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The Author: Mujeeb-ur-Rehman
A chronicle and a critique of the legislative and the judicial events leading to a gradual denial and erosion of religious freedom to Ahmadis in Pakistan. This work is intended to provide an insight into the background of the Supreme Court judgment in the Ahmadis' case.
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Home Critical Analysis/Archives Report on the Situation of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan
Report on the Situation of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan

REPORTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AGENCIES: A
Rarely has a government so openly promulgated law that primae facie contravenes international law.…
Human Rights Advocates

A number of groups and individuals concerned with human rights have commented upon the situation of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan. Below are some of their findings, arranged in roughly chronological order. The author has quoted them without permission.

MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP

The government of Pakistan is forcing Ahmadis to adjure their faith and desist from identifying themselves with Islam.…

Much water has flowed down the Rhone since the promulgation of the Ordinance, and Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan go on suffering under the conditions created by it….

physical and mental torture

Since the promulgation of the Ordinance, the life, property and honour of every Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan are under constant threat. They are subjected to physical and mental torture under the protective umbrella of a military regime.

The government has taken it upon itself to persecute a religious group. It has legalized discrimination against this community …

A government has taken the unprecedented step of legally depriving a section of its own citizens of their basic human rights …

… singled out … for being denied the cherished freedom of thought, religion and conscience … They are ordered on pain of punishment to abandon their beliefs and accept something else which the government chooses to prescribe for them, however repugnant and revolting to their conscience …

Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan are forbidden since 26th April, 1984 to:
a) profess their beliefs
b) to practise their beliefs, and
c) to propagate their beliefs.

… The Ordinanceis a violation of the basic rights of humanity at large;…

Representative of Minority Rights Group,
before the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities,
August 22, 1984
UN cassette recording

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

numerous reports

Among other prisoners of conscience arrested during 1984 were members of the Ahmadiyya sect. In April President Zia-ul-Haq promulgated an ordinance amending the penal code which banned Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, using Muslim practices in worship and "preaching or propagating their faith". Penalties included a three-year prison sentence. Particularly in the weeks following this announcement, Amnesty International received numerous reports of Ahmadis being arrested under these provisions.

Amnesty International Report 1985

INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JURISTS

clear violation

…the enactment of this ordinance … is a clear violation of the right to adopt a religion or belief and of the freedom… to manifest his religion or belief in worship… as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

International Commission of Jurists,
Review No.34, June 1985

LAWYER'S COMMITTEE FOR INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS

systematic and extensive

… discrimination against a dissident sect called Ahmadis has been systematic and extensive…

Ordinance 20 … is to have effect notwithstanding any order or decision of any court…

The burden of proof…lies with the accused…

Report of July 1985, published in USA

JUSTICE JULES DESCHENES

… irrespective of anything else, any piece of legislation where the legislator finds it necessary to say at the outset that there will be no recourse of any kind to any court, is already something that should be looked at with suspicion…

naked religious intolerance

This kind of excommunication is naked religious intolerance…a brazen defiance of international standards, especially in the field of respect for religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion ..

Justice Jules Deschenes,
Member of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (Thirty Eighth Session),
Commission on Human Rights, UNESCO,
addressing the Sub-Commission on August 26, 1985.
UN cassette recording

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

over 100 Ahmadis were arrested

During April and May, 1985, over 100 Ahmadis were arrested in the Tharparkar district of Sind province. Ahmadi youths in the area had started wearing badges bearing the inscription of the kalima, in open defiance of the restrictions on their community. The arrests began around 24th April, with several young men being arrested each day until mid-May. The arrests were made either under the revised Penal Code sections governing the Ahmadis' activities or under Penal Code provisions relating to "breach of the peace". A number of those arrested were reported to have been severely beaten by the police. A medical report produced following the examination of three prisoners some days after their arrest noted bruises and abrasions such as could have been inflicted with a hard, blunt instrument. Other youths were reported to have been beaten with chains or clubs, sometimes when naked, and two youths were reportedly tied suspended from a tree for some two hours in the heat of the sun.

