Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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Author: Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadra, 4th Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Description: This is a compiled lecture delivered at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (London) by the 4th Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It contains comprehensive discussion on interest; financial aid; international relations; and the role of Israel, America and the United Kingdom in a new world order. Message of this great lecture is timeless and relates to the future propects for peace. If the speaker is proved right in most of his predictions, as he has already been proved right in some of them, no one can afford to ignore this message.
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A revised edition of this excellent thesis which, on the basis of detailed research proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus survived crucifixion and later died in India. US$5.99 [Order]
The Heavenly Decree is the English translation of Asmani Faisala by Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as) and the Founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at. It is addressed to his contemporary ulema, specially Miyan Nadhir Husain Dehlawi and Maulawi Muhammad Husain of Batala who had issued a fatwa of heresy against the Promised Messiahas and declared him a non-Muslim, because he (the Promised Messiahas) had claimed that Jesus Christ had died a natural death and the second coming of Masih ibni Mariam (Jesus Christ) is fulfilled by the advent of Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas. Because (by the time the book was written) the ulema had refused to debate this issue with the Promised Messiah, he invited them, in this book, to a spiritual contest in which the question whether someone is a Muslim or not would be settled by Allah himself on the basis of four criteria of a true believer as laid down by Him in the Holy Quran. He also spelled out the modus operandi of this contest and fixed the period of time frame within which this contest would be decreed by Allah. He declared that God would not desert him and would help him and would grant him victory.
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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



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 //

Asma Jehangir,
Chairperson of HRCP
quoted by Vioce of America


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 a number 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 Fundamentalists on Asma Jehangir, a lawyer and chairman of Pakistan's respected Human Rights Commission.

Bangkok Post, 25 January 1996
Pakistan Called Haven for Religious Bigots
Islamabad, AP


9. In 1974, a Constitutional amendment declared the Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority.

13. Following on the 1974 constitutional amendment, in 1984, Ordinance XX added sections 298 B and 298 C to the Penal Code, expressly referring to the Ahmadis and forbidding them to profess to be Muslims and to use Muslim practices in their worship or in the propagation of their faith, any Offense being punishable with up to three years' imprisonment and a fine.

(b) Blasphemy law

14. In 1986, the "Criminal Law Amendment Act" amended the Penal Code and inserted the blasphemy law in section 295 C. Under this amendment, any person guilty of direct or indirect blasphemy against the name of the prophet Mohammed is liable to life imprisonment, or even to the death penalty, and to a fine (blasphemy law).

15. Under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (1990-1993), section 295 C of the Penal Code concerning blasphemy against the name of the prophet Mohammed was amended on 29 July 1991 as a result of the entry into force of the 1991 Shariat Act (Islamic law). 3/ In the spring of 1991, the Supreme Court, following the precepts of the Shariat, issued an order, subsequently confirmed by the Senate, declaring any person found guilty of blasphemy, under section 295 C of the Penal Code, liable henceforth to the death penalty, without any possible form of appeal

19. Under the Constitution, elections to the National Assembly, provincial assemblies and local authorities are conducted with separate electoral rolls for Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims are authorized to vote only for Muslim candidates, and non-Muslims may only vote for non-Muslims. A small number of seats are reserved for non-Muslims (see arts. 51, 2A and 106.3 of the Constitution).

20. According to the authorities, this split electoral system guarantees political representation for minorities despite their small number. According to non-governmental sources, the system affects the political rights of non-Muslim Communities and bases citizenship on religion, going against the notion of citizenship free of any distinction whatever, including religion.

21. The Ahmadis, who were declared a non-Muslim minority in 1974 and were affected by the legislation on established with Ordinance XX of 1984, appealed to the courts against the way they were being treated. On 3 July 1993, the Supreme Court issued a judgement in which it interpreted the reference to the law in article 20 of the Constitution on religious freedom as a reference to Islamic law. It also found that any claim by Ahmadis to be Muslims constituted a provocation against Muslims, which made it difficult to ensure their protection.

22. With regard to the previous Government's plan to introduce the mention of a holders religion on identity cards, the Special Rapporteur was informed that the idea had been shelved in November 1992 following very strong opposition by the minorities, including the Christians. Some concern was expressed that the plan might be revived in the future. Nevertheless, as things stand at present, application forms for identity cards do include a reference to religion- According to information received, the same type of problem arises with application formalities to university.

