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4. Protection in Rabwah
This section considers the protection available for Ahmadis in Rabwah. Three types of protection are identified: community protection, meaning the security offered to Ahmadis as a result of living in an Ahmadi-majority town; state protection, including the effectiveness of the police and judiciary protecting the interests of Ahmadis in Rabwah; and the social and economic conditions that define everyday life for residents of Rabwah. As with section 3, an understanding of the national context is important when considering the potential risks to and protection for Ahmadis in Rabwah. The following material should therefore be read taking account of the perspective offered in the section 2, ‘The Position of Ahmadis in Pakistan’.
4.1 Community protection
The mission asked all the sources their views on the protection available to Ahmadis in Rabwah that flowed from the town’s status as the headquarters of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan. Faiz ur Rehman, President, Amnesty International Pakistan noted that it is only in Rabwah where the Ahmadi are in the majority and as a result an Ahmadi may be a little safer in Rabwah compared to a town or village where they are in a small minority. Those from outside Rabwah may therefore flee there if they are in fear in their home area. However, Mr Rehman pointed out that Khatme Nabuwwat have an office in Rabwah. Thus, whilst those who flee to Rabwah might gain safety for a period of time, fear of Khatme Nabuwwat is ever present. As noted previously, the Islamabad Chapter of Khatme Nabuwwat stated that they want it to be known that Rabwah is a part of Pakistan and that there is no exclusive city in Pakistan for Ahmadis.
Broadly agreeing with Mr Rehman, the HRCP explained that whilst Rabwah is safer than most other places in Pakistan for Ahmadis, there are instances of violence here as well. When asked about whether Rabwah can offer a refuge for those targeted elsewhere in Pakistan, the HRCP explained that if an Ahmadi was pursued across Pakistan, they would be caught by their persecutor in Rabwah. Clarifying this point, the HRCP stated that safety in Rabwah depends on the nature of the persecution and/or on the influence of the persecutor. For example, if a neighbour wishes to take over an Ahmadi’s business by capitalising on anti-Ahmadi sentiment, then the job of the persecutor is complete once the Ahmadi has left the local community. However, should the persecutor be a person of influence or means, they may use this to follow their target to Rabwah as well. Alternatively, in a case such as an inheritance conflict between two brothers, where one is Ahmadi and the other wishes to take the whole of the inheritance, then the Ahmadi will be pursued wherever he goes to prevent him from claiming his share. Similarly, if an Ahmadi is accused of causing harm then the high level of enmity involved will mean that it will be very difficult for the Ahmadi to find protection anywhere, including in Rabwah. In short, if the persecutor is sufficiently willing and/ or able then the object of their persecution will remain unsafe in Rabwah. The HRCP explained that the best way for an Ahmadi to protect her or himself is to hide their religion: living in Rabwah has the opposite effect as it is the focus of Khatme Nabuwwat and living in the town marks a person out as an Ahmadi.
When asked whether the Ahmadi community provides any security for its own members, the Ahmadi Community Representatives explained they maintain a system similar to neighbourhood watch that is particularly vigilant during the night. Younger members of the community also provide protection to the elders. These security personnel are unarmed, but some sensitive sites may be protected by armed members of the community if it is judged necessary. The community stated that day to day security was a heavy burden on the community whose resources are essentially charitable. However, it is seen as essential given the lack of security for Ahmadi persons or property in Rabwah provided by the authorities.
