Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pakistani Ahmadis face passport persecution

Trying to get my passport renewed left me deep in thought about the day-to-day persecution faced by Ahmadis like myself. 

Ahmadis are asked by Pakistani authorities to declare themselves non-Muslim when applying for a passport. 

I recently went to get my passport renewed. It was early in the morning. I had to wait in a queue in such cold weather. A lady sitting at a desk station took my picture. It turned out worse than I was looking and I knew the day was just going to go downhill from here.

I took my token and waited for another call. Finally, after an hour or so, I was summoned to give all my personal information. A man took a printout and asked me to make sure that everything had been correctly entered, so that I could go to the next station. While I looked at the form, my eye caught a certain declaration I had to sign. 

Maybe, the last time I signed a government document was when I was a kid, or maybe I never noticed this clause, or maybe I am much more aware now about how the state treats Ahmadis. Whatever the reason, I couldn't stop reading it, re-reading and then re-re-reading it just to make sure I had gotten it right the first time. But there it was, all in bold print.

Anyway, the person at the next station asked me to sign the declaration. I told him that I can't because I'm an Ahmadi and I believe myself to be a Muslim. He absorbed nothing, stared at me blankly, not accepting the fact that I wouldn't sign it. He asked me to sign the declaration again and I refused again. Finally, he let it go.

After that, I waited for almost an hour for my interview. When my name was called, I went inside and the man sitting behind the computer took the form from my hand and went through it. He saw the unsigned declaration and asked me why I hadn't signed it. I told him I'm an Ahmadi and that I couldn't possibly be asked to sign it. The look on his face is something I can't really get out of my mind - it was a mixture of disappointment, contempt, superiority and hatred all rolled into one. The look went away within seconds, and he smiled and said: "Oh alright then, your passport application has been approved and you will receive it within a week."

Nothing violent actually happened. No one actually said anything to me. There were no outbursts, there was no punching, there was nothing. But there were looks. Everyone there knew I was an Ahmadi and they were looking down on me, as if I was somehow inferior to them. They were looking at me as if I had some contagious disease which they might get if they sat near me. Their looks said, you should know that we hate you and your kind, and you don't belong here. And for that moment, I actually felt that I didn't belong.

Maybe some day, I might go again to get my passport renewed and realise that the clause no longer exists, that no one will look at me as if I do not belong here and no one will judge me for being an Ahmadi. And maybe someday, the country I love and adore so much might decide to love me back. @BubTheMinion
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