ARRESTS AND IMPRISONMENT OF MEMBERS OF THE AHMADIYYA COMMUNITY IN PAKISTAN
AI Index: ASA 33/56/85
November 7, 1985

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

reported to have been severely beaten

Members of the Ahmadiyya community continued to face arrest..

In Tharparkar district of Sind province during April and May over 100 Ahmadis were arrested and detained for some weeks when Ahmadi youths wore [ Kalima] badges bearing an Islamic inscription in open defiance of the restrictions on their community. A number of those arrested were reported to have been severely beaten by the police. The arrests were made under the amended sections of the penal code … or for "breach of the peace". Although most of those arrested were charged, there had been no further proceedings in the majority of cases by the end of 1985.

Amnesty International Report 1986

ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Four months after the Sub-Commission adopted the resolution, martial law in Pakistan was fortunately lifted, but with little relief for Ahmadis ….

situation worse than during martial law

Thus the anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XXof the 26th of April 1984, which deprived the Ahmadis of their basic human rights, denied them freedom of religion and legalized their persecution on religious grounds, was made part of the Constitution of Pakistan. In effect, the situation is worse now than it was during the period of martial law and when it was reported to the Sub-Commission last summer.

Concrete evidence of the government's intentions was given just before the termination of martial law by the Prime Minister, appointed by the Head of State, General Zia. In a television broadcast, Prime Minister Junejo denounced the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement as a "liar" and an "imposter"; he went on to say, and I quote,

‘The government has taken strongest measures in Pakistan to tackle this problem.’

cancer

General Zia himself had earlier sent a remarkable message to an anti-Ahmadiyya conference in London. His message read in part - and I again quote,

‘We will persevere in our efforts to ensure that the cancer of Ahmadiyyat is exterminated.’

…. the end of martial law has certainly brought no improvement for Ahmadis.

Mr. Peter Davies,
representing the Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights,
addressing the Sub-Commission on Discrimination and Protection of Minorities,
February 14, 1986.
UN cassette recording

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

DEATH PENALTY AND LEGAL CONCERN:
MEMBERS OF THE AHMADIYYA COMMUNITY IN PAKISTAN

Two members of the Ahmadiyya community have been sentenced to death and four others to imprisonment for 25 years on criminal charges in connection with a reported attack on their place of worship which led to two people being killed. They had been tried by a special military court during the first half of 1985, for murder and rioting.

In view of its unconditional opposition to the death penalty, Amnesty International is concerned that two prisoners have been sentenced to death and may be executed in the coming months. This concern is aggravated by the fact that the prisoners were tried by a special military court, the procedures of which failed to provide minimum legal safeguards for a fair trial according to international legal standards. Moreover, Amnesty International is concerned that the investigation by the police and the prosecution of this case by the authorities may not have been impartially conducted because it involved members of the Ahmadiyya community. Since April 1984 the community has been prohibited from calling itself Muslim and using Muslim religious practices, offenses punishable by imprisonment. Its members have reportedly been subjected to discrimination and harassment, including physical assault, by members of some religious groups in Pakistan without law enforcement authorities providing adequate protection or redress.

In the early morning of 26th October, 1984, a group of a few dozen men were reported to have attacked the Ahmadiyya community's place of worship in Sahiwal, Punjab province. The men are said to have been carrying paint, buckets and brushes, with which to erase verses from the Koran and other writings from the mosque's walls. Present at the mosque were the caretaker of the mosque and some other men gathered there to say early morning prayers.

