After much speculation, Pakistan has appointed General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new army chief. But even before his appointment, controversy surrounded Bajwa when he was one of the four contenders to replace General Raheel Sharif. He has been labelled an ‘Ahmadi’ by some hardliners and it sparked a debate.
It all started when a few days before the appointment, Pakistani senator and politician Sajid Meer suggested that Bajwa has Ahmadi relatives, followed by many religious hardliners then objecting to his promotion. In the past, people have been persecuted for being followers of the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan.
Ahmadis are followers of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, which is considered heretic by mainstream Muslims. In 1974, Pakistan passed a constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis a ‘non-Muslim’ minority.
Often referred to as kafirs or non-believers, Ahmadis are prohibited by law to identify themselves as Muslims. The law was enacted in 1984 after the National Assembly ratified it.
Before the appointment, the controversy spilled over to social media and many prominent activists and journalists expressed their concern over how religious discrimination was overshadowing merit.
They argued that it does not matter whether Bajwa was an Ahmadi or not and that there have been Ahmadi officers in the past.
Although some people on social media said that whether it matters or not, Bajwa’s father-in-law is an Ahmadi, but that does not make him a follower himself.
But despite the vilification campaign, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made Bajwa the army chief.
(With inputs from Rabwah Times)