Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan in 1974: The Fundamental Problem of Religious Extremism – Part 1

Amer Aziz

Given the sensitive subject of this article, let me begin with a brief introduction of myself.  The reader may appreciate knowing ahead that I am an Ahmadi-Muslim. I was born in Pakistan to a family with some Ahmadis but mostly Sunni-orthodox. I have lived and worked in Pakistan for many years. Currently, I reside in the United States of America.

Today, I assume, a good number of Pakistanis see religious authority, whether active or passive-complacent, as having played a role in the rise of a violent ideology that seeks to cleanse anyone who disagrees with its viewpoint, even fellow Muslims. A watershed moment in Pakistan’s history was when, in 2014, extremists massacred over a hundred Muslim school children in Peshawar in the name of Islam. Pakistan’s leaders felt compelled to act. Almost overnight courts were galvanized into passing sentences for convicted terrorists and the military offensive against Taliban insurgents was intensified. Many took to social media and denounced the extremists and their ideology.

However, in my opinion, the evil that befell that day was an extreme symptom of a fundamental problem from an earlier event. Nearly forty years earlier religious extremism viciously attacked not only the constitution of Pakistan, but the very ideology of Islam and the universality embodied in Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan. I am referring to the 1974 Second Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The event paved the way for legislation such as Ordinance XX (that criminalizes the use of Islamic terms and symbols by Ahmadis), apostasy and blasphemy laws. And it spawned the kind of bigotry that led Mumtaz Qadri to shoot Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in the back (a man he was hired to protect) for challenging these laws. Qadri was applauded by the majority of religious scholars. Targeted violence towards Ahmadis, Shias, Ismailis, Christians and other minorities has steadily grown. What went around came around to the school children on that dreadful day in Peshawar.

The constitution is the most important document of any country. It embodies its principles and creed. It is the ideological cornerstone of what that country and its people believe in and stand for. It can influence what that country and its people end up becoming.

The extent of the miscarriage of honesty during the proceedings of the Second Amendment was not known to the public until the Government of Pakistan released the 3,000-plus pages transcript of the National Assembly proceedings. The document is titled: The Special Committee of the Whole House Held in Camera to Consider the Qadiani Issue.

The fundamental question put up by that session of the National Assembly was– What is the status of someone who does not believe in the ‘finality-of-prophethood’ of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him)? Mirza Nasir Ahmad, the Khalifa and Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, delivered a theological response to this question in a speech to the National Assembly over the course of two days (July 22nd & 23rd). The speech was published in the form of a 200-page book called Mehzar Nama. However, the record of this response is expunged from the official transcript.

The proof of the Mehzar Nama is on page 504 of the transcript where Maulana Mohammad Zafar Ahmad Ansari states: Sir, I would like to say that this process of detailed explanations that they are conducting should be discouraged, they have already given a detailed response in their Mehzar Nama.

The Mehzar Nama contained a detailed account of the Ahmadi belief and interpretation of the ‘finality-of-prophethood’ as well as several references of renowned scholars and reformers in Islamic history who shared in this interpretation.

On the same page 504 (dated 7 Aug 1974), Member of National Assembly (MNA) Mohammad Sardar Khan makes the following comment after two days of proceedings: I want to bring it to the attention of this honorable House that the main question before the special committee as to what is the status of a person who does not believe in the finality of prophethood, that question is still untouched. To this the Chairman says that the question will be brought up in due course.

However, on 2nd of September 1974, during the closing sessions, MNA Sardar Anayat-ur-Rehman Khan Abbasi remarks that the fundamental question was never addressed and the scholars never responded to the Mehzar Nama. He says on the 11th page of that day’s transcript: The response (referring to Mehzar Nama) that they brought before this house, it is a dark spot on our scholars, it is a great charge on them. I believe our scholars should face the public and answer these charges. I have read Mufti sahib’s answer in the Taweel Dictionary where he has accumulated his knowledge, I read it all, but not for one instance have their charges been refuted, God knows if they are true or false, if they are false I will accept it but you have not provided any argument.

That same day (2nd September 1974) MNA Colonel Habib Ahmad laments on page 2712: I would like to say that all the speeches and arguments that happened here will now come out in the form of books and there will be immense propaganda and future generations will read about this event . . . this was a great challenge for our scholars but not one of them was able to rise up to them.

In fact, the conduct of the so-called religious scholars in the National Assembly was so poor that the Chairman of the session, Sahibzada Farooq Ali, reprimands the scholars on page 425: We should not cut a sorry figure before the members of the (Ahmadiyya) delegation . . . you  should not be taking up to thirty minutes to look up one reference . . . the change of edition, or the print at Rabwah or Qadian is no excuse, or you say that this reference is wrong or the book doesn’t even exist.