4.2 State protection
The mission were informed by the Ahmadi Community Representatives that they cannot look to the police or the Courts for protection in Rabwah. The community could not give an example of the police having provided protection to an Ahmadi in Rabwah and, moreover, highlighted the numerous incidences in which the police or government have been the instigators of FIRs against Ahmadis (outlined in detail in section 3.1). The mission were informed that the state provides no protection to senior Ahmadi figures or mosques at Rabwah, except for a symbolic presence at the central mosque at Friday prayers. The Representatives described how during the Khatme Nabuwwat conference in Rabwah the police line the streets and look on as Khatme Nabuwwat members march through the town, chanting ‘filthy, dirty slogans’ and vandalising Ahmadi property. In explaining the problems with relying on the state for protection in Rabwah, the mission’s attention was directed to a recent incident in which Hafiz Tahir Mahmud Ashrafi, Advisor to the Chief Minister of the Punjab for the Promotion of Religious Harmony, appeared as special guest at a Khatme Nabuwwat conference held at Sargodha on 5 September 2006 (Rabwah is within Punjab state and therefore within Mr Ashrafi’s purview). The Ahmadi Community Representatives concluded that if someone fled to Rabwah fearing attack in their home area there would be no police protection available to them. Indeed, the police are seen by the community as actively protecting the Mullahs and their followers.
Similar views were expressed by other sources that the mission consulted. Faiz ur Rehman, President, Amnesty International Pakistan stated that nowhere, including Rabwah, is safe for Ahmadis as the police would refuse to give protection to an Ahmadi. When asked if the police might react differently in Rabwah to elsewhere in Pakistan, Mr Rehman explained that whilst it is not impossible, it has not happened. He explained that, as the example of violence in Jhando Sahi demonstrates (see Appendix B8), even relatively senior and educated local police officers find that their hands are tied by their superiors when dealing with Ahmadi cases. The testimony of ‘ZB’, recorded in Appendix A, illustrates the reluctance of the police to become involved in Ahmadi cases. ‘ZB’ told the mission that her husband was attacked by a mob in Sialkot following an edict against him proclaimed by Mullah Manzoor, the local head of Khatme Nabuwwat. The Sialkot police refused to enter an FIR against his attackers, advising instead that ‘if you want to save your life, get away from here.’ ‘ZB’ also describes the failure of the police to provide protection in Rabwah, as he subsequently fled to Rabwah where he was shot at following the distribution of his photograph at a Khatme Nabuwwat conference in Rabwah. Abdul Shakoor (recorded in Appendix A) describes how the police do not prevent local mullahs from congregating and shouting abuse outside his shop in Rabwah on a regular basis. Mr Shakoor told the mission that the mullahs congregate about four times each year, most recently three months prior to the mission’s visit. The HRCP agreed generally that speaking to the police does not help Ahmadis. The HRCP pointed out that whilst the Punjab government has never stated that it will protect Ahmadis in Rabwah, it has spoken out to defend police actions against Ahmadi people or property in Rabwah.
The mission received several explanations for the apparent limitations on state protection for Ahmadis. The Senior Government Advisor explained that the social pressure around the Ahmadi issue, detailed in section 2.1, has a real effect on all levels of the police and judiciary. When blasphemy cases are being heard people protest outside the court and this has a tangible impact on decisions: this can be seen in cases that have been quashed in the higher courts due to unsustainable findings of fact rather than on a legal basis (see also the testimony of Abdul Shakoor, recorded Appendix A, for an example of the higher court quashing blasphemy cases). The Senior Government Advisor emphasised that, generally speaking, the police are not well educated: they believe the preaching of the mullahs and act accordingly to protect their religion. The HRCP concurred with the Senior Government Advisor, describing how the judiciary takes its cue from the political orientation of the district and noting that the numerical strength of the police is small. The HRCP described the District Courts as ‘completely subservient to the police’, who in turn are in no position to resist a mob raised by a local mullah. Thus District Courts will give sentences such as amputation, and rely on the higher courts to quash the case. The higher courts do not tend to make comments on the conduct of the lower courts in blasphemy cases. In explaining the intimidation and pressure on the police and judiciary, the HRCP referred to the impact of ‘professional persecutors’ among the anti-Ahmadi mullahs. The mullahs demonstrate outside all the courts, up to and including the High Court. However, only judges in the High Court receive any protection and this is minimal compared with that provided for politicians, rendering the whole judiciary particularly susceptible to threats from extremists. Mr Rehman explained that there is no real system in place to protect judges who try to challenge the extremists: nothing equivalent to that provided for government ministers is available for members of the police or judiciary who suffer intimidation or threats. Through his work, Mr Rehman was aware of specific cases where judges had been threatened in this way and were forced into hiding. The HRCP also noted that they have documented instances where the government has replaced judges whose decisions challenge the government’s viewpoint and gave an example from 2005 in which the government removed the armed guard from an Anti-Terrorist Judge — an act that ‘effectively blackmails Judges’ into following the government line. In the same vein, the British High Commission (BHC) noted that they had been approached by a lawyer seeking protection following his involvement in blasphemy cases against Christians.
