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Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report 2001
Pakistan Human Rights Practices, 2001

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2001
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 4, 2002.

... The Government continued to impose limits on freedom of religion, particularly for Ahmadis.... [ Para 5 ]

... Governmental and societal discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadis and Christians, remained a problem, and the Government failed to take effective measures to counter prevalent public prejudices against religious minorities.... [ Para 6 ]


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

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Police failed in some instances to protect members of religious minorities--particularly Ahmadis and Christians--from societal attacks (see Sections 2.c. and 5). [ Para 34 ]

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, likely would be convicted, given the less stringent rules of evidence required under the Anti-Terrorist Act. [ Para 78 ]

... 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. In April 2000, 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 in May 2000 due to intense pressure from some Islamic groups (see Section 2.c.). The Government took no steps to amend the blasphemy laws during the year (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 92 ]

f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

While the Anti-Terrorist Act was suspended partially in 1998, the Government promulgated new antiterrorist ordinances in October 1998, April 1999, and in August. The purpose of the newest ordinance is to strengthen the power of the judiciary to prosecute terrorism cases. Under the ordinances, many blasphemy cases now are tried by antiterrorist courts. By law the police need a warrant to search a home, but not to search a person. Despite this law, police have entered homes without a warrant and sometimes stole valuables during searches. In the absence of a warrant, a policeman is subject to charges of criminal trespass. However, police seldom are punished for illegal entry. [ Para 95 ]

Section 2
Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

... The suspended Constitution also prohibited the ridicule of Islam, the armed forces, or the judiciary. The Penal Code mandates the death sentence for anyone defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad, life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran, and up to 10 years in prison for insulting another's religious beliefs with the intent to outrage religious feelings (see Section 2.c.). The Anti-Terrorist Act stipulates imprisonment with rigorous labor for up to 7 years for using abusive or insulting words, or possessing or distributing written or recorded material, with the intent to stir up sectarian hatred. No warrant is required to seize such material. [ Para 102 ]

Publications and journalists can be charged under the blasphemy laws for insulting the religion of others or for directly or indirectly defiling the Prophet Mohammad or the Koran (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 105 ]

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Since 1984 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 121 ]

c. Freedom of Religion

The suspended Constitution provided for freedom of religion, and stated that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely; however, the Government limits freedom of religion. The country is an Islamic republic in which approximately 95 percent of the population is Muslim. The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim, but an estimated 15 percent of the population is Shi'a. The suspended Constitution required that laws be consistent with Islam and imposed some elements of Koranic law on both Muslims and religious minorities. In July 2000, President Musharraf amended the PCO in order to incorporate the Islamic provisions of the suspended Constitution, which include the definition of “Muslim” and “non-Muslim” and procedures regarding Shariat courts. While there is no law establishing the Koranic death penalty for apostates (those who convert from Islam), social pressure against apostasy is so powerful that most such conversions take place in secret. Reprisals and threats of reprisals against suspected converts are common. 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 129 ]

The blasphemy laws refer to Sections 295, 296, 297, and 298 of the Penal Code and address offenses relating to religion. Section 295(a), a colonial-era provision, originally stipulated a maximum 2-year sentence for insulting the religion of any class of citizens. In 1991 this sentence was increased to 10 years. 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 during the martial law period, 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 ruled invalid the option of life imprisonment for this offense. Section 296 outlaws voluntary disturbances of religious assemblies and Section 297 outlaws trespassing on burial grounds. Section 298(a), another colonial-era provision, forbids the use of derogatory remarks about holy personages. Personal rivals and the authorities have used these blasphemy laws, especially Section 295(c), to threaten, punish, or intimidate Ahmadis, Christians, and even orthodox Muslims. No person has been executed by the State under any of these provisions; however, some persons have been sentenced to death, and religious extremists have killed persons accused under the provisions. The blasphemy laws also have been used to “settle scores” unrelated to religious activity, such as intrafamily or property disputes. [ Para 131 ]