Now, normally in such a state of affairs where even the basic question brought before the house remained unaddressed and some members of the house raised objections about it, the proceedings should have been duly stopped. But they weren’t. We can reasonably and logically deduce that the Second Amendment was premeditated and politically motivated– as acknowledged by former law minister Abdul Hafiz Pirzada in an interview by Najam Sethi on Dunya TV in 2010.

The question then, for those Pakistanis who truly seek a better future for their country, is that is it even meaningful to talk about progress, about terrorism, when travesty of basic morality and honesty sits inside of its constitution. Would Allah even permit progress for a people who, after learning of the gravity of injustice, continue to let it linger?

Religious theology belongs in the debating and proselytizing circles, not national constitutions. Anyone who truly has a sense of conviction on their side of an argument does not need government or legislature to make their case. The very fact that a legal restriction or ban is sought through the state in itself defeats the position. Religion and theology is a domain of the hearts and minds and that is where the battle is won or lost.

Islam is a beautiful religion, deeply loved by Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis. Our prophet Muhammad (pbuh) championed freedom of conscience and racial equality in the constitution of Medina. When historian and author Michael Hart picked prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as his #1 choice of the most influential persons of history, he wrote: My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of world’s most influential persons may surprise some and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. That is the true legacy and sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who never amended his constitution to restrict dire opponents like Abdullah bin Ubay and Musailmah Kazzab. He never needed to. He had merit of argument and good deed on his side. It is hard to imagine that he would ever approve of the ideology behind the Second Amendment, and no doubt would be deeply offended by the way in which it was conducted.

In an interview with Dunya News, Pakistan People Party co-founder Dr. Mubashir Hassan was asked of his opinion of the Second Amendment. His response was emphatic: Totally political! One can understand politicians being politicians, but what was the politics of the religious scholars? The Second Amendment, much as it is a fundamental problem, may well be a symptom in itself of a larger problem pervading theMuslim Ummah. God willing, I will cover that in the second part of this article.

  • Parliament certified Muslim

    Kufr bak diya!

  • Bin Ismail

    Speaking hypothetically, if the Parliament of a country has the competence, the right and the authority to declare someone who calls himself a “Muslim”, a “non-Muslim”, it should also have the authority to declare someone who professes to subscribe to a “religion other than Islam”, a “Muslim”. For instance, should such a parliament choose to declare the Christians “Muslims”, the Parliament would be in exercise of precisely the same power with which it declared those who call themselves Muslims “non-Muslims”. Such a parliament would be in legal possession of unabated powers, and hence, potentially as dictatorial and autocratic as Fascism itself.

  • Pookie Shy

    The constitution amendment in 1974 in Pakistan was clearly in error of the scholars chosen by the political authorities. The state should be seperate from the religion and thus any citizen should have the fundamental right to choose their religion based on their mental and spiritual capacity. Why is that so difficult for most in authority to comprehend is beyond me.

  • keval



    A finalist ideology always ends up in fascism.
    Sooner or later this was bound to happen in the islamic paradise of Pakistan.

    A 7th century arab tribal ideology imposing itself on the non-arabs of the 21st century. What good can come of it?

  • Isfandyar

    It has become a fashion in Pakistani liberals to criticize second amendment. Parliament is the highest forum and normally the decision which it takes as a national consensus.
    What Amer Aziz is forgetting is that overwhelmingly the Parliament decided that. Without that decision there would have greater bloodshed. Ahmedis should actually be grateful that second amendment has prevented that from happening.
    Bhutto Sahib was only being pragmatic and nothing else.

  • YLH

    It is not a question of being a liberal. It is an issue of common sense you don’t open certain doors. The door of sectarianism was opened with the 2nd amendment.

  • Isfandyar

    YLH

    What options did Bhutto Sahib even had? In fact by legislating Ahmedis as Non Muslims, he saved a much larger bloodshed. If they are Muslims, then God will consider them as Muslims. Why does it matter to them they have to call themselves as Muslims in Pakistan.
    However, where you are right is that subsequent legislation during Zia’s time was wrong as it prevented them forcefully from praying in their mosques. However, second amendment by itself, was a national decision through a democratic process and reflected consensus. Parliament is the highest body in a polity and a potentially disruptive matter was in front of it. It decided as rationally as it could

  • sta

    @Isfandyar (September 15, 2015 at 8:45 pm)

    It has become a fashion in Pakistani liberals to criticize second amendment. Parliament is the highest forum and normally the decision which it takes as a national consensus. What Amer Aziz is forgetting is that overwhelmingly the Parliament decided that.