When the group of men began to paint out the writing on the mosque, the caretaker is reported to have tried to protect the property and the other Ahmadis present. He is acknowledged ultimately to have resorted to firing with a shot gun at the group of men,and two non-Ahmadis were killed. The caretaker, Naemuddin, is reported to have given the police a full account of what occurred and to have admitted responsibility for firing the shots resulting in the two fatalities. However, in spite of this at least six other members of the Ahmadiyya community were arrested, including, it is said, two or more persons not present during the incident. Contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, these prisoners were not presented before a magistrate within 24 hours of their arrest. Two days after their arrest, on the 28th October 1984, 77 members of the District Bar Association, Sahiwal, reportedly signed a resolution addressed to the Commissioner of Multan Division and the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Multan, expressing concern that “a case (against a group of Ahmadis) was registered on a concocted statement… which was absolutely baseless, false and frivolous”. The lawyers called for "the local police to be directed to hold an impartial investigation to meet the ends of justice".

In early March 1985, seven members of the Ahmadiyya community were put on trial before Special Military Court No. 62, Multan. These persons were:

1. Mr. Naemuddin, aged about 53, married with five children, the caretaker.

2, 3, 4. Mr. Abdul Qadir, aged about 19 and Mr. Nisar Ahmed, aged about 22, both of whom are students; Mr. Mohammad Haziq Rafiq Tahir, aged about 24, married with three children and a goldsmith by profession. All three were reported to have been at the mosque to say prayers when the incident occurred.

5. Mr. Ilyas Munir, aged about 32, married with one child. He is an official of the Ahmadiyya community and lived at the premises where the incident occurred.

6. Mr. Mohammad Ishaq Choudhry, aged about 62, married with four children.

7. Mr. Mohammad Din, aged about 72, married with children, a retired sub-inspector of police.

All seven were charged under the Penal Code with murder and rioting.

The conduct of trials before special military courts, now abolished with the lifting of martial law in Pakistan on 30th December, 1985, has long been of concern to Amnesty International. The courts consisted of three members, two of whom were serving military personnel who might not have had legal training. There was also no guarantee of of security of tenure for the courts' members. The courts were constituted and dissolved on the orders of the martial law authorities, who were also responsible for determining which cases should be heard by them. Further illustration of the courts' lack of independence was that the martial law authorities were also responsible for reviewing and confirming the courts' findings and decisions, against which there was, and is, no judicial appeal. On these and other grounds Amnesty International has consistently maintained that special military courts failed to provide a fair trial according to international legal standards.

The trial of the seven members of the Ahmadiyya community lasted approximately two months, ending in late April 1985. Following this, the court reserved its judgement and its verdict was only announced in mid-February 1986; Naemuddin and Mohammad Ilyas Munir were sentenced to death; Mohammad Ishaq Choudhry was acquitted and the other four persons were sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.

Amnesty International
International Secretariat
1 Easton Street
London WC1X 8DJ
United Kingdom

AI Index: ASA 33/04/86
Distr: CO

HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES

Rarely has a government so openly promulgated law that primae facie contravenes international law, standards of freedom of religion, the right to non-discrimination, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of property and the right to equality before the law …

People flee when they have no protection.

driven out

Ahmadi Muslims are being driven out of Pakistan. When seeking refuge in other countries, they have a primae facie showing of persecution based on religion. Asylum rights and the right of non-refoulement are involved. Any country that forcibly repatriates an Ahmadi Muslim to Pakistan while Ordinance XX is in effect is in violation of international law.

Human Rights Advocates Inc. urges the Commission to act on the request of the Sub-Commission by calling on the government of Pakistan to repeal Ordinance XX, to cease all practices of discrimination, and to restore full human rights to all people in Pakistan.

UN document E/CN.4/1986/NGO 30,
submitted by Human Rights Advocates on February 24, 1986.

HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES

illustrate prima facie
persecution based on religion

… the laws of Pakistan, when looked at in their entirety, illustrate prima facie persecution based on religion, sanctioned by law, and the official and public statements of the President and other high government authorities can only generate religious intolerance and hatred.

