All Ahmadi students expelled from a medical college in Faisalabad
PROFESSOR Dr. Asghar Ali Randhawa, Principal of Punjab Medical College rusticated all Ahmadi students, 15 female and 8 male, from the college as well as hostels on June 5, 2008. Four of the female students were in the final year of their studies.
As per essential details, a campaign was going on for the preceding one month against Ahmadi women students who were accused of preaching Ahmadiyyat. It is not far-fetched that an Ahmadi occasionally chooses to defend herself against the oft-repeated charge that “Ahmadis are the worst enemies of Islam and Pakistan.” At this college, the anti-Ahmadi campaign was supported by a warden of the hostel. Moreover the miscreants took to pasting highly slanderous and provocative anti-Ahmadiyya posters on walls. On May 28, 2008 they put up in the hostel a very outrageous and evil poster against the founder of Ahmadiyyat. An Ahmadi student took off one of these and showed it to the warden and requested her to restore some decency in the hostel. The warden’s reaction was negative and partial. Later, a number of male students joined the anti-Ahmadiyya campaign. The issue came before the principal whom some parents of Ahmadi students met and requested to improve the hostel environment. The principal, at the excuse of security, told all Ahmadi women students to shift to one wing of the hostel, although their parents were not agreeable to this apartheid.
As this was an organized campaign, some extremist male students, mostly from the Islami Jamiat Talabah, the student wing of Jamaat Islami, increased their efforts to poison the college environment further. The college administration, rather than handling them firmly as done by the Punjab University earlier in May, gave them a free hand. They started issuing threats to Ahmadi students. One of them even went to different class rooms and openly prompted others to undertake violence. They put up still more of the provocative posters on college walls.
On June 4, the miscreants abducted 4 Ahmadi students from the hostel and subjected them to physical torture. They took in a mulla to help them with religious slander. They made a video tape of the manhandling of their victims. They forcibly undertook search of Ahmadi students’ rooms and belongings, and even stole what they liked. This went on for hours. An attempt was made to inform the principal of what was going on but he was reported to be asleep. So the police were informed but they decided not to intervene. Eventually, the parents of the students whose lives were now at risk, managed to wake up the principal whose intervention secured the release of the abductees.
The drop scene of this sordid drama occurred on June 5 when the miscreants went on strike, surrounded the principal’s office and demanded rustication of all the Ahmadi students. The principal held a session of the Disciplinary Committee and issued orders to rusticate all the 23 Ahmadi students. The committee did not send for any Ahmadi student, pressed no charges, heard nothing in defense from any one, and rusticated en-masse all of them. This action was immoral, illegal, unsupportable – pure tyranny. These doctors and professors behaved more like a bunch of mullas and policemen who, when they suspect one Ahmadi of violating the Ahmadi-specific law, proceed to charge a score in the FIR and arrest them all. If any Ahmadi student was at fault, she should have been disciplined weeks earlier; however it is obvious that by June 5 the principal had became a tool to do their bid. His conduct was then no longer that of a principal.
The decision was vindictive, arbitrary and malicious. No action was taken against a single individual from the agitating miscreants. The fact that all Ahmadi students were put to harm is indicative of the gross lack of genuine and fair inquiry into the case. Teachers are expected to treat students somewhat like parents, but the PMC professors behaved more like an enemy.
This was a case of blatant violation of human rights, mass terror, stark discrimination, religious vendetta and abominable social harm. Its vulgarity is beyond description. Its harm to the affected was immense. Years of their academic work and expense would have been lost affecting their entire careers and future lives.
At the end of the month there was no news of restoration of the expelled students. The principal, advised by higher authorities, appointed a fresh 5-member committee to look into the case. The committee sent for Ahmadi students and recorded their verbal and written statements.
As the expulsion of all Ahmadi students was arbitrary and highly improper, the appropriate action should have been to first restore all of them. Any fresh committee should have comprised of fair and high-level professors from outside the PMC, so that it could function without pressure from local students and the staff who were the aggressive party in the dispute and its subsequent handling. The committee should have critically examined militant and criminal conduct of the agitating students and held them accountable. During the questioning, the committee asked Ahmadi students’ written statements on their religion, and warned them of being legally responsible for what they wrote. There were indications that this committee was finding it convenient to be partial and even hostile to the victims.
Some elements demanded prosecution of some Ahmadi students under the Ahmadi–specific laws. In that case, it was only fair to expect that authorities would charge a large number of the violent non-Ahmadi students under the appropriate laws for outraging religious feelings of any class, as they prepared and posted highly slanderous posters against the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya community in the college and the hostel on 28th May, and also for undertaking wrongful confinement and criminal force on June 4, 2008.
This college has the dubious distinction of having a malicious religion column in its ‘admission form’. It is well-known that no Ahmadi would call himself a non-Muslim. Some Ahmadis were questioned for writing themselves Muslim.
In a statement to the press, the prestigious and representative Pakistan Medical Association, Faisalabad, through its General Secretary Dr. Rai Qamar uz Zaman, members Executive Committee Dr. Akmal Hussain, Dr. Azhar Awan and Dr. Saeed Akhtar Tariq, termed PMC Principal’s decision to rusticate all Ahmadi students extremely regrettable (Daily Express of June 18, 2008).
