Pakistan's Chief Justice Targeted in Online Smear Campaign

Amidst a smear campaign targeting Chief Justice Isa and the Ahmadiyya community, urgent calls arise to safeguard their rights amidst democratic threats and uphold media integrity

Pakistan's Chief Justice Targeted in Online Smear Campaign

In a troubling development, Pakistan's Chief Justice Qazi Isa is under attack in an aggressive online smear campaign. 

The campaign stems from a recent ruling where he granted bail to a member of the marginalized Ahmadiyya community, citing Pakistan's Constitution and the Holy Quran. However, this decision has been distorted for political gain, targeting Justice Isa directly.

This situation is alarming because targeting individuals, especially in Pakistan's volatile climate, can have serious consequences. Unfortunately, this tactic is not new; the Ahmadiyya community has faced similar scapegoating before, notably in 2017. The ongoing smear campaign is not only about discrediting Justice Isa but also involves spreading misinformation, led by figures like Imran Riaz Khan, a former journalist turned YouTuber, among others.

Members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, in addition to former parliamentarians, have actively participated, intensifying the propagation of hateful provocations. Unfortunately, certain mainstream media outlets have also played a role in disseminating misinformation, displaying negligence towards the existing judgment, and acting irresponsibly, especially considering Pakistan's past experiences with blasphemy-related incidents.

The case under discussion traces back to 2022, with the plaintiff being a notable anti-Ahmadiyya activist. Yasser Latif Hamdani, a respected lawyer and activist, elaborates on how Article 20 of the Pakistani Constitution grants every citizen the freedom to practice and propagate their religion, a right that has been withheld from the Ahmadiyya community for an extended duration. The focal point of the judgment pertained to a book in possession of an Ahmadiyya individual, which led to their arrest.

Yasser underscores that while the judgment upheld the fundamental right to religious freedom, it did not explicitly address the Ahmadiyya community's entitlement to propagate their faith to other groups. Despite this nuance, the judgment was distorted to serve political agendas, fostering animosity towards Justice Isa.

"The fundamental rights cannot be derated," asserts Yasser, condemning the smear campaign and emphasizing the importance of protecting constitutional freedoms. His sentiment echoes the principles underlying Chief Justice Isa's ruling.

Despite the clarity of the ruling, it has been twisted and distorted by those seeking to sow discord and division. "Putting a blasphemy-linked target on someone's back in Pakistan can bring serious harm," warns Yasser, highlighting the dangerous implications of the campaign.

Further complicating matters is the role played by certain YouTubers and politicians who have seized upon the controversy to peddle misinformation and hate speech. "The level of hatred against Ahmadis has escalated," observes Yasser, noting the insidious impact of such rhetoric on social cohesion.

The implications of this smear campaign extend beyond Chief Justice Isa and the Ahmadiyya community, striking at the heart of Pakistan's democratic principles. "The erosion of trust in the judiciary and the propagation of religious intolerance threatens to undermine the country's social cohesion and stability," Yasser cautions.

In response to these developments, there is a growing call for accountability and responsible reporting. Mainstream media outlets, in particular, have been urged to uphold journalistic integrity and refrain from contributing to the dissemination of hate speech.

Amidst the turmoil, the plight of the Ahmadiyya community must not be overlooked. Persecuted for their beliefs, they continue to face discrimination and violence. As Pakistan confronts the dangers of religious intolerance, safeguarding the rights of all its citizens, including the Ahmadis, is paramount to upholding the nation's democratic ideals.