Ilyas Khan,
addressing the Sub-Commission on February 24, 1986,
on behalf of Human Rights Advocates
UN cassette recording

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION for the DEFENCE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES

preaching or professing his faith

The first example is that of Pakistan where the Ahmadi Community, which consists of more than three million members, affirms to be the subject of discrimination and even persecution by the authorities. On the 26th April, 1984 …, the President of Pakistan promulgated an Ordinance in which we can read:

Any person, belonging to the Ahmadi group, preaching or professing his faith, or inviting others to accept his belief, either in writing or orally or by visual means, shall be liable to a sentence of at least three years imprisonment.

Intolerance and religious discrimination of this Ordinance is quite obvious.

Mr. Gianfranco Rossi,
addressing the Sub-Commission on February 24, 1986,
on behalf of the International Association for the defence of Religious Liberties
UN cassette recording

HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES

intolerable religious persecution
The Sub-Commission, in its resolution 1985/21 responded to this request regarding one and only one situation, the situation in Pakistan where four million Ahmadi Muslims are subjected to intolerable religious persecution and other violations of human rights because of the promulgation of Ordinance XX.
cannot and must not be ignored
Persecution, combined with no internal remedy, produces the flight of victims to other countries
This Ordinance provides, inter alia, prison terms of three years of Ahmadis merely for practising their faith as they believe. Such an egregious violation of the principle of religious freedom cannot and must not be ignored … The prima facie violation of the right of freedom of thought, expression, conscience, religion and the rights of religious minorities and other essential rights was not the only issue that pre-occupied the Sub-Commission about this Ordinance. The Ordinance by its terms precludes any effective domestic remedy for its victims. Persecution, combined with no internal remedy, produces the flight of victims to other countries in search of safety and asylum. The steady stream of Ahmadis to other countries is likely to turn into a deluge at any minute. A member of our organization was recently in Pakistan. We sadly report that large numbers of Ahmadis, feeling helpless, indicate that they will be compelled to flee.

The Sub-Commission asked the Commission to call on the government of Pakistan to repeal Ordinance XX. This is a simple enough request requiring no lengthy study.

Some here say such a call is pointless, because it will be ignored by that government. Such cynicism is unwise. If assurance of compliance were a precondition, many if not most resolutions here would never be adopted.

Further, the government of Pakistan has repeatedly stressed to this body its commitment to respect human rights. The Commission should, therefore, assume that Pakistan would comply with a Commission request to repeal Ordinance XX. The Commission may very well be able to for once avert a catastrophe, in this case one of four million Ahmadis seeking refuge elsewhere.

inaction may well encourage the government

Commission's inaction may well encourage the government of Pakistan to continue, if not augment, its campaign against Ahmadi Muslims. Other governments might also feel that they can carry out similar policies and avoid scrutiny. A very frightening prospect!

Dr. Karen Parker,
addressing the Sub-Commission on March 5, 1986,
on behalf of Human Rights Advocates
UN cassette recording

COMMISSION MEMBER FOR AUSTRALIA

unlikely to be repealed

The Australian government has welcomed the recent lifting of martial law in Pakistan. We hope this step will result in an increasingly full enjoyment by all the people of Pakistan of their constitutional and political rights. My government had hoped that the return to civilian rule in Pakistan would be accompanied by the abolition of discriminatory laws on the treatment of minority groups, including the Ahmadis. We are concerned, however, that Ordinance XX of 26th April 1984 appears unlikely to be repealed.

His Excellency, Robert H. Robertson,
Commission Member for Australia
March 5, 1986
UN cassette recording

COMMISSION MEMBER FOR IRELAND

concerned at legalized discrimination

My delegation was glad to note the lifting of martial law in Pakistan on 30th December 1985 … However, Mr. Chairman, my delegation continues to be concerned at the legalized discrimination against the Ahmadiyya Community … The freedom of religion set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights prohibits discrimination without exception … We urge the government of Pakistan to devise measures which would ensure the effective enjoyment of this fundamental right to all in Pakistan.