Sectarian and politico-religious organizations were given undue coverage in the vernacular press for their anti-Ahmadi propaganda. Some of these bodies are extremists who are essentially only a few, while others exist only on paper. They demanded, rather unabashedly:
- Qadiani (Ahmadi) students should be charged under the Blasphemy law; they have defiled the ‘end of Prophethood’. A Qadiani student was discovered to possess even a copy of the Qur’an with English translation.
- They should be arrested.
- They should not be adjusted in any other college in Pakistan. etc.
Islami Jamiat Talabah (IJT), the Jamaat Islami, Anjuman Talabah Islam, Shaban Ahrar, Khatme Nabuwwat organization etc made political capital out of the situation. A firm response from the authorities could have defused the issue, as happened at the Punjab University earlier.
Unrest spreads to Rawalpindi: The goons of IJT tried to spread the unrest to other colleges. Rawalpindi Medical College was in resonance with the Medical College, Faisalabad in harassment of its Ahmadi students. A social boycott of three Ahmadi female students was implemented in the girls’ hostel. On June 6, the three left the hostel and shifted to the residences of their relatives. Later they shifted back to the hostel assuming that the situation was back to normal. It was not; at midnight on June 11, non-Ahmadi students shut them up in rooms, locked them from outside and shouted slogans. They were subsequently rescued and shifted elsewhere. Even Ahmadi professors were advised by the administration to stay away from the campus. In view of the situation, male Ahmadi students also moved from the hostel to a community guest house to avoid unrest. The next day some agitating students groups prepared an application to the principal demanding that Ahmadi students should be rusticated like those at Faisalabad. On June 13, they put up posters all over the college stating that it is intolerable to them that Qadiani students study in this college; further they stressed that the transfer of Ahmadi students from Faisalabad to Rawalpindi will not be permitted. Professor Dr Farooq, an Ahmadi was advised by his Head of the Department to go home for the day on account of the prevailing tension. The local daily Jang printed a headline: We shall not allow admission in Rawalpindi Medical College of any student guilty of blasphemy.
Situation tense in Medical College at Bahawalpur: The Islami Jamiat Tulabah at the Quaid-e-Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur promptly took up the relay stick from the Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad. They distributed anti-Ahmadi leaflets and folders that contained intensive hate message. In this they were helped by the mullas from local madrassahs, Jamaat Ahle Sunnat, Majlis Tahaffuz Namus Rasalat and Khatme Nabuwwat. They adopted the policy of mixing fabrication, blasphemy and trade in a clever way and injecting it in their youth. Their mass produced leaflets co-related Ahmadiyyat, the Danish cartoons, imported goods etc. by some queer logic, and delivered a message of hate and rejection. As summer holidays were about to begin, Ahmadi students went home to avoid unrest.
The follow-up: Unrest was reported at UET Taxila also. There were disconcerting news from Nishtar Medical College, Multan, as well.
As some student bodies and their political mentors planned and threatened a law and order situation, it was only reasonable and practical for the authorities to deal with them as a ‘law and order issue’, and not a religious issue. A firm response would have cooled them down faster than some weak-hearted unprincipled seniors imagined and feared.
On July 2, 2008 Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a “press release” on this issue in which, the Commission asserted: “It calls upon the provincial and federal governments both to intervene immediately to protect the wronged students and deal firmly with hate-preachers and disrupters of peace because much more than the career of Ahmadi students is at stake.”
The college administration, persuaded mostly by its Chancellor and superiors at Lahore, eventually restored the students except three male students. Messrs Syed Hasan Ahmad, Syed Ehsan (both of the 3rd-year class) and Zeeshan (of 4th-year) were ‘advised’ by the college not to come and attend classes ‘for the present’. Another student went to the college but was frightened away by miscreants. Subsequently, however, these were also accommodated in Faisalabad/Lahore medical colleges. In all eight students were provided alternate admission in colleges at Lahore. However, perhaps to placate the mulla, the principal got registered a blasphemy case with police against unknown (Ahmadi) persons for tearing off a so-called ‘end of Prophethood’ poster. The police sent for Ahmadi students in turn, to appear for investigation. This was disconcerting to students and their parents. Extensive provocative wall-chalking remained, and a hostile situation prevailed in the college for weeks. Ahmadi students faced threats and feared harm. The press published statements that expressed threat to their lives. No action was taken against the students who took law in their own hands and abducted Ahmadi students and put them to risk. The situation remained unstable, and, in the absence of any firm action or even due notice of the extremist behavior of agitators, remained precarious.
Epilogue: At this stage, with the benefit of hindsight and the progress of events, it is possible and perhaps valuable to make some comments on the conduct of the involved groups and institutions.
- The role of the college administration and faculty calls for censure. The hostel warden of the females’ hostel was partial and sectarian. Once the agitation got initiated, it was possible to nip the evil in the bud, but the Disciplinary Committee acted most unjustly and discriminatingly and recommended rustication of all the Ahmadi students. The principal found it convenient to agree. This was highly unprofessional and bad administration. Only when the Governor and the Health Secretary took notice, the restoration process started.
