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PRESS REPORTS FROM OUTSIDE OF PAKISTAN
The following is how some of the press outside of Pakistan reported the situation Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan:
THE PIONEER, Kumasi, Ghana, May 23, 1984
…All men of good will should condemn strongly this last move of President Zia to perpetuate himself in Pakistan..
…it is a mockery of Islam to … promulgate a law banning the religious freedom of a minority Muslim community. It is most unthinkable for this terrible and barbaric law to be promulgated by a Muslim president in a Muslim country against a Muslim community….
NIGERIAN OBSERVER, Nigeria, June 22, 1984
…For wherever religious fanatics take hold, freedom is wrecked.
It's like falling in love with the trigger of an atomic bomb….
…Human conscience abhors a situation in which one is imprisoned and tortured for merely naming his religion.
NEWSWEEK, July 16, 1984
…A recent government pamphlet says that with the introductions of the new laws regarding Ahmadis, the problem has entered the last stage toward its final solution. Those words - no matter what the intentions behind them - have an ominous ring that cannot be ignored.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, Winnipeg, February 24, 1985
…the persecution of minorities continues…the official persecution has encouraged the hatred and violence whipped up by the orthodox mullahs…
EDMONTON JOURNAL, Edmonton, July 5, 1985
…Ahmadi muslims are being systematically persecuted and killed… hundreds of Ahmadis have been arrested, charged with proclaiming their faith and held without bail…
THE TIMES, London, September 5, 1985
…a climate has been created in which mullahs can with impunity describe Ahmadis as enemies of Islam deserving death, and anyone who has a grudge against an individual Ahmadi can take action against him with little fear of legal sanction.
ECHO, Ghana, March 2, 1986
Musharraf Butt, a member of the Ahmadi community has been shot in Kund Yaro, District Nawabshah, in Sind Province, Pakistan.
Mr Butt was standing in front of his shop when the attacker, Hamid Shah, fired at him from behind with a short rifle. He then tried to escape, but was chased by the victim's brothers.
The police arrived on the scene later and recovered the rifle, five cartridges and a knife from the attacker.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, Toronto, September 29, 1986
…although the ordinance runs counter to the Pakistani constitution's guarantee of freedom of worship, it has been the basis for numerous arrests…international censure has not restrained President Zia, who vowed last year to persevere in our efforts to ensure that the cancer of Ahmadiyya is eliminated. Is the demonization of the Ahmadis, therefore, intended, at least in part, to allay suspicions of Zia the Zealous.
DAILY MILLAT, London, January 4, 1989
An adviser to the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs, Maulana Siraj Ahmad Dinpuri was quoted as saying
DAILY JANG, London, January 16, 1989
The Minister for Religious and Minority Affairs said:
DAILY JANG, London, February 3, 1989
The Provincial government of Punjab has banned the Ahmadiyya Centenary celebration which was going to be held at Rabwah in March 1989.
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, January 5, 1994
… A decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court last July has effectively closed the door to any legal redress for the intolerance and persecution that the Ahmadiyya Muslims have been encountering in Pakistan for the last two decades.
…all civilized nations have cherished freedom of conscience, thought, and religion…Pakistan's Constitution also embodies and upholds these freedoms…
…most amazingly, the justices justified the laws prohibiting the Ahmadis the use of Islamic phrases by drawing a parallel from the trade laws prohibitive of trade and merchandise marks. This is a distasteful monetization of something spiritual and sublime. Furthermore, the Supreme Court's decision encourages religious intolerance and violence against Ahmadis…
…By stating that allowing an Ahmadi to display Islamic symbols in public is like creating a Salman Rushdie out of him, the Court has made a direct incitement to kill Ahmadis…
Jang, London, 8 July 1994
Jang quoted the Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs as saying that the Eighth Ammendment would not be modified and Islamic clauses would be retained in the Constitution.