Due to increasing local and international pressure to repeal or modify the blasphemy laws, President Musharraf announced a proposal in April 2000 to modify the administration of the laws so that complainants would have to register new blasphemy cases with the local deputy commissioners instead of with police officials. The goal of the proposed change was to reduce the number of persons who are accused wrongly under the laws; however, many religious minority representatives stated that this suggested administrative change would have done little to protect members of their communities from being charged under the blasphemy laws. Other observers believed that the changes could have led to a reduction in the overall number of cases filed under the blasphemy laws. Religious and sectarian groups mounted large-scale protests against the proposed change, and some religious leaders stated that if the laws were changed, even just procedurally, persons would be justified in killing blasphemers themselves. In May 2000, in response to increasing pressure and threats, Musharraf abandoned his proposed reforms to the blasphemy laws. In July 2000, the Government incorporated the Islamic provisions of the suspended Constitution into the Provisional Constitutional Order, including the clause declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. [ Para 132 ]

According to Ahmadi sources, four Ahmadis were charged under Section 295(b) and four Ahmadis were charged under Section 295(c) of the blasphemy laws during the year. For example, on April 29, four Ahmadis, including Abdul Majeed, president of the local Ahmadi community, were charged with blasphemy for constructing minarets and the Mihrab of an Ahmadi mosque. In October 2000, police arrested Nasir Ahmad of Rajanpur district under Section 295(b) for allegedly defiling a copy of the Koran. Ahmad remained in custody and his trial had not been concluded at year's end. [ Para 133 ]

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, magistrates, and even defense lawyers often continue trials indefinitely, and the accused is burdened with further legal costs and court appearances. The accused often are denied requests for bail on the grounds that their lives would be at risk from vigilantes if released. Many judges also try to pass such cases to other jurists; some judges reportedly have handed down guilty verdicts to protect themselves and their families from religious extremists... [ Para 136 ]

The Government designates religion on passports, and to get a passport citizens must declare whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. Muslims also must affirm that they accept the unqualified finality of the prophethood of Mohammed and declare that Ahmadis are non-Muslims.... [ Para 141 ]

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. Four Ahmadis were charged with violations of Section 298(c) during the year. 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 religion, 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 143 ]

The predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center of Chenab Nagar (formerly known as Rabwah) in Punjab often has been a site of violence against Ahmadis (see Section 5). [ Para 149 ]

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. 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, the police 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; the blasphemy case against them remained pending at 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; the case against them was dismissed for lack of evidence. [ Para 150 ]

Section 3
Respect for Political Rights:

The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The percentage of religious minorities in government and politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population. The Government distinguishes between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to politics and political rights (see Section 2.c.). Furthermore, according to the suspended Constitution, the President and the Prime Minister must be Muslim. The Prime Minister, federal ministers, and ministers of state, as well as elected members of the Senate and National Assembly (including non-Muslims) must take an oath to “strive to preserve the Islamic ideology, which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan.” Under the electoral system, minorities vote for reserved at-large seats, not for nonminority candidates who represent actual constituencies. The Musharraf Government had abandoned a plan to abolish the separate electorate system due to pressure by some Muslim political groups, but during the year prepared electoral reforms that included the elimination of the separate electorates system for religious minorities. 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 unrepresented completely. 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. 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 stated 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 understated the population of most of the minority groups because they are based on 1981 census figures. According to a local magazine, there are approximately 3 million Christians, 2.7 million Hindus, and several hundred thousand Ahmadis in the country. The Government disputed these figures; however, by year's end, the 1998 census figures for religious minorities had not been published. [ Para 173 ]

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

Religious Minorities

Government authorities afford religious minorities fewer legal 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 222 ]

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.). Ahmadi leaders continue to express concerns about government efforts to inculcate intolerance. Senior government officials regularly make disparaging remarks about Ahmadis in public, and government-sponsored text books have been revised in recent years to remove all references to the contributions made by Ahmadis to society. [ Para 227 ]

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