Fatwas for Imran Khan – Pakistan's Election Gets Dirty

This post is part of our Special Coverage Pakistan Votes 2013.

Screengrab from PTI Official Website http://insaf.pk/

Screen capture from PTI Official Website http://insaf.pk/

A popular cricket-star turned politician, whose campaign and rallies have been drawing young urban voters with the slogan “Naya Pakistan” (New Pakistan), irked some supporters by distancing himself from the country's persecuted minority group the Ahmadis.

Imran Khan was reacting to fatwas or decrees issued this week by some Islamic clerics and an Islamist party forbidding Pakistanis from voting for him because he is “an atheist” and “an Ahmadi agent”. The country's historic elections, to be held on May 11, 2013 are days away. Khan's party, a new player on Pakistan's political scene, is proving to be a real challenger to the country's established parties.

Khan's statement on Ahmadis

On the official website of his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf PTI, Khan endorsed the constitution of Pakistan, which declared Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974 and prohibited Ahmadis from calling their faith Islam and their houses of worship mosques in Pakistan.

Pakistan is the only country in the world to have officially declared that “Ahmadis are not Muslims.” The official PTI press release on May 2 states:

PTI totally subscribes to the article in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on the Ahmadis. It is not part of the PTI agenda to seek amendment of the said article in the Constitution.


This is a political conspiracy against me as a person and PTI as a party …Those Ulema [religious scholars] who label me as kafir [atheist] and tell people that voting for PTI is haram [forbidden by islamic law] in their fatwas [religious decrees] would have been better advised to follow the rules of giving fatwas and ascertained my belief before issuing the same.

A video with Khan directly speaking into camera [ur] was also uploaded on the site on May 2, but was later removed.

Fashion Designer Zarlasht Faisal travelled across the country to attend Imran Khan rallies leading up to the election. Before she was aware of the fatwas, she wrote on her public Facebook page on May 2:

As an ardent PTI and IK supporter, am absolutely appalled by the statement about Ahmedi's on the PTI website; This is seriously disappointing

Religious decree issued against Khan

Imran Khan's statement came in response to a video making the rounds on social media showing a woman that seemed to be representing PTI asking for Ahmadi votes from an Ahmadi spiritual leader. The video propelled several Islamic scholars to issue fatwas against voting for Khan on May 1.

On May 4, Fazlur Rehman, the leader of Pakistan's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, also endorsed the decree. Popular broadcast journalist Moeed Pirzada writes on his Facebook page:

Fazlur Rehman used every word that would foment hatred against any person in the conservative masses of Pakistan. He called Imran an agent of “Americans, Jews, Ahmadis and a person of ill character”. “A person who could not make his own children Muslim nor Pakistani, is dreaming of becoming prime minister of Pakistan and making the country an Islamic welfare state,” [the] Maulana [religious scholar] said. — Lol! Where is Election Commission?

A day after Rehman's statement, a grenade was thrown at a PTI office, injuring three people. This was the first attack targeting the party in the run up to the elections, although the campaign trail has been bloody for other parties.

Khan's young supporters react

A post by Pirzada on Facebook churned hundreds of comments within hours. One follower responds:

Bilal Fazal: I am going to vote for IK [Imran Khan] after this Fatwa. This is the kind of fatwas that has made Pakistan a bloody and in-livable place. god help Maulana's followers by giving them hidayat [guidance] and rochni [light] to see it through.

Islamabad-born law student, Imaan Hazir Mazari (@ImaanHMazari), who used to be an ardent supporter of PTI and whose mother is a member of Imran Khan's party, tweets:

@ImaanHMazari: There was no need for him to act so defensive. This has now resulted in the impression that their [Ahmadi] persecution is justifiable. Bad move, IK.

On her personal blog she adds: 

I believed in the change he talked about even when I left PTI because I believed that he was a man who wouldn’t bow down to the extremists when he came to power. My belief in him has wavered as his recent actions have been very disheartening to a Pakistani who believes in equal rights for all, regardless of religious beliefs. What is even more upsetting is that I, along with many other Pakistanis, feel helpless and out of choices. If not Imran Khan, who am I going to vote for?

In a Facebook thread on her own profile with dozens of comments, Zarlasht Faisal says:

A very irresponsible statement, but I still have a LOT of faith in him. Fact of the matter is…its a hate mongering law entrenched in our psyche since 1973…its going to take a lot more than talk during a run up to an election campaign to change it.

On May 4, she wrote a longer post explaining why she continues to support Imran Khan.

Pakistan's Ahmadis

In 1973, the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Benazir Bhutto's father) bowed down to pressure from religious parties and amended the constitution to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims through an act of parliament. In 1984, Pakistan's military dictator Zia-ul-Haq introduced more sting into the law by forbidding Ahmadi's from “posing as muslims.” Which means they cannot call themselves Muslim, or their places of worship mosques, or even say the Muslim greeting in Arabic, asaalamu-alaikum (peace be upon you.)

