Pakistan: Senior Ahmadiyya Lawyer Arrested Over Use of 'Syed' in Name

The FIR invoked Section 298-B (misuse of epithets, descriptions, and titles, etc. reserved for certain holy personages or places) of the Pakistan Penal Code against Ali Ahmed Tariq.

New Delhi: In a first of its kind case against the persecuted Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan, a senior advocate from the community has been arrested by Karachi Police for adding ‘Syed’ to his name.

As per Dawn, one Mohammad Azhar Khan, also an advocate, had filed a first information report at the City Court police station against Ali Ahmed Tariq, over the fact that Tariq had added ‘Syed’ before his name in an affidavit submitted before a district judge while pleading a case.

The FIR invoked section 298-B (misuse of epithets, descriptions, and titles, etc. reserved for certain holy personages or places) of the Pakistan Penal Code, seeking action against him.

“The complainant said that Tariq was an Ahmadi who had deliberately affixed ‘Syed’ with (to) his name. He, therefore, requested for a case to be registered against advocate Tariq,” said the news report.

The station house officer of the police station, Adil Khan, told the newspaper that Tariq “misrepresented himself” as a ‘Syed” in the affidavit which as per the country’s blasphemy law, he was not supposed to. Therefore, “police have taken action and arrested the lawyer who would likely be presented before the court on Friday (April 28).”

Pakistani news outlets have quoted Ahmaddiya Jamaat spokesperson Amit Mehmood expressing deep concern over filing of the complaint against the senior lawyer.

This is the second time such an FIR had been lodged against Tariq at the City Court police station. Last November, he was booked under the same allegations but his arrest this time adds a new dimension to the persecution against the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. Amir, in a press release, said that tolerance had reached such a level that names used by Ahmadiyyas were now being used to persecute them. Several Ahmaddiyas also use the name Mohammad.

The term ‘Syed’ in Arabic means ‘noble’ and is used by those who consider themselves a descendant of Prophet Mohammad. Since the law in Pakistan had declared Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims (because the state believes that their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was also considered a prophet and that there can be only one prophet in Islam), the community is not only barred from using the term but also Islamic symbols in their mosques and on their graves. However, this is the first time an Ahmadi has been arrested for using the term ‘Syed’.  

Last November, reporting on the continued persecution of the minority community in that country, another news report had highlighted that a school in Punjab’s Attock district had expelled four students this past September over their confession that they belonged to the community.

Quoting a relative of the students stating that they were expelled for being Ahmadi, the report said, “A class fellow of one of the students had been harassing one of the students for some time. The students were expelled after some parents prevailed over school principal Kulsoom Awan.”

In January 2023, a powerful Pakistani cleric with significant online following, Syed Mohammad Sibtian Shah Naqvi of Sarghoda (Punjab), delivered an inflammatory speech against the community, stating that if an Ahmadi’s house is on fire, one should pour petrol in it, not water.

“This egregious and toxic statement risks influencing impressionable youth in an environment already extremely hostile to Ahmadi Muslims who have every basic human right stripped away from them in the country (Pakistan). Their voice is being suffocated as Ahmadi representatives are being de-platfomed at events and educational institutions,” wrote Sabrang.

During the anti-CAA protests in India, several Indian activists and opposition leaders had called for including the persecuted Ahmadiyya community too along with the Hindus and Sikhs as eligible under that law to apply for Indian citizenship as that legislation was hinged on persecution of minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.