The HRCP also pointed out that justice in Pakistan is ‘class conscious’. High profile people with social standing may be able to have their case transferred to the High Court — the HRCP know of five or six cases where such applications have been successful for high profile individuals. However, the High Court would routinely reject an application from an ordinary individual, even if they had the financial means to make this course available to them. Overall, the HRCP’s conclusion regarding state protection holds as true in Rabwah as outside it: the social and political sensitivity of the term ‘Ahmadi’, taken together with the weakness of state protection in the face of the Mullahs, mean that as far as the Ahmadi are concerned, the judiciary do not exist as an option for protection. No one dares to prosecute the Mullahs for incitement: there would be too strong a backlash. The best defence for an Ahmadi is to hide their belief — but this is harder within Rabwah where it is presumed that residents are Ahmadi. Mr Rehman concluded that the problems for Ahmadis presented by discriminatory legislation are compounded by the practical behaviour of the authorities: the police are reluctant to register FIRs or take measures against those accused of attacking Ahmadis; they will refuse to give protection to Ahmadis who fear attack; and judges will not take positive measures to conclude or dismiss blasphemy cases for fear of reprisals by extremists.
The mission sought further details of state protection from DSP Tatla, in Rabwah, and his senior officer DPO Salimi in Jhang. DSP Tatla explained that he had only been in post for four months and that he had little knowledge of events in Rabwah before his arrival. DSP Tatla stated that there are four Police Stations in the district of Rabwah. Two relate to the town, one with an Inspector, 3 Sub-Inspectors, 3 Assistant Sub-Inspectors, one Duty Officer, 5 Head Constables and 20 Constables; and one inside the city with one Sub-Inspector and one Head Constable with 8 constables. Rabwah had previously formed part of an 8-station area. DSP Tatla could not say if there were any Ahmadis in his force, but the Ahmadi Community Representatives and the HRCP both stated that the police in Rabwah are all non-Ahmadi. DSP Tatla explained that it is the police’s job is to ensure law and order in the area and to protect the people and property. The main problems are domestic and neighbourhood disputes, and some theft. He confirmed that no special protection is provided for senior members of Ahmadi Community, but also assured the mission that there had been no serious problems between Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis during his tenure in Rabwah.
DSP Tatla explained that if an FIR is entered against someone in Rabwah, the police arrest the person with co-operation between the two police stations covering Rabwah town. Where an FIR is issued by someone outside Rabwah in respect of person residing in Rabwah then they arrest the person with the cooperation with the Police station where the FIR was issued. In DSP Tatla’s experience, most of the FIRs issued in Rabwah are requested by the general public in Rabwah; he knew of none instigated by people from outside Rabwah. He could give two examples from his service in Rabwah, both from September 2006. One was in relation to ‘objectionable material’ in the newspaper ‘Alfazal’ (noted above) and the other was against a Khatme Nabuwwat clergyman for shouting slogans against Shias and Ahmadis. The mission were informed by the Ahmadi Community Representatives that there have been incidents where the police, having attended the home of a person named in an FIR and not finding him there, had taken family members to the police station and detained them. These arrests were not recorded at the police station and the family members were not charged. When asked, DSP Tatla insisted that the police do not interrogate family members of accused people, unless they are personally concerned in the charge.