Proprietary to the United Press International 1994 September 16, 1994, Friday, BC cycle SECTION: International LENGTH: 451 words HEADLINE: Pakistanis destroy minority mosque DATELINE: ISLAMABAD, Sept. 16 ISLAMABAD, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- City officials at Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, completed Friday the demolition of a mosque which belonged to the Ahmadiya community … The Rawalpindi authorities said the mosque was constructed illegally and could have caused religious riots … Judge Dasgir Syed said in his order that the community constructed the mosque without sanction from the city administration, as required under the law. A spokesman for the city administration said the Ahmadiya community had originally sought permission for the construction of a house and shops but later converted it into a mosque which was illegal. Mujibur Rehman, the local chief of the Ahmadiya, said these were all excuses. The fact is that the city administration has become a tool in the hands of the fundamentalists. The mosque has been destroyed because of fundamentalist pressure. In 1974, Parliament declared the Ahmadiya a non-Muslim group … So far there have been several riots against the community, forcing thousands of them to seek refuge in Western Europe and North America … Scores of Ahmadis have been killed during the last two decades in attacks by Muslim extremists against their homes and mosques. Once a flourishing community from which most of the top jobs in Pakistan were filled, the Ahmadis now are discriminated against in jobs and education … LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE-MDC: September 17, 1994
Daily Jang, London, July 8, 1994
The President and Prime Minister were quoted as saying that the government had never intended to amend 295-C PPC.
The Observer, Sunday, May 14, 1995, page 20.
For the past month Daulat Khan has been bounced between fetid jail cells in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. He has been abandoned by his wife and six small children and disowned by the rest of his family. Village mullahs have issued fatwas calling for his death.
Khan's crime is to have converted to the Ahmadis, an Islamic sect whose members are persecuted in a Pakistan dominated by Sunni Muslims because they believe that the Messiah has already come. the crime of the men who came to apply for Khan to be released on bail last month was simply to be his friends: a chanting crowd beat one to death, then gouged out his eyes with broken glass, and stoned another until he was near death.
Today there is to be another application for bail, and more violence is feared. Khan, 36, will wait for news in a cramped cell at Peshawar central jail, packed with heroin addicts, drug dealers and murderers, where every day he rises before dawn for the first of five daily prayers.
`I do not want to impose my beliefs on others. I simply want to practice my own religion,' said Khan, a telephone company accounts clerk. `They issued the fatwa over loudspeakers and called me a kaffir [non-believer]. Even my own family members refused to talk to me.'
Pakistan attracted worldwide attention over the case of Christian Salamat Masih, an illiterate 14-year-old accused of writing blasphemous slogans, who escaped the death penalty only when he was acquitted on appeal. But Christians form a small proportion of those held under the sharia blasphemy laws; many of the accused are Ahmadis.
In 1984 it became an offence, punishable by up to 13 years in prison, for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims and to do anything `to injure the feelings of a Muslim'. Last year 2,432 Ahmadis were charged with these offences; six cases were upgraded to blasphemy, which carries a mandatory death sentence.
`They declared us as a cancer. They wanted to annihilate us,' said Abdul Basit, an Ahmadi lawyer in Peshawar. `Any Ahmadi can be charged at any time. Any person can go to the police station and say, This Ahmadi is injuring my feelings. Arrest him, and he will be arrested.'
On 9 April, four days after Khan's arrest, three Ahmadis came to the court in Shabqadar, 12 miles north-east of Peshawar, to deliver a bail application. The three included Khan's friend and mentor, Dr Rashid Ahmad, Ahmad's son-in-law, Riaz Ahmad, and a young Ahmadi lawyer, Bashir Ahmad Khalil.
Several sources confirm that for several weeks the mullahs had been preaching against Khan's conversion, declaring him not fit to live and suggesting his house be burnt. In Khan's village and in nearby Shabqadar, the mullahs put up posters that read: `Daulat Khan is an infidel. We have issued a decree against him. He must be killed'. A lorry with a loud-speaker was driven through the town's bazaars broadcasting a campaign against Khan.
Khan was frightened. `When a mullah arises and says this person should be stoned to death, then the people do it,' he said.
When news spread that the bail application was to be filed, 35 residents of Khan's village arrived at the courts to protest at Khan's release unless he promised to convert back to Islam. Across the street shoppers from the bazaar heard what was happening and several thousand people armed with rocks and sticks gathered near the court.
The young Ahmadi lawyer, Khalil, says he saw the crowd engulf Dr Ahmad. They threw stones and beat him, leaving him for dead. His son-in-law ran for cover inside the court. The crowd began chanting `Allah Akbar -God is Great' and `Mohammad is the last Prophet'.
Khalil tried to hide the fact he had arrived at court with Ahmad. `I thought it was impossible to save him,' he said. `I turned toward the gate very slowly and walked away.' He is now in hiding and says he wants asylum abroad.