Ambassador Francis Mahon Hayes,
Commission Member for Ireland
March 6, 1986
UN cassette recording and
Summary Record E/CN.4/1986/SR 46/Add.1

ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY for the PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

final solution

Religious intolerance and persecution was legalized on government orders in Pakistan … These so-called demands go further and include the suggestion that Ahmadi Muslims be declared apostates and stoned to death … The government had said ominously that the problem of Ahmadi Muslims had

‘entered the phase of its final solution.’

Those words have a familiar ring. Hitler, too, started slowly.

representative of Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights,
addressing Commission on March 7, 1986
UN Press Release HR/1676, March 7, 1986

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PAKISTAN:

IMPOSITION OF DEATH SENTENCES ON NASIR AHMAD QURESHI AND RAFI AHMAD QURESHI, MEMBERS OF THE AHMADIYYA COMMUNITY

Nasir Ahmad Qureshi and his brother, Rafi Ahmad Qureshi, were sentenced to death on charges of murder following their trial before a special military court. Five other persons were reported to have been acquitted.

Amnesty International is opposed to the imposition of the death penalty in all cases, on the grounds that it violates the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is of additional concern to the organisation that, until the lifting of martial law in Pakistan on 30th December, 1985, the death penalty was regularly imposed by military courts, whose procedures failed to comply with international standards for a fair trial, in particular by denying the right of appeal to a higher court.

Furthermore, Amnesty International received reports alleging that irregularities occurred during police investigations into the incident for which Rafi Ahmad Qureshi and Nasir Ahmad Qureshi have been held responsible. Whilst Amnesty International is not in a position to verify these allegations, there are grounds to believe that members of the Ahmadiyya community, prohibited from calling themselves Muslims and practising Muslim religious rites in Pakistan since April 1984, face discrimination. This may further have prejudiced the right of these two men to a fair trial.

Thus, as for other prisoners sentenced to death in Pakistan, Amnesty International is calling for the withdrawal of the death sentences imposed on Rafi Ahmad Qureshi and Nasir Ahmad Qureshi. Moreover, in view of concern at the alleged irregularities in the investigation of their case and that they were tried by a special military court, Amnesty International urges that they should be re-tried before a court providing all minimum legal safeguards for a fair trial.

Sukkur is an area of Sind province where there has reportedly been regular agitation against Ahmadis since April 1984. The Amir (head of the Ahmadiyya community) there had been stabbed to death on 1st May, 1984.

On 23rd May, 1985, two bombs exploded at a mosque in Sukkur, resulting in two people being killed and at least 12 injured. Members of the Ahmadiyya community were immediately suspected of involvement in this offence.

At least two dozen male members of the Ahmadiyya community in Sukkur were arrested in the days following the bomb explosion. Women and children were reportedly taken from their homes and confined in a camp for several days. When a group of Ahmadis went from Karachi to Sukkur to find out what was happening to their community, they were also reported to have been arrested.

Out of the total number of some two dozen or more Ahmadis arrested, all except seven had been released after about two weeks. Two of the seven, Nasir Ahmad Qureshi, an Assistant Professor at the Sukkur Government Education College, and Rafi Ahmad Qureshi, an attendant at a thermal power station, are sons of the late Amir, murdered the previous year. Another, Mohammad Ayub, a 26-year-old full time worker of the community, was arrested on 27th May, 1985 on his return from a visit to the Ahmadiyya's headquarters in Rabwah. His wife and one-year-old daughter were also taken into custody but were released when the other prisoners threatened to undertake a hunger-strike. The other four arrested were Mahmood Ahmad Qureshi, the son of Nasir Ahmad Qureshi, Hameedullah Khalid, Zafarullah Alvi and Muzafar Ahmad Malik. As of mid-August, the seven men had not been formally charged but were being held under sections of the Penal Code (including the section covering punishment for the offence of murder), the Explosives Act and martial law regulations. At that time no announcement had been made as to whether their case would be proceeded with in a military or ordinary criminal court. Because of this lack of clarity regarding jurisdiction, defence counsel had been unable to apply for bail for the prisoners, as they intended to do should the case be sent for trial before the ordinary criminal courts. (Prisoners under trial before military courts were generally not considered for bail.)

