4. Summary of the Evidence
The Mission, over the period of 10 days, visited Karachi, Failsalabad, Rabwah, Lahore and Islamabad and held more than sixteen meetings with various representatives and witnesses from the religious minorities. In addition, the Mission received numerous written reports and documents from both internationally recognised bodies and local sources.
Rather than duplicating the content of the existing reports on the human rights situation of religious minorities, listed as Appendix 2 of this Report, the Mission felt that it would be of most value if it focussed on those instances of human rights’ violations, which were presented to the Mission during its visit by those directly affected by them. It should be noted that a number of these cases have also been covered in the publications of international and domestic human rights organisations, such as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
In 1984 the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 [“PPC”] was amended by Ordinance XX, adding two new sections that are aimed directly and exclusively at Ahmadis. 7 Section 298-B makes it a criminal offence for an Ahmadi to make certain references to Islam, providing that
A second provision of the amended Pakistan Penal Code makes it an offence for an Ahmadi to ‘pose’ as a Muslim. Section 298-C, also inserted into the PPC by Ordinance XX of 1984, provides that
These specifically anti-Ahmadi laws restrict the right of Ahmadis to freedom of religion, which is protected by the 1973 Constitution. It should be noted that the specific targeting of Ahmadis was made possible through an amendment to the 1973 Constitution, which, in 1974, declared Ahmadis to be ‘religious minorities’. Until 1974, Pakistani law had treated Ahmadis as Muslims.
In every single meeting with representatives of the Ahmadiyya community the Mission was presented with cases involving Ahmadis caught in the net of sections 298-B and 298-C of the PPC. The Mission found these testimonies to be consistent with those contained in the report ‘Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan during the year 2009’ [doc 23] which cites a number of cases of prosecutions under these two sections. The 2009 Report puts these charges in the context of personal grievances, reflecting the oft-heard claim during the Mission’s interviews that these laws are frequently used either to ‘settle scores’ or are a result of extremist views expounded by some Mullahs.
The exact number of cases under sections 298-B and 298-C of the PPC are not known, since there is no central register of criminal cases. The report ‘Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan – In brief’ [doc 46] cites ‘more than three and a half thousand criminal cases to date’ have been registered against Ahmadis in Pakistan under the provisions of the anti-Ahmadiyya and other religious laws such as the blasphemy laws’.
Pakistan’s Penal Code contains extensive provision to protect in particular the sanctity of Islam:
The Delegation found that Ahmadis, as well as members of other religions, are frequently charged with the offence of blasphemy, on grounds which are often spurious in the extreme. It appears that many convictions, though by no means all, are over-turned on appeal. However, by then the successful appellants have spent many years behind bars.
The Mission was appraised of a number of these cases.
Witness Testimony 1
Mr Mohammed Iqbal (Rabwah, 16/02/2010) is serving a life sentence for blasphemy. The Mission met and interviewed Mr Iqbal’s wife and son, who said that they had been the only Ahmadi family in their village and that the incident arose because the imam of the local mosque did not approve of Mr Iqbal coming to the mosque to talk to him. The imam’s son called the police and reported that an Ahmadi had desecrated the Koran by throwing it on the floor. When the police attempted to investigate, they were encouraged to visit the house of Mr Iqbal. By then a group of villagers, described as a mob, had laid siege to Mr Iqbal’s house. Mr Iqbal’s family were threatened by the villagers, who remained outside the house for 15 days. The Faisalabad Ahmadiyya community finally decided to take Mr Iqbal to the police, at which point the siege ended. The police were reported to be afraid for his safety in detention, so he was sent to Faisalabad jail. After eight months Mr Iqbal was still on remand and had not been granted bail. The case finally started, taking another eight months, resulting in Mr Iqbal being sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. The case was appealed in 2008 but has been repeatedly adjourned and is still pending. The Delegation heard that there were two witnesses in the trial, one of whom gave evidence that he was not actually present when the incident took place, meaning Mr Iqbal was accused and convicted on hearsay. The day before the hearing a strike by lawyers had meant another adjournment of the appeal. Mr Iqbal’s wife left their village to move to Rabwah where she feels safer. The case of Mr Iqbal is also contained in the report ‘Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan during the year 2009’ [doc 23] according to which Mr Iqbal was arrested in March 2004 and that an appeal against his conviction had been filed at the Lahore High Court in 2005 (Criminal Appeal No 89/2005). This means that Mr Iqbal has been waiting for his appeal for the past 5 years.