23. All passports include a reference to the religion of the holder. According to the authorities, this formality is due in part to the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia giving rise to a need to identify applications by unauthorized Ahmadis, who are considered non-Muslims.

24. The passport application form also asks holders to identify their religion, while Muslims must state that they do not recognize Ahmadis or Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as Muslim.

38. According to non-governmental sources, religious minorities, and in particular the Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus, are exposed to religious intolerance, mainly as a result of current legislation and the religious extremism of a minority of fanatic Muslims, and even to a form of sectarianism in society increasingly influenced by a spirit of intolerance.

41. According to many non-governmental sources, the religious activities of the Ahmadi community are seriously restricted, especially as a result of the 1974 constitutional amendment declaring them to be a non-Muslim minority Ordinance XX of 1984 and the blasphemy law. Many Ahmadis are reported to be prosecuted under section 298 C of the Penal Code for the following Offenses: saying daily prayers, referring to "Kalima Tayyaba"; calling to prayer (Azan), preaching, using Muslim epithets and verses of the Koran and professing to be Muslim". It is also reported that Ahmadis have been accused of claiming to be Muslim under the terms of section 295 C, which provides the death penalty. The claim to being Muslims is reportedly considered to be constituted by the above-mentioned religious activities. In addition, it has been reported that Ahmadis are not authorized to bury their dead in Muslim cemeteries.

42. The authorities have provided the following explanations. "The Ahmdiyya issue has a century-old history. The problems arose when a group of persons led by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed denied the finality of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), which, after the unity of God, is a fundamental tenet of Islam. "The matter was deliberated upon in the legislature and the consensus of the nation was arrived at in the shape of an amendment to the Constitution through a unanimous vote of the National Assembly in 1974. This amendment had two objects: (a) to safeguard the religious sentiments of Muslims (the overwhelming majority of the population); and (b) to protect the Ahmadiyya from any adverse reaction arising from what had been historically regarded as a repudiation of a fundamental belief of the Muslims.

"The Admadis as a non-Muslim minority have been accorded all the rights and privileges guaranteed to minorities under the Constitution and laws of Pakistan. Some religious practices of the Ahmadis are similar to those of Muslims, which poses a threat to public order and safety. Consequently, these religious practices have to be regularized through reasonable legislative and administrative restraints so as to maintain sectarian peace. The restrictions mentioned in Ordinance XX are in accordance with the spirit and provisions of international human rights guaranteed under Pakistan's Constitution and laws. The restraints contained in Ordinance XX apply only to the public exercise of public practices.

"The exercise of a right is never absolute, as is stipulated in article 18, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 1, paragraph 3 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief, as well as article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

43. The authorities made it clear that while Ahmadis were not authorized to propagate and practice their religion as Muslims, all their religious activities as non-Muslims were authorized. With regard to cases of prosecution against the Ahmadis, the official sources explained that they arose from the propagation of religious views by Ahmadis claiming to be Muslims; the religious activities of the Ahmadis might be interfered with, on the other hand, for reasons which were not religious but purely personal. arising from infringements of the law, especially the law on blasphemy.

not up to the State to define the content of a religion and its form of expression
44. Most of the non-governmental commentators pointed out that it was not up to the State to define the content of a religion and its form of expression, and they strongly criticized the current laws affecting the Ahmadi minority as well as the policy of defining the content of the Ahmadi faith, as expressed in several passages of a memorandum on the Ahmadi question dated 16 January 1994, addressed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to a number of diplomatic representatives.

51. According to non-official sources, the Ahmadi, Christian, Hindu and Zikri minorities have suffered attacks against their places of worship initiated by Muslim extremists. Such incidents are said to be often related to specific events occurring on the international scene. After the profanation and destruction of the Babri mosque in India in December 1991, for instance, over 120 Hindu temples in Pakistan were reportedly sacked by the crowd.

52. It is reported that Christians have also incurred acts of vandalism and destruction against their places of worship, as well as attempted extortion of church properties (including cemeteries) by Muslim religious leaders. In addition, it is said that permits to build places of worship are often refused, obliging the Christian minority to request authorization for community centres (implicitly incorporating a place of worship). The access to places of worship is also reported to be obstructed by Muslim extremists, a situation which would apply specifically to the Ahmadis.

