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Foreword by Lord Avebury
Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) to the report on the situation of minorities in Pakistan
Four years ago, the Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) undertook a mission to Pakistan, with the specific objective of determining whether ‘internal flight’ was a viable option for persecuted Ahmadis who would otherwise be seeking asylum overseas. The evidence presented by that inquiry made it clear that Ahmadis would not be safe in Rabwah, the spiritual centre of the community. They would be the victims there of the same harassment and intimidation, and occasionally of mass violence, that affect them everywhere else in Pakistan.
The report achieved its objective, in that the UK Border Agency no longer proposed that internal flight was a possible alternative to asylum for an Ahmadi who met the requirements of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. It also shone a searchlight on the steadily worsening situation of Ahmadis in terms of access to higher education, eligibility for jobs in the public sector, vulnerability to judicial persecution under the infamous blasphemy law, and physical attacks causing actual bodily harm.
These phenomena have been noted from time to time by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the UN Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, and many international human rights NGOs, but Islamabad has never yet had the courage to confront the ideological foundations of religious hatred.
Now, a second PHRG mission has visited Pakistan, and over 9 days of intensive meetings with a wide range of leading citizens, has identified the ways by which the religious extremists, though a small minority in the population, exert influence at all levels of government. There is a vicious circle, in that nobody is prosecuted for crimes against the Ahmadiyyas, and this impunity encourages the fanatics to expand their messages of hate.
The Mission also set the persecution of Ahmadis in the context of similar activities against Shi’a Muslims and Christians. The end product in every case is murder and terrorism, and if the extremists are unchecked, Pakistan will degenerate into a failed state.
The international community needs to take collective action to prevent the cancer of religious hatred from spreading to the diasporas in Europe and north America. The Khatme Nabuwwat, an organisation dedicated in particular to eradication of the Ahmadiyya Community, has put down roots in our major cities, ignoring the law against incitement to religious hatred.
In a famous speech of 1947, not so often quoted in Pakistan today for obvious reasons, the Quaid-i-Azam said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
In the Pakistan of today, The PHRG finds that the religious minorities are not free. Their mosques and churches are under attack by religious fascists; their members are persecuted and murdered, and there is no hope of improvement for them in the policies of any of the political parties or leaders. The justice system discriminates systematically against the Ahmadiyyas is particular, from the highest courts down to the local police, and there are only one or two brave voices raised in defence of the victims.
Pakistan’s very existence is threatened by terrorists. Yet their ideological fellow-travellers, who preach hatred and incite to murder, enjoy impunity, and there is only muted criticism from the international community for the collective failure to stand up to the violent fanatics. The members of the Mission, to whom our heartfelt thanks are due for their commitment, were deeply shaken by the level of intimidation they heard about during their visit. It is to be hoped that their account will rekindle the spirit of tolerance expressed by Jinnah in Pakistan, and the support of human rights activists worldwide for the beleaguered victims of persecution. In the meanwhile, this summary of their findings will serve as a reminder to the UN Human Rights Council, to pursue the unfinished problems of religious intolerance raised by stakeholders in Pakistan’s Universal Periodic Review two years ago.