Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report 2000
Pakistan Human Rights Practices, 2000

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2000
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February, 2001.

The Government imposed some limits on freedom of religion, particularly for Ahmadis. [ Para 4 ]

Governmental and societal discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadis and Christians remains a problem, and the Government failed to take effective measures to counter prevalent public prejudices against religious minorities. [ Para 5 ]

Section 1
Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

In 1997 cases filed under Section 295 (a) of the Penal Code (one of the so-called blasphemy laws -- see Section 2.c.) were transferred to the antiterrorist courts. Human rights advocates feared that if blasphemy cases were tried in the antiterrorist courts, alleged blasphemers, who in the past normally were granted bail or released for lack of evidence were likely to be convicted, given the less stringent rules of evidence required under the Anti-terrorist Act. [ Para 6 ]

There are limited numbers of political prisoners. Sections of the Penal Code directly target members of the Ahmadi faith; according to Ahmadi sources, approximately 200 Ahmadis have been incarcerated under these provisions since their inception. Several minority religious groups argue that other sections of the Penal Code--particularly the related blasphemy laws -- are used in a discriminatory fashion by local officials or private individuals to punish religious minorities. While precise numbers are unavailable, the Ahmadis estimate that 80 of their coreligionists were charged in criminal cases “on a religious basis” in 1999 (see Sections 2.c. and 5). On April 12, the Government announced its intention to require that deputy commissioners review all blasphemy cases prior to the filing of a FIR; however, the Government reversed this decision on May 16 due to intense pressure from some Islamic groups (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 23 ]

Section 2
Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The suspended Constitution provided for freedom “to assemble peacefully and without arms subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order;” however, while the Government until March generally permitted peaceful assembly, it later imposed significant restrictions on this right. Since 1984 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 1 ]

c. Freedom of Religion

Discriminatory religious legislation has added to an atmosphere of religious intolerance, which has led to acts of violence directed against minority Muslim sects, as well as against Christians, Hindus, and members of Muslim offshoot sects, such as Ahmadis and Zikris (see Section 5). [ Para 3 ]

The Ahmadis are subject to specific restrictions under law. A 1974 constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because, according to the Government, they do not accept Mohammed as the last prophet of Islam. [Note : See Ahmadiyya Belief)]. However, Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslims and observe Islamic practices. In 1984 the Government inserted Section 298(c) into the Penal Code, prohibiting Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim and banning them from using Islamic words, phrases, and greetings. The constitutionality of Section 298(c) was upheld in a split-decision Supreme Court case in 1996. The punishment for violation of this section is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine. The Government and anti-Ahmadi religious groups have used this provision extensively to harass Ahmadis. Ahmadis suffer from various restrictions of religious freedom and widespread societal discrimination, including violation of their places of worship, being barred from burial in Muslim graveyards, denial of freedom of faith, speech, and assembly, and restrictions on their press. Several Ahmadi mosques remained closed. Since 1984 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding conferences or gatherings (see Section 2.b.). Ahmadis are prohibited from taking part in the Hajj (the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca). Some popular newspapers publish anti-Ahmadi “conspiracy” stories, which contribute to anti-Ahmadi sentiments in society. [ Para 4 ]

Section 295(a), the blasphemy provision of the Penal Code, originally stipulated a maximum 2-year sentence for insulting the religion of any class of citizens. This sentence was increased to 10 years in 1991. In 1982 Section 295(b) was added, which stipulated a sentence of life imprisonment for “whoever willfully defiles, damages, or desecrates a copy of the holy Koran.” In 1986 another amendment, Section 295(c), established the death penalty or life imprisonment for directly or indirectly defiling “the sacred name of the holy Prophet Mohammed.” In 1991 a court struck down the option of life imprisonment. These laws, especially Section 295(c), have been used by rivals and local authorities to threaten, punish, or intimidate Ahmadis, Christians, and even orthodox Muslims. No one has been executed by the State under any of these provisions, although religious extremists have killed some persons accused under them. Since 1996 magistrates have been required to investigate allegations of blasphemy to see whether they are credible before filing formal charges. On April 21, the Government announced its intention to require that deputy commissioners review all blasphemy cases prior to the filing of a FIR (see Section 1.c.); however, General Musharraf later reversed this decision due to strong pressure from some Muslim groups. On May 11, police arrested approximately 300 Muslim clerics and students in Lahore during protests against Musharraf's proposed changes to the blasphemy laws (see Sections 1.c., 1.d., and 2.b.). According to Ahmadi sources, approximately 3 dozen Ahmadis have been charged under the blasphemy laws since the October 1999 coup. For example, in October police arrested Nasir Ahmad of Rajanpur district under Section 295(b) for allegedly defiling a copy of the Koran. Mushtaq Ahmad Saggon and Nasir Ahmad, were convicted in Muzaffargarh in July 1999 under Sections 295(a) and 295(c) for preaching and distributing religious literature. Their case was transferred to an antiterrorist court at Dera Ghazi Khan, and the Lahore High Court denied their request for bail. [ Para 5 ]