55. According to non-official sources, minorities suffer de facto discrimination as regards access to employment. In government service, minorities are reported to be under-represented at all levels and especially in the senior ranks, with few exceptions. Any positions held are said to be rendered very insecure, especially in the case of Ahmadis who had not made a prior declaration of their religious belief. In addition, promotions are said to be hindered, despite applicants possessing the necessary qualifications.

57. Independent sources consider the system of separate elections to be iniquitous, since it does not allow non-Muslim minorities to vote for Muslims or vice versa. In the views of most non-Muslims, the system is seen as creating a category of second-class non-Muslim citizens, with the effect of preventing their full integration in social life and their development.

59. According to non-governmental sources, minorities are discriminated against in the school system, especially in rural areas. In particular, school textbooks and syllabuses are said to exclude an eclectic view of religions (for instance by omitting any reference to minority leaders who have made a historical contribution to Pakistan), for the benefit of the State religion. -

63. According to non-governmental sources, some newspapers encourage religious intolerance against religious minorities, through sensational reporting. Ahmadi journalists have also been prosecuted on blasphemy charges (see E/CN.4/1995/91).

65. A list of cases concerning members of Christian and Ahmadi minorities has been transmitted to the authorities (see annex). These are cases of what are interpreted as religious Offenses under Pakistani law, including the law on blasphemy. The Special Rapporteur has so far received no written reply from the authorities. He has found, moreover, that in many cases the administration of justice is hindered, especially through pressure brought to bear by crowd demonstrations organized by religious extremists.

68. It appears from all interviews with non-governmental groups that Pakistani legislation, especially that inherited from the period of office of President Zia-ul-Haq, constitutes a factor of intolerance and discrimination, to which society in general and religious minorities in particular are exposed. Particular features mentioned include the system of separate elections, the exclusion of Ahmadis from the Muslim religion and all legislation opposed to activities deemed to be hostile to Islam, especially the blasphemy law. The Pakistani legal system concerned either directly or indirectly with religious affairs reportedly jeopardizes the notion of citizenship, the content and scope of which are said to be subjected to real or presumed religious considerations. It has often been found, moreover, that State interference in terms of defining the content and mode of expression of a religion (as in the case of the Ahmadis) constituted a source of discrimination and intolerance, which had the effect in practice of subjecting freedom of belief and conviction to a system of supervision and control. As a result, there is a danger that society may be divided into differentiated and even hierarchical categories of citizens, according to religious criteria, the effects of which in practice might depend on power relationships and circumstantial considerations. For this reason, some non-governmental representatives do not hesitate to refer unambiguously and insistently to the notion of apartheid. The very clear feeling to emerge as a result is that the condition of religious minorities is experienced by many as a second class citizenship, where rights lag far behind obligations.

70. Lastly, the present legislation, which is mainly inherited from the past, has tended and, it would appear, still tends to foster a culture of intolerance in society and does not appear to fulfil the purpose of integrating all components of Pakistani society.

72. In Pakistan, religious extremism is one of the main driving forces of religious intolerance, not only towards religious minorities, but also towards Muslims as well. This extremism is derived essentially from the use of religion for the political purpose of establishing the authority of religious/political parties. Such parties are clearly in a minority, as shown by their poor results in the recent legislative elections. Nevertheless, partly thanks to the Madrassadini (religious schools), and partly owing to the frequent use of mosques to spread political propaganda, religious extremists through their activism aim to dominate society, subjecting it to a climate of intolerance and sometimes insecurity, as appears from the serious violations of human rights (aggressions, threats, assassinations, etc.). This would explain the opposition facing government attempts to introduce a spirit of greater tolerance, especially by amending blasphemy proceedings or improving conditions in the Madrassadini and mosques.

78. From the point of view of non-governmental sources, there is a need to change or even to abrogate some existing laws or parts of them (e.g. the laws on blasphemy, separate elections, the declaration of Ahmadis as a non-Muslim minority, the reference to religion on passports, the mention of religion in identity card application forms, or the laws on evidence), with a view to introducing new legislation which would be fairer to all components of society.