Witness Testimony 2: Four College Students
Another extremely troubling case related to the Mission during its visit to Rabwah concerned four juveniles, all college students, as well as one adult, all members of the Ahmadiyya community, who had been accused of blasphemy after the Holy Prophet’s name was found written on the wall of a bathroom in a mosque. The Mission heard from one of the accused students, who said that while studying at the academy the young men did not want to cause trouble by praying at the local mosque, but there were also complaints from other students that they should not pray at the academy either. The local imam reportedly gave his permission for them to visit the mosque, which they did for one week. A visitor to the mosque, named as one Mr Shabaz who is allegedly a member of a local banned extremist organisation, objected to the students’ use of the mosque. An argument started when they tried to explain that the Imam had given permission for them to be there. Mr Shabaz subsequently told the students to leave a second time when he saw them washing at the mosque. The students reverted to using the ladies’ area of the academy for washing, but on 28 January 2009, while the students were sitting an examination, a crowd gathered outside the mosque. Teachers from the academy were told that the Holy Prophet’s name had been written on the wall of the mosque toilet, and while they did not believe the students were responsible, advised their parents to take them home in view of the gathering crowd. Mr Shabaz subsequently filed a First Instance Report (the filing of a criminal complaint at a police station) against the students and the teacher. A police search ensued to locate the accused, during which 20 other people were detained, with the police threatening to start detaining women until the head of the local Ahmadiyya community advised the parents to hand over their sons. The students were taken to another district police station and detained for seven days during the enquiry, after which they were charged and sent to the central jail. Bail was granted almost six months later by the High Court. The students were not tortured but made to stand outside the cell at night, handcuffed. The complainant produced three witnesses, only one of whom was at the mosque at the relevant time and who admitted that he could not identify which of the students was responsible for the graffiti.
This case is also detailed in the report ‘Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan 2009’ [doc 23] which states that the complainant was one Mr Liaquat Ali, who had been encouraged to launch the prosecution by Mr Shahbaz and Mr Kulachi, members of the religious group Jamaat-ud-Daawa, banned by the UN for promoting terrorism. Further information of the case of the four Ahmadi college students is contained a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) fact-finding report (document 4: Report on Violence in Bhamniwala 30th June 2009).
Witness Testimony 3: arrest and torture of two Ahmadis
The Mission met and interviewed a member of the Ahmadiyya community who told the Mission that he had been picked up by unidentified persons who were not police but some other agency, and taken in on charges of making sketches of the Prophet on a road amounting to the offence of blasphemy. The man and a co-accused (who was accused of fomenting mutiny) were reportedly tortured extensively while held by the unknown agency. The accused was forced to make a confession with a gun pointed at his head. He was remanded in custody for 14 days by a judge for further interrogation. An account was given of torture methods used on him including electrocution and threats of castration. The sister of the co-accused filed for habeas corpus, the accused were bailed and are now facing trial as at 22 Feb 2010.
This case is also contained in the report ‘Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan 2009’ [doc 23, pp. 9-11], which describes it as ‘a joint effort by corrupt clerics, inefficient police, mindless administration, sadistic agencies and heartless politicians’. The report names Kunri, District Mirpur Khas, Sindh, as the location of the incident, describing it as ‘hotbed of anti-Ahmadiyya agitation’ where the political leadership supports the clergy and overlooks their ‘criminal activities’. The report gives as the motive for the case a dispute over a plot of land and Ahmadis’ attempts to construct a place of worship on it.