    Rational Pakistanis do tend to be critical of the Second Amendment. The Parliament, while indeed being the highest forum for legislative issues, is simply not the “competent authority” to judge on religious ones. An overwhelming majority on matters of faith is quite irrelevant. The Holy Prophet Muhammad was opposed by the overwhelming majority, but the majority was wrong.
    ………………….

  • YLH

    Masadi still spinning same old lies and nonsense trying to justify Bhutto’s opportunism by blaming TNT which in any event was nonsectarian and inclusive of Ahmadis. Novel approach … Bhutto plays dirty politics blame it on the one man who stood like a rock against Mullahs ie Jinnah. Jinnah faced much more pressure than Bhutto on the issue but he refused to do it.

    In 1974 there was no bloodshed expected … There was absolutely no need for asking the question of the parliament. Bhutto did it to please his Saudi masters. The rest are all excuses. Nazimuddin a weaker prime minister than Bhutto but a man of towering identity refused to declare Ahmadis non Muslim.

    Bhutto’s ridiculous move set the country back a thousand years and people here are justifying his retrogressive act as a democratic act.

  • Rex Minor

    YlH says…Bhutto plays dirty politics blame it on the one man who stood like a rock against Mullahs ie Jinnah. Jinnah faced much more pressure than Bhutto on the issue but he refused to do it.

    This is very true!!Mr Bhutto despite his intution and intellect was also a faithful student and the follower of the machiavilean politics The State has no business to indulge itself in religion matters! It has to govern and administer the non religion affairs of the people. The fact that Paki Government leaders regularly get involved in religion affairs can be attributed to their history when the so called Mr Jinnah duped them into believing that that Pakistan was being created as an Islamic republic, thereby obtaining the title of a Quade e azam for the muslim league political party, thus authorising the coming leaders to guide the people of Pakistan in religious affairs as well.
    This act itself was blesphamic and showing his photo in the Government offices even after his demise is unislamic.

    Rex Minor

  • yasserlatifhamdani

    Jinnah at no point promised any Islamic Republic to anyone. That is a fact.

  • Rex Minor

    Mr Jinnah regarded himself as the almighty God’s repsentitive on Earth promiising a paradise for the muslim majority provinces in Pakistan! The people who believed in his lari fari story suffered most including the muslims of todays India who had to flee and the non muslims of todays Pakistan who equaly had to flee from their homes. YLH statements though true makes no difference actualy meant especially for the sufferers who had to flee from their homes where they were born and lived in peace and security. The guy was certainly a bad communicator making many simple people happy in believing that a paradise was no longer in distance for Paki muslims and many still believe in it.

    Rex Minor

  • RHR

    Isfandyar welcome back! I had thought you had left the site.
    Since you are so concerned about democracy here is something for you to read:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/raza-habib-raja/ahmadiyya-muslims_b_8099324.html

  • Parliament certified Muslim

    @Rex Minor (September 16, 2015 at 10:10 am)

    . . . the so called Mr Jinnah duped them into believing that that Pakistan was being created as an Islamic republic, thereby obtaining the title of a Quade e azam

    Subhanallah ! Well said, my dear brother-in-parliament-certified-Islam, well said indeed. Long before this post of yours, which is a gem-of-a-comment appeared, our illustrious Ulama-e-Deen of Majlis-e-Ahrar (now know as Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nubuwwat) pointed out this fact that this villain (Jinnah) was actually a “so-called” Mr. Jinnah. The Ulama also succeeded in reversing his false title of “Quaid-e-Azam”, by correctly renaming him Kafir-e-Azam.

    .

    . . . showing his photo in the Government offices even after his demise is unislamic.

    Well said again. Kafir-e-Azam‘s picture should be replaced immediately with Hazrat Shah Faisal Shaheed’s picture, everywhere, even on currency notes. In fact, the ba-barkat tasweer of Shah Faisal on Pakistan’s currency notes, will be a major step in the journey of changing the present Na-pakistan (as adjudged by Hazrat Maulana Maudoodi) to a genuine Pakistan – “Maulana Maudoodi’s Pakistan”.

    .

  • MinorRex

    Parliamen certified M,

    It is not upto your ulemas to call names, by naming muslims as Kaffirs. No one has the right to judge the muslimness of other muslims, not your Ulemas nor your Maudidi , since all of us will be judged on the day of accountability in our second life. This is what the scriptures say and this should be known to you and all those that you praise and follow. Mr Jinnah was a Barraster turned politician and not a theologist.

    Rex Minor

  • yasserlatifhamdani

    An editor cannot remove another editor’s comment by convention. Sorry.

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