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3. Potential Risk Factors Faced by Ahmadis in Rabwah
Prior to travelling to Pakistan the mission identified potential risk factors faced by Ahmadis. The interview questions and sources were selected to investigate these factors with a focus on the treatment of Ahmadis in Rabwah. As previously noted, it quickly became apparent to the mission that 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 previous section, ‘The Position of Ahmadis in Pakistan’.
The potential risk factors identified by the mission are: the blasphemy laws; practising or expressing the Ahmadi faith; preaching by Ahmadis; threats and physical attacks; and attacks on property. Evidence collected by the mission relating to each factor is set out below. However, it should be noted throughout that, according to the British High Commission, there is under-reporting of Ahmadi persecution, making it difficult to make an accurate assessment of the frequency of attacks against Ahmadis.
3.1 Blasphemy laws
The mission were provided with a report detailing prosecutions of Ahmadis during 2005 compiled by the community in Rabwah through their contact with Ahmadis throughout Pakistan (Appendix D). The report documents a total of 60 FIRs registered against Ahmadis, 25 of which were recorded at ‘Chenab Nagar’ (Rabwah) police station (note that FIRs may be registered at any police station regardless of the place of residence of the accused). The same document also provides a summary of cases recorded against Ahmadis from April 1984 to Dec 2005. The summary catalogues the total number of cases by the description of the transgression: for example, a total of 404 FIRs instituted against Ahmadis for posing as a Muslim. These statistics are not disaggregated by location.
The Ahmadi community explained that once an individual receives bail they are required to appear at a case hearing approximately every month. The location of the case hearing will depend on where the FIR has been lodged. This allows a complainant to lodge an FIR in, for example, Karachi, with the effect that a resident of Rabwah would be required to travel a great distance every month. The community pointed out that travelling to repeated bail hearings is expensive, may cost the individual his job through regular absence, and may place the Ahmadi at risk as he has to travel the same route on regular occasions. The testimonies of Rabwah residents Rashid Ahmed, ‘MN’ and Abdul Shakoor to the mission, recorded in Appendix A, provide examples. In January 1990, Rashid Ahmed received bail following the registration of a case under section 298c. Since then he has had to attend court in Chiniot (approximately 30 minutes drive from Rabwah) every 15 days, sometimes having to wait all day for his case to be called. Each time the police fail to produce witnesses and the case is adjourned, without any criticism of the police. He has applied for the case to be dismissed, but he believes the magistrate is too frightened of the mullahs to order this: he has been told the police will arrange for all the witnesses to come together on one occasion. In a separate case, ‘MN’ has to attend court in Chiniot every 15 or 30 days following an FIR under section 298c that was registered in 1988. The court refuses to dismiss his case and his bail has been cancelled on two occasions. Similarly, Abdul Shakoor had four FIRs lodged against him in December 1990 by a mullah in Rabwah: Mr Shakoor has to attend court in Chiniot every month but each time the case has been adjourned because the mullah has failed to appear and has not been arrested to do so. Applications to have his case dismissed have been made, all without success (see Appendix A for the testimonies of ‘MN’ and Abdul Shakoor).
Addressing the lengthy prosecution of FIRs in court, DPO Salimi pointed out that cases against Ahmadis often have ‘complicated social implications’ quite different to normal criminal activity. The police often do not want to prosecute, but they have to, even where the complaint itself is ‘very stupid’. If a witness then fails to attend court, they can be arrested, but ‘it is a tricky business’, and not usually the fault of the police. The Senior Government Advisor fleshed out these problems, noting that the social pressure around the Ahmadi issue has a real impact on the effectiveness of all levels of the police and judiciary (see section 4.2, ‘State Protection’).
The Ahmadi Community Representatives informed the mission that if an individual fails to appear at a bail hearing several actions are put in motion: first, the police will look for the person. Next, if s/he is not found, they are then ‘at large’ and the case is reported to the court, at which point the person becomes a ‘proclaimed’ offender. Anyone can arrest a proclaimed offender within one month of the proclamation, after which time the person’s property is sold. The warrant issued by the court is valid anywhere in Pakistan. The Representatives noted that a common (but illegal) practice is to detain family members of the accused. DSP Tatla, however, insisted that the police do not interrogate family members of accused people, unless they are personally concerned in the charge. The Representatives also informed the mission that when relocating in Pakistan access to many everyday services requires the production of an identity card. All details are held by the national Database and Registration Authority. It was not known if this database is interrogated to find missing or proclaimed offenders. The services identified by the Ahmadi Community Representatives as requiring production of an ID card included:
Moreover, there are police checkpoints on the roads and police will often ask for ID cards from those travelling by public transport at night.