Eventually the crowd stormed the room inside the court where Riaz Ahmad was hiding. They used the broken glass and wood from the window panes to beat him to death. They gouged out his eyes, tied a rope around his feet and dragged him from the court -- the photographs of the dead man bear out this account. Across the road, Khalil says, a truck full of armed police were standing, doing nothing.
Once the crowd had left, the police crossed the road and found Rashid Ahmad was still alive. He says he had to bribe them 10,000 rupees (Pounds 190) to take him to a Peshawar hospital, where they handcuffed his leg to the bed. Now he, too, is in hiding.
The government remains silent about the attack and a judicial enquiry continues. No security precautions have been taken to prevent violence today.
Voice of America Gopher
INTRO: ISLAMIC PARTIES IN PAKISTAN CALLED A NATION-WIDE STRIKE SATURDAY TO PROTEST PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE COUNTRY'S CONTROVERSIAL BLASPHEMY LAWS. IN PAKISTAN THE PUNISHMENT FOR BLASPHEMING ISLAM OR THE PROPHET MOHAMMAD IS DEATH. FROM ISLAMABAD JENNIFER GRIFFIN REPORTS SHOPKEEPERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY OBSERVED THE STRIKE AND PROTESTORS BURNED TIRES IN THE STREETS.
TEXT: MORE THAN 15-HUNDRED DEMONSTRATORS IN PESHAWAR MARCHED THROUGH THE WINDING STREETS OF THE ANCIENT WALLED CITY, CHANTING SLOGANS AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT AND CALLING FOR THE DEFEAT OF WHAT THEY SAID IS U-S IMPERIALISM.
NEARLY A DOZEN MULLAHS ADDRESSED THE FIERY CROWD AND CRITICIZED THE GOVERNMENT'S ATTEMPT TO AMEND THE STRICT BLASPHEMY LAWS. LATER, THE MOB STONED A MOVIE THEATER AND TORE DOWN BILLBOARDS SHOWING SCANTILY-CLAD PAKISTANI FILM STARS.
SIMILAR PROTESTS TOOK PLACE IN THE COUNTRY'S OTHER MAJOR CITIES. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION GROUND TO A HALT IN KARACHI, AND BURNING TIRES WERE SCATTERED ALONG THE MAIN ROAD IN THE EASTERN CITY LAHORE -- WHERE CHRISTIAN LEADERS ADVISED THEIR FOLLOWERS TO STAY INDOORS.
SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE CHRISTIAN NATIONAL PARTY JOSEPH FRANCIS SAID CHRISTIANS WERE FEELING NERVOUS AND CHURCHES ALONG LAHORE'S MAIN ROAD HAD LOCKED THEIR GATES. NATIONAL UNITY COUNCIL HEAD SHAH AHMED NOORANI WHO HELPED ORGANIZE THE STRIKE, SAID PAKISTAN'S 120-MILLION MUSLIMS HAVE GIVEN THE GOVERNMENT A MESSAGE -- ONLY DEATH FOR THOSE ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY.
EARLIER THIS YEAR IN LAHORE, TWO CHRISTIANS -- ONE A 12-YEAR-OLD BOY -- WERE GIVEN DEATH SENTENCES FOR ALLEGEDLY BLASPHEMING THE PROPHET MOHAMMAD, BUT THEIR CONVICTIONS WERE OVERTURNED.
THE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED THURSDAY IT WAS NOT WEAKENING THE LAWS, BUT SIMPLY CHANGING THE MECHANISM FOR ACCUSING A PERSON OF BLASPHEMY IN AN EFFORT TO LIMIT ABUSE OF THE LAWS. INTERIOR MINISTER NASIRULLAH BABAR SAID THE MUSLIM GOVERNMENT FIRMLY BELIEVES ANYONE FOUND GUILTY OF BLASPHEMY SHOULD RECEIVE THE DEATH PENALTY.
THE PROPOSED CHANGES MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO CHARGE SOMEONE WITH BLASPHEMY BY ACCUSATION WITHOUT EVIDENCE. THE AMENDED LAW WOULD INTRODUCE 10-YEAR JAIL TERMS FOR ANYONE WHO MAKES A FALSE BLASPHEMY CHARGE.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS SAY THE GOVERNMENT IS GIVING IN TO PRESSURE FROM THE WEST AND TRYING TO DISCOURAGE BLASPHEMY CASES. THEY SAY PEOPLE WILL NOW BE TOO SCARED TO LEVEL A BLASPHEMY CHARGE FOR FEAR THEY TOO WILL BE JAILED. (SIGNED)
27-May-95 6:52 AM EDT (1052 UTC)
Voice of America
Reuter's Wire Service
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuter) - Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto assured Pakistani Muslims Sunday that blasphemy would remain a crime punished by death.
