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The systematic persecution of minorities for political mileage

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We are now making it impossible for Ahmadis, who are as much as Pakistanis as all of us, to live in this country.

A few days ago, I wrote a blog on a shameful incident in Faisalabad involving the arrest of three Ahmadi individuals for practicing the Islamic ritual of animal sacrifice, otherwise known as “Qurbani” in Urdu. The incident shocked me for two reasons. First was the sheer inhumanity of arresting someone for an act which is performed by millions in Pakistan. Second, because the said individuals were performing the ritual within the confinement of their own homes, which means technically, they were not violating Section 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which prohibits any person of the Ahmadi sect from calling himself a Muslim or preaching or propagating his faith. Notwithstanding the draconian nature of the said law, the arrested Ahmadis were not violating it any ways.

Condemning the incident, I wrote,

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“From policing their behaviour in public, we have now started to breach the privacy of their homes and in doing so are forcefully stripping them of their human dignity and respect completely.”

At that point, I thought we had reached the lowest possible level of our moral bankruptcy. Little did I know that when it comes to Ahmadis, both our state and the society have an amazing capacity to constantly outdo all our previous misdeeds.

Since then, two similar incidents have come to surface, which again have left me completely stunned. First, the government of Chaudary Pervaiz Elahi, immediately after taking over Punjab, decided to amend the nikkah nama form by including the clause about belief in finality of Prophethood. Second, in another and even more troubling development, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Malik Ilyas Awan submitted a letter to the deputy commissioner of Khushab, requesting him to take away security from the Ahmadi residents of the region, while also calling for their eviction from Khushab.

While the Eid incident demonstrated bigotry and hatred at the general population level, what makes these two latest developments particularly shocking is involvement of the government. When such steps are taken by the government, then it means that it has abandoned its basic responsibility of provision of safety and protection to all its citizens and has become completely partisan against a minority and in the process increasingly showing traits of a quasi-fascist state.

The updating of nikkah nama is the continuation of the long trend of including such clauses in various government documents. This step was not needed as such since this requirement is already present in many identification documents. Moreover, the Muslim Family Law is not a provincial subject and yet the Punjab government decided to take this step. In my opinion, it does not serve any purpose except to further promote and institutionalise discrimination against Ahmadis for the purpose of extracting political mileage. This was first proposed in March 2022, before the no-confidence motion and even at that time there was criticism from the liberal quarters that the sole purpose of this was nothing but petty political gains.

Now, after “retaking” Punjab, the PTI and PML-Q coalition immediately enacted the bill they had proposed in March. One reason as to why they have done so is that in recent by-elections, which they won convincingly, they played on a religious wicket in order to outflank the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). They were so effective in their campaign of whipping up religion, including the finality of Prophethood issue, that TLP witnessed its share plung to merely 5%. Since the issue of finality of Prophethood is intrinsically linked with Ahmadis, therefore, whenever it is raised for the sake of extracting political mileage, they end up getting victimised.

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Since the coalition had already charged up its base by using this tactic, it has now tried to demonstrate that those had not been just “empty slogans” after taking over. In other words, the coalition has tried to prove its “commitment” to the issue.

Due to recent sloganeering, the issue has gained strength and as a result, the second development, i.e. request from PLM-Q to expel Ahmadis and removal of their security can also be understood in the same context. It is a continuation of the trend in which religion, particularly the issue of finality of Prophethood, is raised, followed by some measure against the already marginalised Ahmadi community.

As I mentioned in my old blog, although all minorities in Pakistan suffer from discrimination, the treatment meted out to Ahmadis is by far the worst. There is what I call “Ahmadi exceptionalism” in Pakistan. And the way things are going, I really don’t see an end to this pattern. I genuinely fear that the tactics used by PTI will now be adopted by other parties such as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and TLP with even greater vigor in the future.

Two years ago, in a piece about the politicisation of the Ahmadi issue, I wrote:

“Academic Sadia Saeed has identified three state responses, each one harsher than the previous, over the Ahmadi issue. First was accommodation, when in 1953 the state curbed anti-Ahmadi agitation; second was exclusion, when the state declared them non-Muslims in 1974; and the third was criminalisation under the Ziaul Haq regime, where anti-Ahmadi ordinances were introduced. The way we are regressing, I am afraid that a fourth one is not far away: ethnic cleansing or forced displacement of Ahmadis from Pakistan.”

I think with these recent developments, the fourth stage has started. We are now creating circumstances where it is impossible for Ahmadis, who are as much as Pakistanis as all of us, to live in this country. In doing so, we are depriving them of even basic human dignity and right to live while we are ourselves are morphing into a bigoted, hate-filled and cruel society.

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May God help and show us the right path which is of kindness and empathy.





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Pakistan

Pakistan to send armed helicopter unit to UN peacekeeping mission

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UNITED NATIONS:

Pakistan and Bangladesh will each be sending an armed helicopter unit to the UN peacekeeping operations in Mali, which faces serious problems as several countries have withdrawn or announced plans to pull out their personnel, a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Farhan Haq said that India will supply a utility helicopter unit to the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, and all three are expected to be deployed by March next year.