During the mission’s interview with the Ahmadi Community Representatives it became clear that blasphemy FIRs are registered as a result of complaints from three main sources: those lodged by members of Khatme Nabuwwat, those precipitated by police or government intervention, and those used to settle personal rivalries or enmity. Examples of each follow.
FIRs instigated by Khatme Nabuwwat
Mr Rehman noted that Khatme Nabuwwat are present in Rabwah and are known for both instigating FIRs, and identifying those with outstanding FIRs and passing them to the police. Mr Rehman’s comments are borne out in the cases of ‘MN’ and Abdul Shakoor, related to the mission and recorded at Appendix A. Both cases revolve around blasphemy FIRs lodged by Mullah Khuda Bakh, a member of Khatme Nabuwwat. Mr Rabnawaz agreed that Khatme Nabuwwat had filed FIR's against Ahmadis, and said that Ahmadis had filed FIRs against his members including one pending against him personally (the Ahmadi Community Representatives subsequently denied that they had successfully filed FIRs against Mr Rabnawaz’s members or against Mr Rabnawaz, and they stated that if an attempt was made to do so, they were sure the police would not accept it). Mr Rabnawaz stated that the cases go on for a long time, as do all cases in Pakistan, but he said that it was usually about 6 months from FIR to conclusion of case. Sometimes they were adjourned at the Ahmadi defendants' own request, or because only one of several defendants had turned up as they had fled the country and were ‘criminals living in Europe’.
FIRs instigated through police or government intervention
The Ahmadi Community Representatives highlighted the fact that some FIRs are filed against Ahmadis by the police, whilst others follow the direct intervention of the Federal Government. The testimony provided by Rashid Ahmed to the mission (Appendix A) provides an example of this practice, in which Mr Ahmed was charged with blasphemy under an FIR registered on 22 May 1989 on the order of the Home Secretary of the Provincial Government, Punjab. The mission were also shown a variety of examples of this practice by the Ahmadi Community Representatives: an FIR dated 15 December 1989, filed by the Station House Officer in Rabwah, which is against the entire population of Rabwah (accused under 298c of practising Islamic social etiquettes and worship. See Appendix B3: Police report (FIR) against the entire population of Rabwah, 15 December 1989); a June 2006 FIR filed by the District Police Officer (DPO) against Latif Butt FIR 21/06 for preaching; and a recent circular issued by the Ministry of Interior. The circular requests provincial authorities to take immediate action against the circulation of Ahmadi literature. The document is dated 8 May 2006 and is from the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan addressed to Home Secretaries of four provinces — Punjab, Singh, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) — and provincial police officers. The circular asks the recipients to take action against Ahmadi activities involving the distribution of letters and newspapers, propagation of the Ahmadi faith, and collecting funds. The mission were also shown a second circular, dated 8 June 2006, addressed to the Deputy Inspector General of Police Karachi (with copies to Station House Officers, Karachi). This second document states that the contents of the circular has been duly noted and instructions have been given to Station House Officers to take immediate action, including preventative measures (see Appendix B4: Circulars from the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan, 8 May 2006 and 8 June 2006).
The mission asked DSP Tatla (Rabwah) about the circular. DSP Tatla explained that he had received the circular from the Ministry of the Interior and that it is normal to receive such circulars from the Government. In this instance, an FIR was issued in September 2006 as a result of the circular, citing the Ahmadi newspaper ‘Alfazal’ for printing ‘objectionable material’ (see Appendix B9: Press report of closure of Alfazal, September 2006). DPO Salimi (in Jhang), however, was not aware of the circular and doubted its authenticity: he stated that it was not uncommon to see forged letters. He had not received this particular circular, but had only been in post since the middle of September. Referring to the Alfazal incident, the Ahmadi Community Representatives noted that the FIR resulting in the closure of the newspaper was ordered by the Assistant Inspector General of Police (Operations) acting on the government's initiative. There was no civilian complainant involved. The case was listed as FIR No. 480/06 dated 9 September 2006 at Chenab Nagar Police Station, District Jhang. The FIR states that the Alfazal promotes hatred and injures the feelings of Muslims; however, the FIR does not specify any extracts from the newspaper that are defined as objectionable. The Community Representatives told the mission that on 9th September 2006 the offices of Alfazal were raided by the police. The editor, publisher and printer were not present at the offices but the police arrested two men not connected with the newspaper. In a further raid at his home Mr Sultan Ahmad Dogar, a printer, was arrested. Two days after his arrest Mr Dogar was presented before the Anti-terrorism Court in Faisalabad. The Judge ordered his return in a week and he was remanded. On 18 September Mr Dogar was refused bail and a hearing date of 25 September was set for trial. On 25 September the case did not proceed and Mr Dogar was remanded again until 4 October. As of October 2006 the case is still pending and Mr Dogar remains on remand. (See Appendix B10 Translation of FIR 480/06, provided by the Ahmadi Community, Rabwah; and B9: Press report of closure of Alfazal, September 2006).