82. In the light of the above considerations, the Special Rapporteur has concluded, after careful thought and having studied the matter and consulted other views, that the present State laws related to religious minorities, and more generally speaking the subject of tolerance and non-discrimination based on religion or belief, are likely to favour or foster intolerance in society. The law applied specifically to the Ahmadi minority is particularly questionable and in some respects frankly unwarranted. More generally speaking, blasphemy as an offence against belief may be subject to special legislation. However, such legislation should not be discriminatory and should not give rise to abuse. Nor should it be so vague as to jeopardize human rights, especially those of minorities. If Offenses against belief are made punishable under ordinary law, then procedural guarantees must be introduced and a balanced attitude must be maintained. While protecting freedom of conscience and freedom of worship is clearly a necessity, applying the death penalty for blasphemy appears disproportionate and even unacceptable, especially in view of the fact that blasphemy is very often the reflection of a very low standard of education and culture, for which the blasphemer is never solely to blame. The Special Rapporteur endorses the Government's proposal to amend procedural aspects of the blasphemy law and would encourage it not only to give effect to this proposal, but also to go further in amending the law on blasphemy and-more generally on religious Offenses in accordance with the views expressed above. The Special Rapporteur believes that in any event some practical measures, especially administrative and educational, should be implemented pending more substantial constitutional and legislative changes

83. The Special Rapporteur also recommends that the authorities should check that Hudood ordinances are compatible with human rights and urges that Hudood penalties, because they are exclusively Muslim, should not be applied to non-Muslims. He also recommends establishing legislation on non-discriminatory evidence and advocates a single electoral system, involving all citizens without distinction, especially based on religion.

85. The Special Rapporteur also considers that no mention of religion should be included on passports, on identity card application forms or on any other administrative documents. Deletion of the statement required of Muslims regarding non-recognition of Ahmadis as Muslims in passport application forms is strongly recommended.

88. With regard to all the above considerations, the Special Rapporteur is aware that existing legislation and the way it is applied have been inherited from the past, particularly from periods of dictatorship. Nevertheless, the Government's political will to foster tolerance must be asserted with greater determination and followed up, as and when required, with practical improvements, in line with the above recommendations.

91. With regard to religious extremism, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/23, the Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to restrain it and to take

97. The Special Rapporteur requests that the authorities in all circumstances ensure the serene operation of justice by protecting the courts from the pressures of demonstrations and crowds.

98. Lastly, the Special Rapporteur is of the opinion that a general policy based on tolerance should be asserted in a clearer and more determined manner, and applied gradually over time, without precipitation.

Daulat Khan. Rashid Ahmad. Riaz Khan. Bashir Ahmad

Daulat Khan, who allegedly converted to Ahmadiat, is reported to have been arrested on 5 April 1995 under sections 107 (abetment) and 151 (disturbing the peace by joining in unlawful assembly) of the Penal Code. Two separate cases are said to have been registered against Daulat Khan under sections 295 A and 298 C of the Penal Code. He is thought to be behind bars in Central Jail, Peshawar. In addition, on 9 April 1995, Rashid Ahmad and his son-in-law, Riaz Khan, are reported to have been attacked as they were about to attend a court hearing in Shab Qadar in order to file a bail application on Daulat Khan's behalf. Riaz Khan is said to have been stoned to death and Rashid Ahmud to have been taken to hospital in Peshawar with serious injuries. A third Ahmadi advocate, Bashir Ahmad. is reported to have escaped unhurt.

2 January 1996
Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur


Although the Government has publicly pledged to address human rights concerns, particularly those involving women, child labor, and minority religions, the overall human rights situation remains difficult.

Religious zealots continued to discriminate against and persecute religious minorities, basing their activities in part on legislation which discriminates against non-muslims. The Government made procedural changes which made the registration of blasphemy charges more difficult. Nevertheless, new blasphemy charges were brought against 10 members of the Ahmadi religious group in 4 separate incidents. Religious and ethnic-based rivalries resulted in numerous murders, mosque bombings, and civil disturbances…

… Discriminatory religious legislation has encouraged an atmosphere of religious intolerance which has led to acts of violence directed at Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and Zikris.