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“These provide much-needed support to our forces and are critical for early warning and rapid response to protect civilians,” the spokesman told reporters at the regular noon briefing at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The UN continues to discuss with member states the deployment of new assets and plans to fill longer-standing gaps in addition to those resulting from recent announcements” of withdrawals, he said.

Set up in 2013, MINUSMA has 17,622 personnel helping the Malian government combat terrorists operating in the country.

MINUSMA is one of the deadliest operations having claimed the lives of 292 peacekeepers.

France completed its withdrawal earlier this year and it was followed by Egypt in August.

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Germany said that it was withdrawing its personnel, who numbered 595 in the latest UN roster, from MINUSMA by May next year.

Also read: Who is country’s new army chief Asim Munir?

Britain is also pulling out its 249 personnel.

Ivory Coast also said that it would discontinue the participation of its personnel, who numbered 898, in MINUSMA when the current deployment ends because of a separate dispute with the Mali government over the arrest of its soldiers who went there on a mission unconnected to the UN.

Despite the dangerous nature of the Minusma, Pakistani military doctors serving in Mopti, a town in the fifth administrative region of Mali. have continued to serve, earning praise for their work. They operate a state-of-the-art hospital staffed with 75 medical personnel, including 10 women and 65 men, according to the UN.

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The hospital operates 24 hours a day, every day, and they are always on alert. All specialities are covered, from pharmacy to gynaecology. However, its main purpose is to perform life-saving and urgent surgery when peacekeepers are injured, it was pointed out.





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Imran urges ‘all Pakistanis to participate’ in PTI long march

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Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday urged all Pakistanis to participate in his party’s much-hyped long march on Saturday (Nov26) in what appears to be his final showdown with the incumbent government to force it to announce early election date.

“Dear Pakistanis, I want all of you to participate in our haqeeqi long march in Pindi at 1pm on Saturday,” he said in a short video statement.

Imran, who was removed from power through a vote of no confidence in April, said that only a nation which has justice in it will get real freedom. “When there is justice, there are rights. When there are rights, a nation is free. Only an independent nation is prosperous,” he went on to say.

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Read more: Interior ministry warns PTI of threats, urges postponing Pindi march

The former premier said that the nation will not stay silent until it gets real freedom. “I am coming for you despite my [health] condition and all of you need to come to Pindi for me,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Asad Umar presided over a meeting regarding the party’s preparation for the long march in Rawalpindi. Senior PTI leadership including Umar Ayub, Shibli Faraz, Ali Nawaz and others participated in the meeting.

The meeting discussed the overall preparations for the long march in Rawalpindi. The security plan, long march route and other significant matters came under discussion during the meeting.

The meeting was briefed that a caravan had left from Karachi for Rawalpindi whereas two others were ready to begin their journey to the garrison city from Quetta and Gilgit-Baltistan.

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A briefing was also given in the meeting regarding the accommodation of the participants.

Issues regarding the provision of all basic needs including food and accommodation to the participants of the march were also discussed in the meeting.

“The nation is fully united and eager to achieve real freedom,” Umar said, adding that the party would welcome caravans from all over Pakistan in Rawalpindi.

“The captain [Imran Khan] will lead the ocean of people in Rawalpindi on November 26,” he further said.





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Matric, inter exams to be held in April, May

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KARACHI:

The nationwide committee of chairmen of the educational boards decided on Thursday to conduct matric and intermediate exams in April and May this year, respectively and approved the introduction of the new grading system across the country over the next three years.

Inter Board Committee of Chairmen (IBCC) Secretary Ghulam Ali Malah told The Express Tribune that the existing grading system at the inter [grade XII] and matric [grade X] levels was being abolished and replaced by a 10-point system across the country by 2025.

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Also read: New grading system for matric, inter

The IBCC met in Lahore. The meeting was informed that examinations in various grades in Sindh would start immediately after Eidul Fitr. The meeting chaired by Secretary Universities and Boards Mureed Rahimo, was also informed that Sindh to start matric exams on April 27 and inter exams on May 15.

The meeting also approved the implementation of the new “10-point grading system” at the matric and inter levels across the country, Malah said. He added that the implementation of the new system would be started from the next exams.

Under the new grading system, Malah explained, the minimum passing marks had been increased from 33 to 40, while the term “F” or “Fail” would be removed from the student’s examination remarks and in its place a new term “U” means unsatisfactory would be introduced.

The new grades are “A++” or “Exceptional” for students securing 95-100% marks; “A+” or “Outstanding” for 90-95% marks; “A” or “Remarkable” for 85-90% marks; “B++” or “Excellent” for 80-85% marks; “B+” or “Very Good” for 75-80% marks; “B” or “Good” for 70-75% marks; “C” or “Fair” for 60-70% marks; “D” or “Satisfactory” for 50-60% marks; “E” or “Sufficient” for 40-50% marks.

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The IBCC secretary said that the passing marks at the university level was 40% or even 50% at some places, while the passing marks in aptitude test were also 50. “Hence, it has been decided to increase the passing marks to harmonise these exam results with the universities,” he added.





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