The Mission was told in a number of the interviews with interlocutors from the Ahmadiyya community that the entire population of Rabwah, a city founded by Ahmadis, was charged in a FIR dated 15 December 1989 under the section 298-C of the Penal Code of Pakistan. A copy of the FIR is included as Appendix B3 in the 2007 PHRG report Rabwah: A Place For Martyrs?.
The Mission heard that once a criminal complaint has been filed (called a First Information Report), there is very little scope for the prosecution to evaluate the strength or merits of the accusation. Almost invariably, the FIR will lead to a full trial, even if both prosecutor and judge deem the charge to be unsubstantiated. A number of interlocutors also complained that third parties, in particular mullahs, were able to influence blasphemy cases. Additionally, a number of interlocutors pointed out that the only penalty for blasphemy law under section 295C, namely the use of derogatory remarks etc in respect of the Holy Prophet, is death, but that this sentence was rarely imposed, thus making the legislation inherently contradictory.
The Mission were told about several cases of the murder of Ahmadis, reportedly for their religious beliefs. In many of these cases it appears that the police are slow to carry out a proper investigation and that even following a religiously motivated murder, the family of the deceased is not being given any protection. More information on cases can be found in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat International report ‘Ahmadis murdered for their faith in Pakistan during 2009’ [doc 26] , which details eleven cases of murder that occurred in 2009. The following records the meetings of the Mission with the families of murder victims.
A young Ahmadi lawyer from Lahore told the Mission that in January 2008 his father (a senior advocate) was shot dead and he himself was abducted on the way to court. During his abduction, which lasted for 22 days, the lawyer requested the Koran but it was denied. The police claim that he was freed by them but he says he escaped himself and went to the police, who subsequently arrested four people for kidnapping. The trial was ongoing at the time of interview. It appears that the accused have only been charged with kidnapping, but not with the murder of his father. The same witness reported that his brother, a doctor, was shot at on the way to his clinic in 2009 but was not hurt. No one was detained for the attempted murder.
The Mission met the family of Mr Basharat Rehman Mughal who had been murdered on 24 February 2008. The family told the Mission that the police arrived one hour after the shooting but no case was brought, despite the family giving evidence to several police departments. According to the family, the suspect was never arrested and had since died. The family reported that they are still being threatened and intimidated including the student daughter, who has to be accompanied by family members wherever she goes, and their son and brother-in-law who have also been threatened. The family speculated as to whether the reason for the murder was that they were an Ahmadi family living close to a mosque, which was unacceptable to the mosque administration. The family have since moved to a different location but are still being harassed. No one has taken up this case including the Human Rights Commission, the media or the police. The family feels that seeking help will put them in further danger, so hope a third party will help them by taking up the unsolved case.
The Mission met the family of Mr Mubashir Ahmad who was murdered in Karachi on 20 February 2009. Mr Mubashir’s widow and brother described how he was murdered on his way home from work at a factory, in front of a madrassah. The family cannot say for sure whether madrassah students were responsible. The body was taken to the hospital by unknown persons prior to the family’s knowledge of the crime. The victim had been threatened two days prior to the murder and had been ostracised at work. There has been no real investigation into the murder: the police visited the victim’s widow three or four times over one or two months following her husband’s death for statements, but the case was not taken any further and no one was charged for lack of evidence. Mr Mubashir’s widow stated that she does not receive any assistance from the state as a result of losing her husband in this way.
The Mission met Mr Mohammed Arif, a young man confined to a wheelchair and still suffering from gun shot injuries received two years ago, on 8 September 2008, when two men entered the hospital where he was working, and opened fire. The assailants killed Dr Abdul Manan, a leading Ahmadi. Dr Manan who was shot with 11 bullets, Mr Arif received 5 bullets and had to have his spleen removed and suffered a damaged lung. To date no one has been charged despite Mr Arif stating that he would be able to identify the assailants. It appears that Dr Manan had previously received several threats of murder. Mr Arif reported that the police were influenced by the protests of mullahs in the investigation of the case.