Since then, hate crimes against Ahmadis have been on the rise. Many fear for their safety in Pakistan and live in the shadows. With Ahmadis at the center of this latest political point scoring game, many young Ahmadis have bravely starting tweeting and mentioning their struggles on Facebook.

Nadir, a 30 year-old Ahmadi currently based in Australia, writes on his private Facebook page (used with permission):

Tough being an Ahmadi. First your parents tell you to be proud and love your country, then everybody starts killing each other and you're told to not return to Pakistan as you may either get killed/kidnapped or never promoted in any job, if you get one; the police can't help you even if its the other persons crime against you or your family, neither can the courts. Kids these days are told not to tell anyone they're Ahmadi, if they do, they get thrown out of schools or beaten or killed or failed or isolated. It's a shit cake I tell you, some serious identity fracture.

An anonymous left-leaning Facebook group called Traitors of Pakistan posted a picture and quote of the country's revered founding father on May 4 that says:

Ahmadis are Muslims, If They Say They are Muslims and No One, Not Even the Sovereign Legislature, has the Right to Say Otherwise.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, 05 May 1944.

The quote was shared by hundreds of young Pakistani Facebook users and generated hundreds of comments with many questioning the Ahmadi status as non-Muslims in Pakistan.

Story updated on May 5 22:19 GMT, to include an additional post from Zarlasht Faisal.


  • Hi, I saw my facebook status updates…which were taken slightly out of context; I wrote three updates relating to the issue…and updating them as I educated myself more on the issue, and started looking at it in reference to the series of events that led to it, Am going to share my thoughts here as well….

    My reaction to articles with titles like “No place for Ahmedi’s in Imran Khan’s Pakistan”

    I am not an apologist for our bigoted constitution, neither am I an advocate of the law that was put in place in 1974 that made a judgement on the status of Ahmedi’s as Muslims. However, seeing that the bill has been in place for 40 years…to challenge the law would be to challenge the finality of the Prophet, which in a place like Pakistan is political suicide. That law should have never been put there in the first place, but four decades later even average Pakistanis (many family members and friends) hold the same belief (even though it makes no diff to their lives or their interactions with the community), and these are your non mullahs (you know I come from a very liberal family). So really, to fight to repeal it, you need mad amounts of political capital, which no one has…and anyone challenging the finality of the Prophet is automatically accountable under the blasphemy law. Wish he had stayed away from the topic altogether; he has been asked about it in the past, and he has always tactfully dodged the issue. However, this statement video that came out has to be taken in reference to the series of events that led to it; All across the country, especially in KPK Fazlu and Nawaz have very smartly initiated a smear campaign deeming him a Kaafir who does not believe in the Prophet, and getting Fatwas issues by maulvis that it was a sin to vote for IK. This is not hearsay…I have friends who went for Jummah prayers yesterday in KHI and Lahore who heard similar statements by maulvis…so at the end of the day it came down to being between a hard place and a rock; Isolate the liberals…or isolate the more conservative majority (including normal ppl from the middle class..not the rabid mullah brigade). He has however ALWAYS reiterated equal and fair support for any minority community, regardless of class and religion..which I believe under him WILL happen. The only one to stand up for Shia Hazaras, to show solidarity with the Christian community when their homes were burned to the ground…he truly believes in minority rights, and their equality as citizens. So is there a place for Ahmedi’s in IK’s Pakistan; we believe that there is with equality and with justice. I am sorry that it is almost impossible to change this bigoted law, but I can promise you we will stand by you through thick and thin. I wish people would apply a little more thought. I have never in my life been interested in politics, because I never saw an opportunity for change; In the past I only saw IK as a cricketer, a philanthropist…but seeing the state of affairs of the country…it felt good to finally feel hopeful about SOMEONE. You say PTI supporters are unreasonable? I say PTI supporters will be the first to shred him to bits with criticism if he does not try his best and work his ass off to bring change; This headline/title is misleading and wrong…as is often the case with ET headlines and their editorial bias…and I told them so yesterday the minute their article came out. There is a chain of events that led to this video and this statement, and it is UNFAIR to look at it as an isolated one. As far as castigating IK for not wanting to touch the law is concerned, who from any political party has been willing to even talk about it? We PTI supporters do think, and we think a lot. I know many fellow supporters who havn’t been able to sleep properly past few days because of this whole issue that has come up; it is disturbing and divisive. As for the rest of us…its quite funny; technically all of us green passport holders, sign a document saying we believe Ahmedis are non muslims…so I guess if we are so morally upright..we should give that passport up.

  • eat your own words

    where were you since MAY last year

    what FATWA


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