A 1974 constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because they do not accept Mohammed as the last prophet of Islam. However, Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslims and observe many Islamic practices. In 1984 the Government inserted Section 298(c) into the Penal Code which prohibited an Ahmadi from calling himself a Muslim and banned Ahmadis from using Islamic terminology. The punishment is up to 3 years' imprisonment and a fine. Since 1984, the Government has used this provision to harass Ahmadis.

The 1993 Supreme Court ruling upholding Section 298(c) emboldened anti-Ahmadi groups and resulted in more court cases against Ahmadis. In 1995 cases under Section 298(c) were filed against at least 20 Ahmadis. These cases were still pending in the courts at year's end. In late February, an Ahmadi was arrested and charged under 298(c) for preaching his faith because he was listening to a religious cassette in his own shop. He was released from prison on bail in late March, but his case remains pending in the courts. Also in late March, six Ahmadis were charged under 298(c) for publishing invitation cards with Islamic epithets.

In April a crowd attacked three Ahmadis visiting a village north of Peshawar, killing one and injuring a second. The Ahmadis had travelled to the village to post bail for a recent convert who was in protective custody after being arrested for offenses against Islam. A local mullah (religious leader) had issued a fatwa accusing the convert of apostasy and condemning him to death for renouncing Islam. The convert had been arrested in April under sections 107 and 151 of the Criminal Procedures Code to prevent the breach of peace, even though he had sought police protection because of threats to his life. The convert was later charged under sections 295(a) and 298(c) of the Penal Code. In late July, the charges under 295(a) and 298(c) were lifted and the convert subsequently released. A murder case was registered against all known members of the mob as no specific individual was identified as the culprit.

Ahmadis are not allowed to be buried in Muslim graveyards. In 1995, the bodies of 15 Ahmadis buried in Muslim graveyards were allegedly exhumed. A group of mullahs, supported by the local Assistant Commissioner of Liaqatpur, in October ordered that the body of an Ahmadi woman be removed from the common cemetery in the town. The body was exhumed and reburied in land owned by the Ahmadis. Eleven Ahmadi mosques remained sealed, and four Ahmadi mosques are occupied by other Muslim sects. The Government classifies Ahmadis as "non-Muslims" on their passports. This has led the authorities in Saudi Arabia to prevent Ahmadis from making the Muslim religious pilgrimage to Mecca. Christians are also subject to harassment by the authorities, notably including the blasphemy laws and difficulty in obtaining permission to build churches.

In 1986 the Government inserted Section 295(c) into the Penal Code which stipulates the death penalty for blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed. This provision has been used by litigants against Ahmadis, Christians, and even Muslims.

According to the HRCP, the Government made unofficial changes to the procedures for filing formal blasphemy charges. Magistrates are now required to investigate allegations of blasphemy to see whether they are credible before filing formal charges. Despite administrative changes in filing blasphemy charges, new charges were brought against 10 Ahmadis in 1995 in four separate incidents. Five Ahmadis in Khairpur district, Sindh, were charged under both blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws for displaying banners carrying verses of the Koran during a rally of Ahmadi youth. Another Ahmadi in Hafizbad, Punjab was charged with blasphemy in October for preaching his faith. In March two other Ahmadis were implicated under blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws in Sanghar, Sindh, for translating the Quran into Sindhi. At year's end, all of these individuals were free on bail and awaiting or undergoing trial. In November blasphemy charges were brought against two Ahmadis in Larkana, Sindh. The Larkana sessions court judge rejected their bail requests and the pair remained in jail.

Since 1986 at least 100 blasphemy cases have been registered against Ahmadis, with no convictions. In the same period, at least nine blasphemy cases have been brought against Christians and nine against Muslims. Some of these cases continued in the courts.

Among religious minorities, there is a well-founded belief that the authorities afford them less legal protection than they afford Muslim citizens. Members of religious minorities are subject to violence and harassment. In April one Ahmadi was killed and another was injured by an angry crowd in a village north of Peshawar (see Section 2.c.). Ahmadis are often targets of violence, often instigated by local religious leaders. Two Ahmadis charged under 298(c) were scheduled to receive confirmation of their bail applications in late January. The court session was postponed because a large group of armed mullahs stormed the court premises. The mullahs reportedly abducted and beat one of the Ahmadis. The police refused to register a complaint against the mullahs over the beating. …

Religious minority groups also experience considerable discrimination in employment and education; the laws facilitate discrimination in employment based on religion. In Pakistan's early years, minorities were able to rise to the senior ranks of the military and civil service. Today, many are unable to rise above mid-level ranks. Because of the lack of educational opportunities for some religious minority groups, discrimination in employment is believed to be increasingly prevalent. There are also restrictions on testimony in court by non-Muslims (see Section 1.e.).

