Free and fair elections claim – Empty of substance

This came in via email and being posted here for further discussion in another blog.


By Muzaffar Mansoor

Unfortunately the history has been forgotten of those unpopular fundamentalist Islamic Parties including Majlise Ahrar and Jamat-e-Islami which were deadly against the foundation [alphabet ‘P’] of Pakistan calling it with all sort of dirty names like ‘Plaeedastan’, ‘Kafristan’ and to the founder Quaid-e-Azam as ‘Kafir-e-Azam’, dramatically emerged with a new cloak as custodians and trusties of the ideology of Pakistan and its founder soon after its creation. On the independence in 1947 they moved to Pakistan and began advocating that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and for the Sharia Law. Thus to regain their lost popularity their anti-Ahmadi agenda against Ahmadi Muslims who played extraordinarily role for the creation of Pakistan and even became an instrument in bringing Quaid-e-Azam back to the independence track when he had abandoned the movement and returned to London. Ahmadis were Muslims until 1974 when they were declared as non-Muslims for the purposes of constitution land law have had worked very hard for the creation of Pakistan unlike those Islamic Parties now ‘so called trusties’ which were deadly against its creation altogether.

Although General Musharaf the President is currently visiting various countries and advocating for ‘enlightened moderation’ in Pakistan to please his allies on war against terror but practically has done nothing by him to unite the citizens on the grounds of equality as Pakistanis but has deliberately acted contrary to it. According to the Election Laws the basis for voters’ eligibility is Pakistani citizenship, not religion or race. In stark contrast to these laws, the voter forms provided by the Election Commission of Pakistan blatantly includes a column for religion of the voter, a maneuver specifically designed to coerce Ahmadis to declare their disassociation with the Holy Prophet Muhammad [pbuh], which no Ahmadi dare to envision. In order to conduct Elections on Joint electorate basis, Voters List is compiled of all the citizens and displayed for public Information. It would have been a welcome step towards national unity discipline and faith: ‘Ittehad, Tanzim, Yaqeen-e-Muhkam’ the sequence of which has been also changed into Iman, Ittehad, Nazm translated as “Faith, Unity, Discipline” with the advent of Mullaism thereby dividing the country’s ‘unity’ the first, the foremost fabric into sectarianism, intolerance and extremism , the fruits of which we are currently reaping in Pakistan.

The Election Commission acting under inexplicable pressure and expediency issued the following order vide its circular [No.F.1 (6)/2001-Cord] of 17th January, 2007: “I am directed to say that the competent authority has been pleased to decide that separate supplementary lists of draft electoral rolls for Ahmadis / Quadianis for the electoral areas concerned wherever they are registered may be prepared and published thereby mentioning” (For Quadianis, Men / Women)” as the case may be.”

This regulation has resulted in two lists, one general list for all Pakistani Citizens and the other list exclusively for Ahmadis a blatant marginalization and stigmatization. This egregious display of religious discrimination is not only designed to fan sectarian hatred but runs contrary to the Quaid-e-Azam the Father of Nation’s pronouncements, the Constitution of Pakistan and the spirit of General Elections. It also flies in the face of the UN Charter of human rights and is a despicable attempt to single out millions of Ahmadis from the national mainstream and to render them politically irrelevant. It is in fact a brazen display of ruthless suppression of the human rights of Ahmadis peaceful and law abiding citizen of Pakistan, and heartless of the country’s defamation because of it. These elections will therefore loose its credibility and fairness contrary to what General Musharaf the President is trying to portray.