FIRs resulting from personal enmity
The Ahmadi Community Representatives informed the mission that FIRs are also used to settle personal scores. For example, in a case known to the community an Ahmadi became a village headman through the local tradition of primogeniture. However, his first cousin (a non-Ahmadi) wanted to take over the headman role, and so filed a blasphemy charge against him. The Ahmadi subsequently spent 4 years in prison.
3.2 Practising or expressing faith
The Ahmadi Community Representatives explained that the blasphemy laws severely restrict the ability of Ahmadis to practise their faith as a group or as individuals. The laws create a situation where even carrying out everyday religious practices runs the risk of prosecution. As Ahmadis are ‘non-Muslims’ in the eyes of the law, even using the greeting ‘Assalamu Alaikum’ can result in a blasphemy prosecution. The community explained that their books and literature are banned, public meetings are not allowed and there is a ‘constant fear of prosecution’ under the blasphemy laws (see section 2.3 ‘Blasphemy Laws and First Information Reports’ and Appendix B1: Notifications from the Government of the Punjab banning Ahmadi materials, 19 July 2006; 1 September 2006; and 9 September 2006).
As noted above, the mission were provided with a report detailing prosecutions during 2005 compiled by the community in Rabwah through their contact with Ahmadis throughout Pakistan (Appendix D). The report documents a total of 60 FIRs registered against Ahmadis, 25 of which were recorded at ‘Chenab Nagar’ (Rabwah) police station, and provides a summary of cases recorded against Ahmadis from April 1984 to Dec 2005. The summary catalogues the total number of cases by the description of the transgression: for example, a total of 404 FIRs instituted for posing as a Muslim. These statistics are not disaggregated by location.
When asked about the Ahmadi faith, Khatme Nabuwwat (Islamabad Chapter) informed the mission that anyone who claims that there was a Prophet after Mohammed is an infidel and their claim is false, baseless and a crime. Khatme Nabuwwat’s view is that freedom of religion has limitations and does not include freedom to misinterpret Islam. Ahmadis should not assert themselves to be Muslim because they do not believe in the laws of the Prophet — this view is endorsed by Parliament and the constitution. Khatme Nabuwwat see themselves as ‘protectors’ of Islam: Islam has the right to the protection of its ‘life, religion, property and honour’. When asked how they achieve this, the Chapter informed the mission that Khatme Nabuwwat spread understanding of the finality of the Prophet through preaching and books, not through force.
See also section 3.1 ‘Blasphemy laws’, above.
The Ahmadi Community Representatives explained that they are a ‘preaching religion’ in the sense that they have a moral obligation to spread their beliefs. However, no pressure is placed on people to convert. The risk of prosecution under the blasphemy laws for even everyday religious practices means that individuals tend to convey the message of their religion to people they know, such as relatives and friends who are usually other Ahmadis or sympathetic to their cause. However, if they are asked a question about their religion, or if their beliefs are challenged, then they are under a ‘moral obligation’ to explain their faith. As noted above, the community emphasised that the blasphemy laws are framed in such a way as to create a ‘constant fear of prosecution’ for Ahmadis in Pakistan (see section ‘2.3 Blasphemy Laws and First Information Reports’, and Appendix C: Copy of Ordinance No. XX Of 1984 and 1986 Amendment to the section 295c of the Pakistan Penal Code).
The community also informed the mission that in June 2006 the District Police Officer (DPO) ordered a case be filed against Latif Butt for preaching (FIR number 21/06).
See also section 3.1 ‘Blasphemy laws’, above.