Ahmadis suffer from harassment and discrimination and have limited chances for advancement into management levels in government service. Even the rumor that someone may be an Ahmadi or have Ahmadi relatives can stifle opportunities for employment or promotion. Young Ahmadis and their parents complain of increasing difficulty in gaining admittance to good colleges, forcing many children to go overseas for higher education.

Pakistan Human Rights Practices, 1995
U.S. Department of State
March 1996

Amnesty International

The delegation registered its concern about continued use of legislation to bring charges against individuals for the non-violent practice of their religion. In some of these cases, the government itself was the complainant. Anyone so detained is a prisoner of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Amnesty International
23 May 1996

Amnesty International

The death penalty can be imposed for a number of offences in Pakistan. These include … blasphemy (section 295-C).

The death penalty is the mandatory punishment for … and for blasphemy.

During former president Zia-ul Haq's Islamization drive, several new sections relating to religious offences were added to the Pakistan Penal Code; in 1980, section 298-A was inserted which made the use of derogatory remarks in respect of persons revered in Islam an offence, punishable with up to three years' imprisonment. In 1986, this was further narrowed down, by inserting an offence specifically directed at the person of the prophet: Defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed was declared a criminal offence which under section 295-C was to be punished with death or life imprisonment.

In October 1990, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) ruled that "the penalty for contempt of the Holy Prophet … is death and nothing else" and directed the Government of Pakistan to effect the necessary legal changes.See footnote 2 The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not file an appeal against the FSC decision; the death penalty is thus the mandatory punishment available for blasphemy.

Ever since the new sections of the Pakistan Penal Code relating to religious offences against Islam, including section 295-C, were introduced in the 1980's, they have been extensively abused to harass members of the religious minorities such as Christians and Ahmadis, as well as member of the Sunni majority. Hundreds of people have been charged under these sections: In all the cases known to Amnesty International, these charges have been arbitrarily brought, founded solely on the individual's minority religious beliefs or on malicious accusations against individuals of the Muslim majority who advocate novel ideas. The available evidence indicates that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities or non-conforming members of the majority community and that the hostility towards minority groups appeared in many cases compounded by personal enmity, professional envy or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage.

In mid-1996, Amnesty International was aware of over 140 people charged with blasphemy under section 295-C PPC …. In none of the cases that have come to Amnesty International's attention over the years, have the defendants been responsible for acts that could be construed as constituting blasphemy. Amnesty International has concluded that the individuals now facing charges of blasphemy, are or could become prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their real or imputed religious beliefs in violation of their right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion …

The Pakistan Law Commission, presided over by the Chief Justice of Pakistan and attended by the minister for law, the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology and the chief justices of the four provincial high courts, decided in February 1994 to send a draft of the blasphemy amendment bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology for further scrutiny. According to reports, the Pakistan Law Commission expressed concern at the abuse of authority by the police when dealing with blasphemy cases and the misuse of the law for ulterior purposes by various political and sectarian organizations…

Amidst widespread strikes and protests in late May 1995 against any changes to the blasphemy law, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on 28 May 1995 declared that her government only envisaged procural changes and added: "we will not amend the law". The then federal law minister, Iqbal Haider, declared in May 1994 that the blasphemy law would not be repealed as the government believed that there should be a deterrent to defiling the name of the prophet; he also justified its retention by pointing to legal provisions in the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries which he described as "similar".

Amnesty International has been told by government officials that administrative measures have been taken to prevent abuse of the blasphemy law contained in section 295-C; indeed during 1995, no new complaints of blasphemy were reported to have been registered against Christians. Amnesty International has been informed of several instances in which administrative officers have effectively mediated when complainants intended to lay charges against Christians alleged to have committed blasphemy. However, similar protective measures do not appear to have been extended to members of the Ahmadiyya community. Amnesty International remains concerned that administrative directives are not legally binding and do not alter the legal position - a vague law which permits, even invites, abuse and the harassment and intimidation of minorities in Pakistan.