All Muslims feel the same about the honor of the Prophet, she said in a speech. We will not amend the law but plan some procedural changes so that it is used according to the tenets of Islam.
Pakistani fundamentalist have been leading a campaign, including a general strike Saturday, to keep blasphemy a capital offense.
The law came under attack from local and international human rights groups after two Christians, one a 14-year-old boy, were sentenced to death. They were acquitted by a higher court but fled to Germany in fear of zealots.
Bhutto, who studied at Oxford and Harvard universities, said the only changes needed were to protect weaker members of society from misuse of the blasphemy law.
Foreigners coming to this country should also have to respect the honor of our prophet and Pakistani law, Bhutto said.
Voice of America
DATE=7/6/95 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-30520 TITLE=AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL BYLINE=DAUD MAJLIS DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= NOT VOICED: INTRO: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS ISSUED ITS ANNUAL REPORT ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS IN 151 COUNTRIES DURING 1994. THE REPORT NOTES ABUSES IN ALL REGIONS OF THE WORLD. MANY CASES ARE NEVER INVESTIGATED AND RARELY ARE THE GUILTY BROUGHT TO JUSTICE. FROM WASHINGTON, VOA'S DAUD MAJLIS LOOKS AT THE SOUTH ASIAN ASPECT OF THE REPORT. TEXT: PRESENTING THE REPORT PIERRE SANE, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE LONDON-BASED ORGANIZATION, SAID AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL IS TRYING TO CREATE A CLIMATE WHERE THE PERPETRATORS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES WILL BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE AND THE VICTIMS WILL BE GIVEN BACK THEIR DIGNITY. IN AN INTERVIEW WITH V-O-A, MR. CASEY KELSO, A SPOKESPERSON FOR AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL TALKED ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS IN THREE SOUTH ASIAN COUNTRIES -- PAKISTAN, INDIA AND BANGLADESH. ACCORDING TO THE REPORT MORE THAN 100 PRISONERS IN PAKISTAN HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH BLASPHEMY. THE PRISONERS CONTEND THEY WERE EXERCISING THEIR RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION. MR. KELSO SAID AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WAS PARTICULARLY CONCERNED THAT BLASPHEMY LAWS WERE BEING ABUSED IN PAKISTAN. HE SAID THESE LAWS IN PAKISTAN ARE USED TO TARGET THE AHMEDIA COMMUNITY IN PARTICULAR. // KELSO ACTUALITY // WHILE THERE ARE NO EVIDENCE TO PUT CHARGES AGAINST THE AHMEDIA MEMBERS, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN PUT ON TRIAL AND HAVE BEEN THREATENED WITH DEATH BY ISLAMIST MILITANTS WHO EITHER DISRUPT THE COURT TRIAL OR WHO HAVE TAKEN, ON CERTAIN OCCASIONS IN 1994, STEPS TO BEAT OR EVEN KILL THOSE WHO WERE ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY. // END ACTUALITY // THE AMNESTY SPOKESPERSON SAID THE GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN HAS ANNOUNCED INTENTIONS TO CURB THE ABUSE OF BLASPHEMY LAWS BUT NO ACTION HAS SO FAR BEEN TAKEN TO RESTRICT FALSE ACCUSERS. ACCORDING TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AT LEAST 35 EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS WERE REPORTED IN PAKISTAN DURING 1994. THE AMNESTY REPORT SAYS CIVIL CONFLICT HAS BEEN THE CONTEXT FOR HUNDREDS OF POLITICAL KILLINGS AND SCORES OF DISAPPEARANCES IN INDIA. IN THE 1994 REPORT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL FOCUSED ON THE STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR. // KELSO ACTUALITY // IN THE STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR WE HAD ALMOST DAILY REPORTS OF SHOOTINGS OR PEOPLE BEING TORTURED. THERE AGAIN WE HAVE 350 POLITICAL PRISONERS -- MANY OF THEM POLITICAL PRISONERS -- THAT WERE HELD IN PRISONS. THERE WERE POLITICAL DETAINEES AND CRIMINAL SUSPECTS WHO WERE TORTURED IN A ROUTINE MANNER. // END ACTUALITY // MR. KELSO EMPHASIZED THAT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS APPEALED NOT ONLY TO THE GOVERNMENTS BUT ALSO TO THE ARMED OPPOSITION GROUPS BOTH IN PAKISTAN AND IN INDIA TO STOP HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES. HE SAID IN JUNE AMNESTY MADE AN APPEAL TO OPPOSITION GROUPS TO RELEASE ALL HOSTAGES HELD IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR. THE AMNESTY REPORT EXPRESSED