3.4 Threats and physical attacks
The Ahmadi Community Representatives stated that in Rabwah they felt intimidated and were frequently threatened. They informed the mission that the main perpetrators of attacks on persons and property in Rabwah were members or supporters of Khatme Nabuwwat who have a mosque and madrassa in Rabwah. The community representatives referred to graffiti on the wall of the mosque in the Muslim Colony of Rabwah which reads ‘wholesome security of Islam and the faith lies in total liquidation of Ahmadis’ (see Appendix B2: Photographs supplied by the Ahmadi Community). The community stated that they face threats from Khatme Nabuwwat’s members and supporters within Rabwah, and from those coming to Rabwah from other areas of Pakistan for conferences. The mission was told that the Ahmadi community feel particularly intimidated and threatened on these occasions. The senior community members advise their community to stay indoors and women are told not to attend prayers.
Mr Rehman confirmed that Khatme Nabuwwat are present in Rabwah and are known to incite people to attack Ahmadis in speeches broadcast on loudspeakers from their mosque. Khatme Nabuwwat are repeatedly in the news, for example for inciting violence or attacking the library at Rabwah. In a testimony recorded by the mission, Ahmadi community member ‘ZB’ told the mission that her husband was attacked by a mob in Sialkot following an edict by the local head of Khatme Nabuwwat, Mullah Manzoor. The edict resulted from his conversion to the Ahmadi faith. Following his attack, the police refused to enter an FIR and he fled to Rabwah. In 2004 he was shot at whilst in Rabwah following the distribution of his photograph at a Khatme Nabuwwat conference. The full testimony of this case is recorded at Appendix A.
The Ahmadi Community Representatives told the mission that although the Ahmadis have not been granted permission to hold their annual convention in Rabwah since 1983, Khatme Nabuwwat hold 3-4 large events each year. These events have marches through the streets of Rabwah that are escorted by the police (the mission viewed a video showing a march through Rabwah; see also Appendix B2: Photographs supplied by the Ahmadi Community). The Ahmadi Community Representatives described how the marches are accompanied by the shouting of ‘filthy, dirty slogans that are designed to provoke’; one common slogan is ‘death to Ahmadis’. The events sometimes result in violence, such as in 2004 when Rabwah resident Ghulam Tahir was attacked by a mob. The community told the mission that this year two major Khatme Nabuwwat conferences were held in Rabwah during September despite the Government of Punjab directing all district governments to forbid religious meetings and rallies for 30 days from 1 September 2006. Special permission was granted to the clerics to hold these conferences. On 7 September 2006 (the anniversary of Ahmadis being declared non-Muslim) the 19th Annual International Khatme Nabuwwat Conference was held at the Madrassa Usmania in the Muslim Colony of Rabwah, whilst on 21-22 September 2006 Khatme Nabuwwat held their 25th annual two day conference at Rabwah. Mullah Arshad confirmed that Khatme Nabuwwat holds three conferences in Rabwah each year, on the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet, and on 7 and 21-22 September. According to the Mullah, the latter is a national event that attracts about 50,000 people; the others are local with 4,000-5,000 attendees. When asked why Khatme Nabuwwat meets regularly in Rabwah, Mullah Arshad explained that Khatme Nabuwwat’s mission is to invite Ahmadis to rejoin Islam and therefore they hold large gatherings where there are the greatest number of Ahmadis. Khatme Nabuwwat have been refused permission to hold meetings, but the last time this happened was in 1997. The Islamabad Chapter of Khatme Nabuwwat explained that Khatme Nabuwwat hold meetings in different places, one of which is Rabwah. In contrast to Mullah Arshad, the Chapter members stated that the main Rabwah gathering brings 15,000-20,000 people to the town from all over Pakistan. When pushed as to the reason for staging such a large meeting in Rabwah, it was stated that Khatme Nabuwwat want it to be known to everyone that Rabwah is a part of Pakistan and that there is no exclusive city in Pakistan for Ahmadis: ‘Rabwah is not their place.’