The Mission heard the testimony of the mother and son of the murdered Ahmadi Professor Mohammed Yousef, a senior science teacher, ‘retired as a principal’ and head of the Ahmadi community in his locality in Lahore on 5 January 2010. According to the witnesses, hostility against Ahmadis in the locality had been brewing for some time, but in the months prior to the murder, activity had become more specific, with three or more people posting signs and banners in the locality stating that edicts had been issued for fatwas against Ahmadis, and that the killing of an Ahmadi person was a blessing from Allah. On 8 September 2009 a large board was erected stating that Ahmadis should be killed. At this point, Professor Yousef submitted a letter of complaint at the local police station, which elicited no response from the police. Four or five days later around 150 people led by Mullahs reportedly visited the police station and made open threats that they would do ‘what they wanted to do’. On the day of the murder two young boys on motorbikes reportedly fired shots at Professor Yousef while he was sitting in his son’s shop. He was hit twice in the chest and died immediately. The family attempted to file an FIR at the police station but were told by police their complaint would not be accepted unless the names of the suspects were removed from the complaint. After six or seven hours at the police station an FIR was eventually filed by the police. The police refused to arrest the accused. The witnesses told the Mission that they suspect that radical Mullahs were involved in the murder, accusing them of incitement. According to the witnesses, the mullahs enjoyed the protection of Members of the National Assembly and the Provincial Assembly. The family has submitted a report to the Chief of Police of Punjab to the effect that the case is not being investigated, but to no effect: the police are still not progressing the case. According to the family, the murder was reported in the Daily Times newspaper on 5 and 6 January 2010, occupying only one small column. The family report that the mullahs were detained for a few days but then released and have since restarted their anti-Ahmadi campaign, delivering leaflets etc. The family also report that they receive frequent threats directly and by telephone, including against their lives unless they drop the case. Despite requests, the family say the police have refused to provide them with protection, because the Mullahs have more influence, are very powerful – even the board inciting the killing of Ahmadis is still present. The Mullahs are reportedly linked to the Organisation for the Finality of the Prophet [‘Khatm-e-Nabuwat’] and preach in local mosques and madrassas. The son’s shop is now closed and he is out of work, due to fear of reprisals. The family has submitted a letter of complaint to the Governor and the Chief Minister but as of the date of interview (15 days after submitting the letter) have not received any reply. Suicide Bomb Attacks against Ahmadi Mosques in Lahore The delegation in affirming its conclusions cannot ignore events that have occurred subsequent to its visit to Pakistan in February 2010. As is well known two Ahmadi mosques of worship were attacked in May 2010 with devastating loss of life.
The attack happened on Friday the 28th May 2010 when two large Ahmadi mosques were full of worshippers who had gathered for Friday-prayers. A well coordinated attack for which the responsibility was claimed by Tehrik-e-Taliban, a hitherto unknown group but assumed to be a front for a sectarian organisation. Those who survived claimed that they heard the attackers shouting slogans of “Khatm-e-Nabuwaat” and “kill all!”. Assailants entered the two mosques when the people were worshipping and in the end 85 people were killed and 150 injured.
Following the Lahore attacks on Friday, another Ahmadi, Mr Nehmatullah of District Narawal, Pakistan was murdered. It appears that this pre-meditated murder was directly inspired by the Lahore attacks. The attacker was caught by the police and stated that his mission was to kill all Ahmadis in the village.
The Mission met Mr Zulfikar, who converted to the Ahmadiyya faith in 2003. After his marriage to a non-Ahmadi woman the local Mullah made a complaint against him, accusing him of adultery, presumably on the basis that his marriage was invalid. Mr Zulfikar was arrested on 31 March 2005 and an FIR was registered on the same date. He reports being subjected to torture at the police station, and that the Mullah issued a fatwa against him and ordered him to leave the Ahmadiyya faith. The accused was denied bail by the session court but was granted bail by the High Court nine months later. He has been awaiting trial since 2005 and reports that whenever the trial is scheduled the Mullah issues threats against him. His advocate secured a transfer of the trial to Karachi. The accused’s wife meanwhile filed for the dissolution of the marriage.