CONCERN ABOUT TORTURE AND MISTREATMENT OF DETAINEES THROUGHOUT INDIA. LEGAL REFORMS WERE PROMISED BUT WERE NOT IMPLEMENTED TO SAFEGUARD THOSE DETAINEES. MR. KELSO POINTED OUT THAT THE TERRORIST AND DISRUPTIVE ACTIVITIES PREVENTION ACT (TADA) HAS REMAINED IN FORCE EVEN THOUGH THERE IS A PUBLIC FEELING THAT THE ANTI-TERRORIST LEGISLATION SHOULD BE REVIEWED AND PERHAPS REPEALED. // KELSO ACTUALITY // MINIMUM LEGAL SAFEGUARDS SHOULD BE APPLIED FOR THOSE WHO ARE BEING TRIED UNDER T-A-D-A YET THE MINISTRY OF INTERNAL SECURITY EVEN THOUGH IT ADMITS THAT T-A-D-A HAS BEEN MISUSED EXTENSIVELY AGAINST MOSLEMS STILL HAS NOT TAKEN THOSE STEPS TO ESTABLISH SOME SORT OF SAFEGUARDS. // END ACTUALITY // IN BANGLADESH, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS BEEN SPECIALLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE. MR. KELSO SAID JUST AS ANTI-TERRORIST LAWS HAVE BEEN ABUSED IN INDIA, IN BANGLADESH THE SPECIAL POWERS ACT HAS BEEN USED TO IMPRISON DOZENS OF PEOPLE ON CRIMINAL CHARGES SIMPLY FOR EXPRESSING THEIR POLITICAL BELIEFS. // KELSO ACTUALITY // WE HAVE POLITICAL PRISONERS WHO HAVE BEEN TRIED UNDER ANTI-TERRORIST LEGISLATION. WE BELIEVE THEY HAVE NOT RECEIVED A FAIR TRIAL. AND AGAIN TORTURE IN POLICE STATIONS AND JAILS HAVE CONTINUED. ONE OF THE THEMES IN BANGLADESH, AS WELL AS IN PAKISTAN, WAS THE UPSURGE OF ISLAMIST FUNDAMENTALISM OR ISLAMIST FEELINGS THAT DID NOT GUARANTEE PEOPLE WHO ARE ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY OF A FAIR TRIAL. // END ACTUALITY // MR. KELSO SAID ONE OF THE CONCERNS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS ALL OVER THE WORLD IS THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET A FAIR TRIAL REGARDLESS OF WHATEVER CRIMES THEY ARE ACCUSED OF. (SIGNED) CENA/DM/CF 06-Jul-95 9:17 AM EDT (1317 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America
Voice of America
DATE=1/24/96 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-32263 TITLE=PAKISTAN RELIGION BYLINE=DOUGLAS BAKSHIAN DATELINE=ISLAMABAD (Edited) Intro: Human-rights activists in Pakistan (during january) have accused the ruling party of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of lacking the political will to confront bigotry and religious extremism. The government strongly denies the charge, but this has again raised long-standing questions about the power of religious parties in Pakistan, which calls itself an Islamic state. In this background report VOA Islamabad correspondent Douglas Bakshian examines differing points of view on the matter. Text: Human-rights activists in Pakistan have leveled a sharp attack at the government -- accusing it of lacking the political will to deal with religious extremists. In a petition, the activists accused Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's ruling party of failing to confront the issue. The petition says --despite the ruling party's efforts to portray Pakistan as a front-line state against militancy -- no concrete measures have been taken against such forces. The activists say Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran finance terrorist sectarian parties in Pakistan and fight proxy wars through them. These countries deny the charge. the petition says -- because of past and present policies -- Pakistan has become a battleground for bigots the world over. Asma Jehangir -- the chairperson of Pakistan's human- rights commission -- says forces of darkness are at work in the country. // Jehangir actuality // These forces of darkness may be bloody, but is only a very-short spell for these forces of darkness. Because only cowards will pick-up terrorism. Those that are committed to their cause will never use a gun to try and convert another person to their way of thinking. // end actuality // But government spokesman Iqbal Haidar says there have been a number of steps against sectarian and terrorist groups -- including deportations and extraditions. He says the Bhutto government has taken measures to protect religious minorities. // Haidar actuality // How many blasphemy cases have been registered? there has been a marked decline in registration of the blasphemy cases. There has been a marked decline in sectarian clashes. Whenever we have been informed about any religious sect or minority facing any kind of threat, we have taken notice and taken preventative measures to protect them. // end actuality // Human-rights activists say religious parties have organized