DSP Tatla stated that in his time in Rabwah Khatme Nabuwwat had organised conferences in Rabwah. Khatme Nabuwwat had held a conference in September: 100 policemen were there to provide security for 5-6,000 people. There was no march then or during his tenure. Permission is required for such conferences from the District Police Officer and the local Mayor. DPO Salimi was aware of applications by both Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis for permission to hold conferences and events: sometimes they refused permission, but he was not aware of individual cases. They do sometimes grant permission, but he did not know whether they had ever granted permission to the Ahmadis. The police would be asked as they provide security and this would be seen as having serious law and order implications. If an application came to his office, he would discuss it with his District Co-ordinating Officer, with whom the decision would lie.
DPO Salimi stated that generally there were no problems in Rabwah. However, he told the mission that he is aware of the particular issues and problems in Rabwah and for Ahmadis. The DPO was clear in acknowledging that the law was not in favour of the Ahmadis. He knew there was generally one main conference each year held by the mullahs but assured the mission that if there was shouting and slogans, the police would register an FIR. Similarly, anyone can complain and the police they would issue an FIR, including against the mullahs. He did not know how many Ahmadis there were in his police force: he knew of one or two, and he named a Deputy Inspector and an Assistant Superintendent of Police, whom he had known in other regions. DPO Salimi stated that there was no bar against Ahmadis joining the police force.
4.3 Social and economic conditions in Rabwah
The Ahmadi Community Representatives explained to the mission that the town of Rabwah is located on 1043 acres of land which was purchased by the Ahmadi community for a nominal amount from the government in 1947. The town is not a commercial/industrial centre and has no manufacturing, distribution or service industries. We were advised by the Ahmadi Community Representatives that the situation in Rabwah was such that there was an exodus of young people and that people coming to settle in Rabwah were older people who had retired. The only jobs are low skilled work such as farming and trades. However the number of jobs in these sectors are limited by the size of the town. The Representatives explained that there are no Ahmadis in public office in Rabwah. The post office, telephone office, railway station, police force and magistrates office have no Ahmadi employees and in some instances people are recruited from outside Rabwah. Mr. Ibrahim reinforced many of the points made by the Ahmadi Community Representatives, noting that there are no jobs available in Rabwah and the few government jobs that exist are already filled. Beyond this, there is no industry in Rabwah. A small number of people go to other towns such as Faisalabad to work, and usually stay there during the week. The mission was informed by the Ahmadi Community Representatives that there is ‘negligible’ housing available to rent. The Representatives told the mission that a number of vacant plots are available in the Muslim Colony. The Colony is former Ahmadi land that has been requisitioned by the government. The plots have been put up for sale, but Ahmadis are specifically banned from bidding. The rules of the auction state that only those who believe in the end of prophethood are eligible to bid (see Appendix B6: Public Auction Notice, taken from The Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore, 5 December 2005). Mr Ibrahim stated that there are very few houses to rent or buy and there is no Council or private building planned. Private building does take place outside the town centre, particularly by Ahmadis who move to Rabwah from elsewhere.
The HRCP stated that a newcomer fleeing to Rabwah would have to be very rich and not pursued by their persecutor to survive. If they have a normal income (and not pursued), then they would face many difficulties, first amongst which is that there are no jobs in Rabwah. It is very unusual for someone to commute for work even to Chiniot or Faisalabad. Even if an Ahmadi were to do this it would create new problems: they would be a ‘sitting duck’ for anti-Ahmadi activists whilst they travelled. Moreover, an address in Rabwah is practically a bar to getting a job as a potential employer would suspect that a person is Ahmadi if they have a Rabwah address. They would only be able to get work from a fellow Ahmadi. The HRCP noted that whilst Rabwah is majority Ahmadi, Muslims live in the area surrounding the town. There have been cases where housing officials have said that Ahmadis cannot purchase land and have forced the purchasers to undertake not to sell to Ahmadis. This sort of discrimination ‘begins at Rabwah’. Referring to life in Rabwah for those who have not fled persecution, the HRCP summarised the situation by describing Rabwah as a place for ‘hardcore Ahmadis who want to be martyred’: there is a mullah there who abuses Ahmadis ‘all day long’. Those Ahmadis who live in Rabwah are ‘very brave’. There are families where the men live in Rabwah and the women do not. Ultimately, it is a question of how much abuse — and occasional violence — an individual can stand. ‘Rabwah is a place for martyrs, cut off from their roots’, the mission was told.