- The college has an enrollment form, which obligates an applicant to state his religion. The PMC is one of the few educational institutions in the country to have such a column. One may ask as to whether the PMC is a medical college or a madrassah? Why not do away with this unnecessary column?
- The principal had a police case registered under PPC 295-A, a blasphemy clause, against someone who tore the poster. The punishment under this section is 10 years’ imprisonment. The police followed it up with enquiries from six Ahmadi students. This poster ostensibly was about the dogma of the end of Prophethood, but its contents were openly hate-promoting against Ahmadis and insulting to the Founder of Ahmadiyyat. Thus the bigger offence was to put up this poster in the PMC. The college administration did not object to that in its complaint to the police. Why not? Also, on June 4, 2008, some goons who profess to study medicine, abducted four Ahmadi students, detained and harassed them, threatened and beat them up, and stole their belongings. They were guilty of various serious offences under the Pakistan Penal Code. Why did the college administration not register a police case against those miscreants? It should have done that.
- There is a so-called Doctors Action Committee that provided support to the agitators in this unworthy event. They admitted rabid mullas daily in the college premises to promote hatred. It is certain that some doctors and professors are not sympathetic to injustice and persecution of Ahmadis. But they keep quiet. It is a sad comment on the moral health of the doctors’ community. In professional environment, a doctor is expected to be free from prejudices.
- In the vanguard of the disgraceful agitation were the students unions: the Islami Jamiat Tulabah, Anjuman Tulabah Islam, Muslim Students Federation and the expedient magma of the End of Prophethood Tulabah Mahaz. On this, the lesser said the batter. The new government revived the student unions soon after taking over. It is for the politicians and the polity to assess if they really want the student youth in educational institutions of higher and professional education to waste their time in pushing sectarian and agitational politics. The political parties, who provide guidance and funds to the student leadership, seem to be more selfish than patriotic.
- Some of these young minds are now so full of hate and prejudice that their Ahmadi colleagues do not feel safe in their midst. The political leadership of these students do not realize that prejudice is an evil that is not specifically anti-Ahmadi; it can easily turn against Shias, and then against Deobandis and Wahabis, and there are political and ethnic entities also – there is no end to its targets.
- A section of the vernacular press behaved very badly during the two months of the PMC event. The daily Aman, Express and Nawa-i-Waqt competed and took the leading three positions in representing the mulla in this case. At times there were three or even four news items on the same day giving plenty of space to the views of mulla baying for the blood of Ahmadi students of the College. The electronic media fared little better. The great ‘anchors’ spared not even a few minutes out of scores of discussion hours at their disposal, to condemn the explosion of injustice at the PMC.
- The Faisalabad bazaar placed itself on record by supporting the anti-Ahmadi agitation. It closed down in impressive unity on July 3 in favour of the shameful demands against harmless Ahmadi women and men students of the PMC.
- Political parties were noteworthy for their self-imposed ban on supporting the human and civic rights of the victimized students. No major political party displayed any concern over the issue. Jamaat Islami leadership, however, availed the opportunity to support the agitators and provided guidance and support to its student wing, Islami Jamiat Tulabah.
- The administration and the police should have performed better, despite their constraints. They have the professional experience to forecast when a small mischief has the potential to grow into a major law and order problem. They should have recommended firm action against leaders of students unions who were involved in criminal activity against Ahmadi colleagues during the long hours of 4 June night. Also, later on, now that the same student leaders and a column-writer of the daily Aman have issued open threats of a possible murder of Ahmadi student, the police should bring that on record and tell them that they will be held accountable for their suggestions, in case of an attempt.
- It is refreshing and heartening to mention that Pakistan Medical Association, Faisalabad and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan unambiguously supported the victimized students and urged that better sense should prevail in their treatment. Cyril Almeida befittingly said in an article in the Dawn: “So far Pakistan has not shown much of an inclination to wrest away the public space from the mullahs. That’s why it’s so important to tip your hat to those who put up a fight.”
THUS is it not a pity that:
- None in the Disciplinary Committee put in a dissenting note to the first recommendation of rustication of all Ahmadi students.
- The principal could not tell the Committee that he would not decide in favor of an unjust recommendation.
- No one told the stupid and short-sighted leaders of the student unions that they were wasting their own and everyone else’s time.
- No national leader went public to warn the wrong-doers that religious extremism on this issue also was misplaced.
- None from the Punjab Cabinet asserted that law and order would be maintained at all costs.
- None among the traders of the industrial city told their leaders that the ‘issue’ was not their business.
- None of the wise guys (columnists) conveyed the wisdom that extremism can prove as bad in the central Punjab as in the barren hills of FATA.
- No intellectual came forth to tell the students not to mix their study of physical sciences with esotericism at this stage of their life in the college.
- No divine, even of the highest standing, told his brethren in faith to follow the foot-steps of their Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and be tolerant and sympathetic to their follow-students.
However, it is noteworthy that the issue of PMC, Faisalabad was raised in the European Parliament, and they took due notice of it.
In short the poor state of health of Pakistan’s polity should be a cause of grave concern to all concerned.