themselves and taken advantage of what the activists describe as Pakistan's weak democracy. Activists say -- although the parties have few seats in parliament -- their influence is greater than their numbers. Political analysts say the Pakistani government faces a difficult job in pursuing extremists without offending mainstream religious parties. Analysts say the Bhutto government must avoid a backlash by religious parties -- some of which support her coalition government. Pakistani academic Eqbal Ahmad -- professor of international relations at Hampshire College in Massachusetts -- says Prime Minister Bhutto is in a difficult situation. // ahmad actuality // Ms. Bhutto is caught by contradictory, divergent pulls on the issue of her relationship to religious parties. She has presented herself to the world -- especially to America and Europe -- as being an anti- sectarian democratic leader, who is deeply opposed to religious-sectarian parties. That's her external position. Internally, her government is dependent greatly on coalition with the very religious groups she denounces in public. // end actuality // Political observers say the situation remains uncertain. While human-rights activists say the government is not doing enough about religious extremism, the administration is feeling pressure from religious parties. // rest optional // On December 30th, a coalition of religious parties held a nationwide strike protesting inflation and alleged government corruption and incompetence. Although the strike was not formally over religious matters, the groups were showing their strength. The opposition muslim league supported the protest. All these developments come against a background of scattered religious and political violence. In January, unidentified gunmen killed two shi'ite muslim politicians in Lahore -- Pakistan's second-largest city. There was periodic violence between extremist sunni and shi'ite groups in Pakistan last year, but this fell-off after a government crackdown. The government says it is doing the best that it can to deal with such trouble. But it says it is suffering from the legacy of the afghan war, when Pakistan was flooded with weapons and extremists. The government says the west shares much of the blame because it armed and financed radical Muslims during the that period. (signed)
Bangkok Post, 25 January, 1996
HUMAN rights activits, who say Pakistan has become a haven and battleground for bigots the world over, held a public meeting on Monday to protest at a rise in religiously motivated violence.
The meeting said religious intolerance in Pakistan was spreading and blamed it on politicians too afraid to confront Islamic fundamentalists.
They circulated a petition demanding legisaltion against those who encourage or invite people to kill on religious grounds. It will be presented to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Ms. Bhutto, who was seen as a champion of human rights when she came to power in 1988, has been widely criticised for concessions she has made to militant Islamic opponents.
Human rights groups at home and abroad have chastised her government for failing to repeal harsh Islamic laws, such as the blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death sentence for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or the Muslim's Prophet Mohammed.
Despite the ruling party's facile and sycophantic attempts to portray Pakistan as a frontline state against Islamic fundementalism, no concrete measures have been taken to actually combat bigotry here, says the petition.
Pakistan, because of past and present policies, has also become a haven and battleground for bigots the world over, it says.
A spokesman for Ms. Bhutto's government rejected the criticism and said efforts are being made to curb religious intolerance.
This is anumber one priority of Benazir Bhutto to restore tolerance, moderation and liberalisation, said Iqbal Haider. This is the only way we can succeed in the world.
He said sectarian violence and terrorist attacks are the remnants of a 16 year anti-communist war in neighbouring Afghanistan when radical Muslims were encouraged to come to the region and were armed and financed by the west.
And now we are left alone to face the consequences, he said.
Monday's meeting was prompted by an attack by Islamic Fundamen-talists on Asma Jehangir, a lawyer and chairman of Pakistan's respected Human Rights Commission.