The Ahmadi Community Representatives stressed that it is only in a position to provide temporary shelter and food to a limited number for a few days or at most a few weeks. There is a Langar Khana (community kitchen) where displaced persons can obtain food and shelter. The community do receive people who had faced problems in other parts of Pakistan but Rabwah is seen as a temporary measure for a couple of months and not a long term solution. It was explained to the mission that the Ahmadi community would provide these displaced persons with accommodation in guest houses, which has separate accommodation for men and women, but that the town and community can only provide temporary refuge for displaced persons as there is no employment or permanent housing. For example, the Jhando Sahi community were able to stay for a month but then had to return to their village (for more detail see Appendix B8: Amnesty International Pakistan, Fact Finding Mission to Jhando Sahi, 13 August 2006).
The Ahmadi Community Representatives informed the mission that in January 2002 the Pakistan government abolished the system of separate electorates under which different denominations, including Sunnis, Christians and Sikhs, were placed on different electoral roles. A ‘joint electorate’ was introduced in which all eligible citizens of Pakistan are placed on a single list of voters. However, an exception for Ahmadis was introduced by the President via Chief Executive's order No 15 (17 June 2002) which created a supplementary list of voters in which Ahmadis are categorised as non-Muslims. The HRCP confirmed that the Ahmadis are the only religion to continue to be on a separate electoral list. The Ahmadi Community Representatives told the mission that it is a matter of principle that Ahmadis should not register rather than agree to being declared non-Muslim. They explained that the community suffer as a result, as not voting means that the Mayor (Nazim) and Town Council are not accountable to the majority of Rabwah residents. Only 1,700-1,800 people are registered to vote in Rabwah out of a population of around 51,000. Mr. Ibrahim, Secretary to the Mayor of Rabwah confirmed that there are about 2,000 electors, mainly Muslims and about 300 Christians. There are 11 elected members of the Council, none of whom are Ahmadi. Under legislation designed to protect the interests of minorities, the Ahmadi community are entitled to one reserved seat on the Council regardless of the electoral outcome. However, the Ahmadis had decided to give the reserved post to the Christian community rather than be involved in an unrepresentative Council.
The Ahmadi Community Representatives informed the mission that as a result of their lack of representation, conditions in the town have deteriorated with even drinking water not being provided to some areas of the town. Roads are in poor condition, sewage systems are non-existent and there have been hepatitis and typhoid outbreaks (see Appendix B7: Material relating to Rabwah water supply).
Mr. Ibrahim stated that there are three high schools, six primary schools and three degree colleges in Rabwah; they all at one time belonged to the Ahmadi Community but were nationalised and are currently run by the Provincial Government. The Ahmadi Community Representatives explained that the college and boys’ high school were constructed and established by the Ahmadi Community. Since they were nationalised the buildings have deteriorated due to lack of maintenance and the boys’ college has now been deemed unsafe (see Appendix B5: The Nation ‘College building declared dangerous’, undated). The Pakistan authorities announced some years ago that nationalised educational institutions would be returned to their original owners but in the case of Rabwah this has not occurred. The Government of Pakistan demanded Rs.15,000,000 (around £100,000) from the Ahmadi community for their return and this was paid. However, the educational institutions have not been returned and this money has not been refunded. The Ahmadi Community Representatives also informed the mission that in order to study in Pakistan it is necessary to pass an Islamic studies exam which is impossible for Ahmadis without being accused of committing blasphemy, effectively barring Ahmadis from higher education.