of his children, the judge abandoned the trial.

What does the Pakistan Army think it will gain tolerating — or perhaps encouraging — such violent forces once again? Its jawans pay an enormous price in fighting them, and their offshoots, elsewhere in the country. But perhaps the notion that extremists are Pakistan’s ‘strategic assets’ for use in Kashmir and Afghanistan has captured the military’s mind. Or, post-OBL, perhaps a miffed leadership seeks to show anger at the US through such rallies. Whatever the explanation, Pakistan’s minorities face catastrophe.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2012.

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