Not until 14th November 1985 was it finally announced that the prisoners would face trial before a special military court, due to commence only two days later.

The trial conducted by Special Military Court No. 33, Sukkur, reportedly lasted some four weeks. Amnesty International does not know the precise charges against the prisoners, but knows that the charges of involvement in bomb explosions at the mosque have been brought under Sections 302, 307 and 34 of the Penal Code covering respectively “punishment for murder”, “attempt to murder” and “acts done by several persons in furtherence of common intention”.

According to the closing address of defence counsel during the trial, there were several irregularities in the conduct of the police investigation into the bomb explosions at the mosque and the treatment of the Ahmadis accused of this offence. Some of these were:

(1) the date of the arrest of the accused had allegedly been falsified on police records. Prosecution maintained that two of the accused, Nasir Ahmad Qureshi and Rafi Ahmad Qureshi, were arrested on 26 May, 1985, and the five other accused only after they had been picked out from an identification parade on 2nd June 1985. Defence counsel maintained that all but one of the accused had been arrested on 23rd May and the five who had appeared in the identification parade had, prior to the holding of this, been shown to the supposed eye witnesses to the bombing incident, thus rendering the identification parade invalid.

(2) the time of the recording of the First Information Report (FIR), on which the police investigation of an alleged criminal offence is based, was in dispute. According to legal precedents, an FIR recorded an interval of time after an alleged offence occurred may not be accorded the same value as evidence as one filed immediately afterwards. Since the FIR in this case, lodged by the head of the mosque where the explosion occurred, mentioned Rafi Ahmad Qureshi and Nasir Ahmad Qureshi as having been sighted at the time of the offence, this argument assumes particular significance.

Amnesty International was not in a position to verify these complaints made by defence counsel but believes they raise further doubts regarding the fairness of the trial of these prisoners.

Since martial law in Pakistan was lifted at the end of 1985, special military courts no longer function. However, decisions made by these courts were protected by constitutional amendment prior to the lifting of martial law and cannot be challenged in the ordinary courts in the post-martial law period. General criticisms Amnesty International has made about special military courts in assessing their procedures according to internationally recognised legal standards for a fair trial are:

special military courts were neither independent nor impartial, having been established and dissolved solely on the orders of the martial law authorities, and there being no security of tenure for their members. Two of the three members of these courts, including the president, were serving military officers who, although some are believed to have some legal training, did not have the benefit of the extensive training and experience which is generally required of the judiciary responsible for hearing criminal cases. The martial law authorities determined what cases should be heard by military courts and then acted as the reviewing body following a prisoner's conviction, a combination of powers incompatible with the court's independence.

special military courts have been conducted in circumstances which failed to comply with the right to a fair hearing, either through accepting in evidence testimony reportedly extracted under duress or through other restrictions on defence rights.

There was no appeal to a higher tribunal available following conviction by a special military court.

The trial of the seven Ahmadis in Sukkur was concluded in mid-December. Prior to the lifting of martial law on 30th December, 1985, no verdict in the case had been announced. However, the verdicts of special military courts announced after the lifting of martial law may still be enforced. Thus, on 3rd March, 1986, it was announced that Nasir Ahmad Qureshi and Rafi Ahmad Qureshi had been convicted and sentenced to death. The death sentences were said to have already been confirmed by President Zia-ul-Haq, as was required according to procedure. The two men thus have only one avenue of appeal remaining to them: to submit within 30 days from the announcement of the verdict petitions for clemency, which are also addressed to President Zia-ul-Haq.

AI Index: ASA 33/06/86
March 1986


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