When asked about Khatme Nabuwwat’s mission to invite Ahmadis to rejoin Islam, one member of Islamabad Chapter explained that their aim was to persuade Ahmadis to repent. However, in accordance with the Islamic teachings, as an apostate an Ahmadi will be given three days to repent and if they fail to do so they will be sentenced to death. None of the Chapter members were willing to elaborate on this comment. 6
The mission asked the members of the Islamabad Chapter of Khatme Nabuwwat about reports from sources such as the US Department of State human rights reports and the Ahmadi Community of violence against Ahmadis, marches and shouting of slogans that demand that Ahmadis be killed. The Chapter members insisted that the reports were false and that the marches were staged by the Ahmadis who are ‘great conspirators’. The Khatme Nabuwwat conferences never march through the town — only within the perimeter of their mosque, however it was not explained how this was achieved with many thousands of participants. Khatme Nabuwwat do not attack or kill and the Chapter members had not seen or heard of slogans advocating violence. By contrast, Mullah Arshad acknowledged and supported the slogan ‘death to Ahmadis’ and stated that it refers to the fact that the Ahmadi belief is a dead belief and Ahmadis are causing a schism in society. The Mullah does not believe in killing Ahmadis. The Mullah did not believe that the sloganeering might incite violence against Ahmadis: nothing of the sort happens in Rabwah. (DPO Salimi informed the mission that the expression ‘Death to Ahmadis’ was ‘just a slogan’, and he did not think it amounted to an incitement to violence.) Reflecting the statements of the Islamabad chapter, Mullah Arshad maintained that Ahmadis have made up stories of their arrest: they even dress in police uniforms and go and arrest other Ahmadis to create a story and so they can escape to Europe and make money. When asked about reports of arson and violence, Mr Rabnawaz denied there had been cases of arson against Ahmadi homes and stated that any shooting that had occurred had been between the Ahmadis themselves. Moreover, Ahmadis had fired on Muslims and Mr Rabnawaz himself had been abducted and tortured. The case is still ongoing as the defendants, Mr Rabnawaz claimed, had escaped and are now living in luxury outside Pakistan.
Responding to the suggestion that abusive sloganeering and violence are associated with the Khatme Nabuwwat conferences, Mr Rabnawaz stated that the Ahmadi community have full religious freedom, yet they will not allow Muslims into Rabwah, even as hawkers. Similarly the Islamabad Chapter of Khatme Nabuwwat told the mission that Rabwah has been totally reserved for Ahmadis and Muslims are not permitted to enter. However, the mission met with DSP Tatla and Mr Ibrahim, Secretary to the Mayor of Rabwah, both non-Ahmadi Muslims, in the centre of Rabwah. Moreover, Mr Ibrahim stated that all 11 members of the Local Council in Rabwah are non-Ahmadi, whilst the HRCP noted that the police in Rabwah are all non-Ahmadi. Nevertheless, the Islamabad Chapter of Khatme Nabuwwat stated that they want it to be known that Rabwah is a part of Pakistan and that there can be no exclusive city in Pakistan for Ahmadis. Referring to the Ahmadi community, the Chapter members insisted that ‘Rabwah is not their place.’
3.5 Attacks on property
As noted above, the mission were informed by the Ahmadi Community Representatives that the main perpetrators of attacks on property in Rabwah were members or supporters of Khatme Nabuwwat. The Community told the mission that they face a constant threat of physical violence, including against their mosques and educational establishments. The marches following anti-Ahmadi conferences have resulted in arson and attacks on Ahmadi mosques, in one case resulting in the destruction of a mosque. Mr Rehman noted that Khatme Nabuwwat are repeatedly in the news, including, for example, for attacking the library in Rabwah. The Ahmadi Community Representatives noted that the violence is different in different places and at different times, highlighting the example of the destruction in the village of Jhando Sahi which had been reported by the Pakistani press and documented by Amnesty International (see Appendix B8). During mob violence in June 2006 the whole Ahmadi community had their homes and businesses attacked by local non-Ahmadis.
The Ahmadi Community Representatives also told the mission of the desecration of Ahmadi graves. The Ahmadi community in Rawah have a cemetery on the edge of the town, next to which is the mosque belonging to Khatme Nabuwwat’s Mullah Arshad. The Ahmadi community explained how they had built a wall to protect their cemetery but the Khatme Nabuwwat members still entered the site and damaged grave stones. The mission visited the cemetery and photographed the damage to the gravestones, located immediately adjacent to the cemetery boundary with the Khatme Nabuwwat mosque (see photographs in Appendix F). Mullah Arshad insisted that there was no truth in the story that Khatme Nabuwwat desecrated Ahmadi graves: Ahmadis do it themselves and then blame Muslims. The Ahmadis have a security system of at the cemetery and moreover Muslims do not believe in and condemn the desecration of graves. Mr Rabnawaz stated that photographs of desecrated gravestones were fabricated.