It is noted that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Pakistan through their petition and press releases have notified the Election Commission of Pakistan and government functionaries of this poignant state of affairs. Surprisingly no media or international condemnation has been registered so far from any of the human rights flag bearers because they have no vested interests in this particular cause.
Electorate system is fundamental to any election. In Pakistan, it has a history since its inception in 1947 until the General Zia-ul-Haq rule, all the national elections to the provincial and national assembles were conducted on the basis of Joint Electorate system. This was in line with the vision of the founding father of this nation and has been duly enshrined in the 1973 constitution. Ahmadis participated in all elections equally with the rest of the population.
Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto introduced a change in that he allocated a few additional seats to religious minorities in assemblies, in addition to their rights in the general arrangement. These additional representatives for the minorities were elected by the assembly members. As Ahmadi Muslims did not accept the imposed status of the non-Muslims, a religious minority, they never availed these seats although there was an odd case whereby the government rigged and nominated a non-representative dummy as show-boy to fill the vacancy that was never requested nor acknowledged by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
General Zia-ul-Haq also known as ‘a mullah in uniform’ in addition to his other damage to the nation, imposed the system of Separate Electorate on the political scene in collaboration with anti-Ahmadi Mullahs. In 1985, through the 8th Amendment to the 1973 constitution he imposed it. Since then elections have been held in the country on this basis that separate electoral lists are prepared for different religious groups. Those who claim to be Muslims have to sign a certificate of faith in ‘the end of prophethood’ and deny the veracity of the holy founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The separate electorate system thus divided the Pakistani polity in numerous entities based on religion, sectarianism and did a great damage to the fundamental fabric of ‘Unity’ in the emblem ‘Unity, Discipline and Faith’ given by the Quaid-i-Azam.
This electoral system was maintained after Zia by subsequent regimes. General Musharaf, pressed by the West, brought about some change in the system, however, he stopped well-short of demolishing the system of separate electorate. There is, however, a general misconception that Pakistan has shifted from Separate Electorate to Joint Electorate system – actually it is not true. The Chief Executive’s Order No. 15 of 2002 published in the Gazette of Pakistan (EXTRAORDINARY) issued at ISLAMABAD on MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2002, titled Conduct of General Elections (Second Amendment) Order, 2002, created a separate ‘supplementary list of voters’ in which Ahmadi voters were placed as ‘non-Muslim’. That was the end of the short-lived Joint Electorate reintroduction ambition. That order has not been cancelled or amended and remains in force in its entirety.
It would be recalled that in May 2002, when the system of Joint Electorate was reintroduced, anti-Ahmadi Mullahs raised some hue and cry. One of them who called himself Engineer Saleemullah stood up in a state-sponsored Seerat Conference, which was attended by General Musharaf, the then Chief Executive and the Chief of the Army Staff, and protested in favour of Separate Electorate to exclude Ahmadis. General Musharaf readily reassured him that his concern would be attended to. Sure enough, a few days later Chief Executive’s Order No. 15 was published in the Gazette of Pakistan on June 17, 2002. The new articles enforced that the status of Ahmadis etc. was to remain unchanged despite the Conduct of General Elections Order 2002. It also provided a procedure in Article 7C whereby voters would be required to sign declaration concerning belief about the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and those who refuse to sign the certificate were to be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslims. So that was the end of the resurrected Joint Electorate system. It is an interesting footnote that the so-called Mullah-cum-Engineer Saleemullah has been arrested a few months ago, and no amount of official gratification would put an end to his continuous drives at mischief.
In short, there is really no change in the old system of Separate Electorate – not for millions of Ahmadi Muslim citizens at least. The absence of change was noted by discerning intellectuals at the time in 2002. Mr Ayaz Amir, a leading columnist wrote his column for the daily DAWN at this occasion and titled it ‘Back to the future’. His opening remark was: EVEN in a land renowned for silly edicts, the most recent addition to the statute book, Chief Executive’s Order No. 15, takes the prize for silliness. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan criticized the continuation of the requirement of the Sworn Statement regarding Religion by the candidate, and expressed its concern regarding Ahmadis’ electoral situation. Mr I A Rehman, a leading intellectual wrote an article in the DAWN of September 17, 2002 with headings: Joint electorate? Not quite. As such, there is no doubt that in Pakistan separate electorate system is still in vogue. The given impression of joint electorate is nothing more than a mere deceitful propaganda. The revised rules respond only to a powerful lobby; these do not in principle redress the basic wrong.
Those who govern Pakistan and the Election Commission have all along adopted well-designed deliberate devious policy to ensure that Ahmadi Muslims are kept out of the elections. In the Election 2002, the Election Commission introduced two separate forms for registration of voters, one for Muslims (Form 2) and another ( Form 8 ) for Non-Muslims, and made it obligatory for Ahmadis to apply through Form 8. Obviously, no Ahmadi could dare to denounce his beliefs for the sake of election in violation of his her fundamental right. This suited well to the Election Commission and the Mullah. Now the Commission has done away with Form 8 and redesigned Form 2. The new Form 2 is the same for all voters, but [a big but] it requires them to tick one of the given boxes that mention religion. To ensure that an Ahmadi Muslim may not tick himself as Muslim because they are Muslims, special certificate is added on the back of the Form wherein every applicant who ticks himself as a Muslim is made to sign an odd certificate. This certificate includes a declaration regarding faith in the absolute and unqualified end of prophethood and a denial of being a Qadiani / Lahori / Ahmadi. The form includes a warning that a violation will be punished with imprisonment. That places Pakistan squarely with that of 17th century Europe. It is relevant to mention that the given definition of a Muslim in Form 2, as adopted from Article 260(3) the constitution is only made-in-Pakistan and, leave alone the original sources, has not been found anywhere else in 1400 years since the inception of Islam. This is true also regarding the definition of non-Muslim given in Art 260(3) b. The rulers, politicians and the Mullah have led the state of Pakistan into disunity, chaos and disbelief.

The western mind sometimes may do ask, why Ahmadis not simply fill in the form to avail of the voting right. The fact is that none who considers being a Muslim would ever dissociate himself from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) for a petty registration as a voter. It is funny to ask a human being to henceforth behave like an animal for the purposes of constitution and law and unless one does it he / she will not be provided any rights and or protected by the law. Ahmadi Muslims are no exception, as it is also not possible for them to do so in the light of their beliefs. Can one expect a Sunni Muslim in Iran to avail of voting rights at the cost of his Islam? Or, just imagine a member state of the European Union asking its Protestant citizens to avail of their voting rights through denial of Christianity and denunciation from Jesus. In fact, the Mullah and the authorities in Pakistan are confident that Ahmadi Muslims will not register as voters under such inhuman preconditions, hence the description of the Form 2.

In conclusion the ‘free and fair elections’ claim made by the President Musharaf is empty of substance. Hence the empty slogan sounds like a joke to Ahmadi Muslim citizens of Pakistan and the right thinking people in the world. As for the freedom of religion, it is guaranteed to Ahmadi Muslims in Article 20 of the constitution of Pakistan and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Pakistan is a signatory. State and non-state institutions and individuals who deny them these fundamental rights expose themselves to an open trial and judgment hence the blatant discrimination to millions of Pakistanis obliterating the voting right in February 2008 elections due to their religious beliefs being Ahmadi Muslims. Why no media or international hue and cry as there is no evidence to suggest that any of the human rights campaigners, organizations and or bodies including International Human Rights Lawyers Association, Asian Lawyers Association and the Law Society has ever made any representation against such discrimination in the name of rule of law, democracy and independence of judiciary.