Ahmadis charged with blasphemy often find it very difficult to obtain bail. Riaz Ahmed Chowdhury, his son and two nephews from Piplan, Mianwali district in Punjab province, are alleged to have claimed that the founder of their religion had worked miracles. This was deemed to be an offence under section 295-C PPC and the four men were arrested in November 1993. Observers believe that Riaz' position as village headman in Piplan is at issue and that people contesting the post are behind the charge. The four men's bail application was rejected by a sessions court in Mianwali, then in June 1994 by the Lahore High Court and has since then been pending in the Supreme Court. The four men are still in prison in Mianwali, the trial has not begun yet.

In January 1996, Senator Iqbal Haider told Amnesty International in London that no new charges of blasphemy had been filed in the previous year; Amnesty International is aware of at least three new cases in which eight people were charged with blasphemy under section 295-C in Sindh alone during 1995.

On 16 November 1995, Zahoor Hussain Abro and Noor Hussain Abro, two Ahmadis in Warrah, district Larkana, Sindh province, were charged under section 259-C besides other sections of the PPC for being found in possession of a motorbike with a sticker bearing a Qur'anic verse. Police did not immediately register the complaint but when the complainant, the imam of the local mosque filed a petition in the High Court to have his complaint registered, police complied. The two men, arrested on 18 November 1995, were denied bail by the sessions court and were granted bail by the Sindh High Court in early 1996… (check date). The men are the brother and uncle of Anwar Hussain Abro, an Ahmadi who was murdered in Anwarabad, Larkana district, in December 1994 by religious militants who abducted him from his house, tried to force him to abuse the head of the Ahmadiyya community and finally shot him dead.

On October 1995, five Ahmadis were charged inter alia under section 295-C for having printed Islamic terms of greeting on a banner in Faiz Ganj, district Khairpur, inviting people to a gathering; two accused were arrested and remained in detention for two months until bail was granted by the high court; the three other accused obtained pre-arrest bail.

Two elderly Ahmadi women were in March 1996 injured by a religious fanatic and subsequently charged with blasphemy to cover up the attack upon them. Bushra Siddiqa Tasir and Samia Bokhari, both in their sixties, on 26 March 1996 were attacked by a tailor in his shop in Karachi where they were collecting some clothes; both women were injured with a knife and were hospitalised. The attacker who is a member of a Sunni religious organization later stated that the cloth which the women had Islamic words printed on it and that this outraged him. Later he declared that he had received orders in a dream to attack the women. Still later he claimed that the women had tried to teach him Ahmadiyyat. The tailor has not been arrested; instead Bushra Siddiqua Tasir was charged with blasphemy under section 295-C PPC. It appears that police did not register a complaint against the tailor as he was locally seen to defend Islam. Bushra Siddiqua Tasir was given bail but the charges against her are pending.

… At least 16 Ahmadis have reportedly been killed by religious fanatics between February 1994 and May 1996. The changes in legislation relating to religious offences appear to have contributed to an atmosphere of religious intolerance in which fanatics sometimes consider themselves entitled to take the law into their own hands and to carry our the death penalty without judicial process.

The indicated lack of impartiality and of neutrality of judges is a matter of serious concern in view of the severity of the mandatory punishment for the offence of blasphemy, the death penalty. Moreover the presence of Islamists in court during hearings who have frequently interrupted proceedings by shouting slogans, by loudly intimidating lawyers, witnesses and defendants and threatening judges appears to seriously impair the chances of defendants charged with blasphemy to have a fair trial.

The judgment of the Federal Shariat Court which made the death sentence the only punishment for blasphemy says, "We have also noted that no one after the Holy Prophet (pbuh) exercised or was authorized [to exercise] the right of reprieve or pardon" (Muhammad Ismail Qureshi v. Pakistan, PLD 1991 FSC 26). That is to say, the mandatory punishment of death for committing blasphemy cannot be commuted by anyone. It would however, appear that the power of the President under article 45 of the constitution to commute and pardon is not affected by the Federal Shariat Court judgement.

Pakistan: The Death Penalty External Link - Opens new browser window
Amnesty International
September 1996
AI Index: ASA 33/10/96

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