When blasphemy and other religious cases are brought to court, extremists often pack the courtroom and make public threats about the consequences of an acquittal. As a result, judges and magistrates often continue trials indefinitely, and the accused is burdened with further legal costs and court appearances. Many judges also try to pass such cases to other jurists. [ Para 8 ]

The Government designates religion on passports, and to get a passport citizens must declare whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. Muslims must also affirm that they accept the unqualified finality of the prophethood of Mohammed and declare that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. [ Para 14 ]

The predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center of Chenab Nagar (formerly known as Rabway) in Punjab often has been a site of violence against Ahmadis (see Section 5). [ Para 18 ]

In December 1999, several hundred persons looted and burned property in Haveli Lakha, Okara district, Punjab, which belonged to Mohammad Nawaz, a local Ahmadi leader accused of planning to build an Ahmadi house of worship (see Section 5). A neighbor reportedly incited the incident by accusing Nawaz of building the house of worship after the two were involved in a property dispute. Nawaz, a doctor, reportedly intended to build a free clinic next to his home. The mob destroyed the clinic and looted and burned Nawaz's home. According to Ahmadi sources, police personnel arrived at the scene, but did nothing to stop the crowd. At year's end, neither the neighbor nor anyone in the crowd had been arrested or questioned in connection with the incident, and police took no steps to find or return any of Nawaz's property. However, Nawaz and his two sons were arrested and charged with blasphemy. Several days later, they were released on bail; however, the blasphemy case against them was pending as of year's end. Three other Ahmadis in Haveli Lakha also were charged with blasphemy in connection with the incident, even though they were not in town at the time; however, the case against them was dismissed for lack of evidence. [ Para 19 ]

Section 3
Respect for Political Rights:

The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Minorities are underrepresented in Government and politics. Under the electoral system, minorities vote for reserved at-large seats, not for nonminority candidates who represent actual constituencies. The Musharraf regime abandoned a plan to abolish the separate electorate system due to pressure by some Muslim political groups. With separate electorates, representatives have little incentive to promote their minority constituents' interests. Many Christian activists state that separate electorates are the greatest obstacle to the attainment of Christian religious and civil liberties. Ahmadi leaders encourage their followers not to register as “non-Muslims”, so most Ahmadis are completely unrepresented. In the National Assembly, Christians hold four reserved seats; Hindus and members of scheduled castes another four; Ahmadis one; and Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, and other non-Muslims one (see Section 2.c.). Each of the four categories is maintained on a separate electorate roll, and minorities cannot cast votes for the Muslim constituency seats. Under Article 106 of the suspended Constitution, minorities also had reserved seats in the provincial assemblies. The 1997 general election report states that each Christian National Assembly member represents 327,606 persons; each Hindu and scheduled castes member, 319,029; the Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, and other non-Muslim member, 112,801; and the Ahmadi member 104,244. These figures significantly understate the population of most of the minority groups because they are based on 1981 census figures. By year's end, the 1998 census figures for religious minorities had not been published. According to a local magazine, there are approximately 3 million Christians, 2.7 million Hindus, and several hundred thousand Ahmadis in the country. [ Para 9 ]

Section 5
Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Religious Minorities

Government authorities afford religious minorities fewer protections than are afforded to Sunni Muslim citizens. Members of religious minorities are subject to violence and harassment, and police at times refuse to prevent such actions or to charge persons who commit them. [ Para 1 ]

Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims continued to be a serious problem throughout the country (see Section 2.c.). In Punjab in particular, a deadly pattern of Sunni-Shi'a violence in which extremists killed persons because of their membership in rival sectarian organizations, or simply for their religious identification, continued; however, there were fewer deaths during the year as compared to previous years. Antiterrorist courts handed down convictions against several individuals accused of sectarian violence during the year; however, government authorities did not detain suspects in many other cases of sectarian violence. Several incidents of sectarian violence between rival Sunni and Shi'a groups occurred during Muharram in April, during which Shi'a Muslims mourn the deaths of the Prophet Mohammed's nephew Ali and his son Hussain. On April 7, a Shi'a lawyer and the secretary general of TJP, Syed Waqar Hussain, his son, and his driver were killed by unknown gunmen in Karachi; the assailants may have been members of the extremist SSP (see Section 1.a.). On April 12, in the worst incident of sectarian violence since the coup, unknown assailants attacked a Shi'a religious congregation in Mullowali, Rawalpindi, with grenades and bullets, killing 19 persons and injuring 37 others (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.). Police personnel arrested several Sunni Muslims following the attack. On April 19, unknown gunmen killed TJP activist, Iqubal Hussain in Multan. On April 26, unknown assailants killed TJP activist, Syed Farrukh Birjis Haider and his personal aide in Khanewal. On April 28, unknown gunmen killed local Shi'a leader Hakeem Syed Shahbaz Hussain Sherazi in Chishtian. On May 2, unidentified assailants killed a Shi'a doctor, his pharmaceutical dispenser, and a patient in the doctor's Karachi office. The next day, unknown assailants killed Shi'a lawyer, Malik Ibrar Hussain in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab. On May 15, unknown assailants killed Shi'a lawyer Syed Sardar Hussain Jafri. Unknown assailants also killed Qudratullah Cheema, the chief of the Ahmadi community of Khanpur. On May 19, unknown assailants killed eminent Sunni cleric Maulana Yousuf Ludhianvi and Abdur Rehman, a teacher at the Sunni Banuri town religious school in Karachi; following these murders, hundreds of Sunni Muslims rioted in Karachi and torched a newspaper office, a movie theater, and a bank (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 2 ]

Ahmadis often are targets of religious intolerance, much of which is instigated by organized religious extremists. Ahmadi leaders charge that militant Sunni mullahs and their followers sometimes stage marches through the streets of Rabwah, a predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center in central Punjab. Backed by crowds of 100 to 200 persons, the mullahs purportedly denounce Ahmadis and their founder, a situation that sometimes leads to violence. The Ahmadis claim that police generally are present during these marches but do not intervene to prevent trouble (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 3 ]

On October 30, 2 assailants opened fire on an Ahmadi mosque in Ghatialian in Sialkot district, killing 4 Ahmadis and 1 Sunni Muslim. Three suspects were arrested; however, no formal charges were filed by year's end. On November 10, a mob composed of the cleric's followers killed five Ahmadis in Takht Hazara, Sarghoda district following a scuffle between a group of Ahmadis and a Sunni Muslim cleric. Police detained 25 persons for questioning and imprisoned 13 others in connection with the killings; however, no charges were filed against any of the suspects by year's end (see Section 2.c.).[ Para 4 ]

On July 15, in response to pressure from some Muslim groups, the Government incorporated the Islamic provisions of the suspended Constitution into the Provisional Constitutional Order, including the clause declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. Ahmadis suffer from harassment and discrimination and have limited chances for advancement into management levels in government service (see Section 2.c.). Even the rumor that someone may be an Ahmadi or have Ahmadi relatives can stifle opportunities for employment or promotion. Ahmadi students in public schools are subject to abuse by their non-Ahmadi classmates, and the quality of teachers assigned to predominantly Ahmadi schools by the Government generally is poor. However, most Ahmadis are home-schooled or go to private Ahmadi-run schools. Young Ahmadis complain of their difficulty in gaining admittance to good colleges and consequently having to go abroad for higher education. Certain sections of the Penal Code discriminate against Ahmadis (see Section 2.c.), particularly the provision that forbids Ahmadis from “directly or indirectly” posing as Muslims. Armed with this vague wording, mullahs have brought charges against Ahmadis for using standard Muslim salutations and for naming their children Mohammed. [ Para 5 ]

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