The Mission met a Shia woman who has been threatened by her family for many years, because she married an Ahmadi. She was disowned by her family and deprived of her property rights, despite the fact that her father had many Ahmadi friends who were frequent visitors to the family home. The woman was not informed of her father’s death, but her brothers filed an FIR against her Ahmadi husband in May 1997, accusing him of murdering the father. The police arrived to arrest him in Lahore where the couple had moved to, but were convinced by the accused’s father that it was absurd for him to murder his father-in-law. Although the case was not transferred to Lahore or taken any further, the woman’s family has continued to issue threats to her husband’s friends in Faisalabad and the woman does not consider herself to be safe even in Lahore. She never leaves the house without her children and only the Ahmadiyya community knows where the children attend school.
The Mission received a number of reports and testimony of witnesses to the effect that it was very difficult for Ahmadis to construct places of worship. In the most extreme case, the local administration actually demolished a half finished structure which was intended to be used as a place of worship.
Mosque case 1
The Mission met one Mr Sher Muhammad during its visit to Islamabad. Mr Sher Muhammad told the Mission that he hailed from the village Barali, District Kolti, Azad Kashmir, where local Ahmadis had faced multiple arrests and harassment because they had attempted to build a place for prayer.
It appears that those Ahmadis who attempt to build places of worship are being charged under section 298-C PPC. Mr Sher himself spent one month in prison and was sentenced to two years and a Rs. 10,000 fine. The sentence was appealed and he was granted bail, but the appeal against the conviction is still pending. In 2004, other Ahmadis also tried to build a place for worship and FIRs were issued against them as a result. Mr Sher himself was detained again and spent 17 days in custody before being granted bail. The case against him continues. While in custody the accused was pressured to leave the Ahmadiyya faith and speculated on the possible involvement of extremist organisations. In 2008 another FIR was issued against a group of people including the same man, again regarding the building of a mosque. He was held for 13 days under investigation and a further 4 days in jail. The interview details reports of police beatings of Ahmadis involved in the case and subsequent incidents in late 2009 when 130 young men reportedly threatened the Ahmadis if they continued to use even their own rooms for prayers. Local leaders and the group of young men apparently colluded to ensure that the space could not be used by Ahmadis for any purpose.
Mosque case 2
The Mission received testimony from Mr Mohammad Farooq, resident in the District Kolti, Helum. According to Mr Farooq the Ahmadi community in Helum did not have a place to conduct prayers, so they started to build a prayer hall, funded by donations of local Ahmadis. A FIR was subsequently issued against Ahmadis in Helum and 12 people were arrested, including some who were not listed in the FIR. Complaints were filed alleging police brutality but the Deputy commissioner reportedly said he did not give any time to Ahmadis. The head of the district ordered the Ahmadis to destroy the prayer hall and it was subsequently destroyed by the authorities. The Mission saw photographs showing the demolished structure. The accused are still awaiting trial.
Mosque case 3
The Mission was told by members of the Islamabad Ahmadiyya community about their difficulties in finding a place for worship. It appears that the Ahmadiyya population in Islamabad District numbers approximately 4,500. One mosque was allocated to the community in 1971 but construction was halted after the plans were submitted. The case has been in the court system for the past 26 years during which time no construction was permitted.
Mosque case 4
The Mission received testimony to the effect that there were only 17 places for prayer for the 50 to 60,000 members of Ahmadiyya community in Lahore.
Since 1984, when Ordinance XX was promulgated, the building of new places of worship has been impossible because all applications for permission to build official places for prayer have been denied. The Mission is of the opinion that the refusal constitutes discrimination of Ahmadis and violates their right to freedom of religion under the 1973 Constitution. It appears that petitions to the Supreme Court and High Court have been turned down. Similarly, when the Ahmadiyya community wanted to establish the 23rd March as a holiday to mark the founding of the Ahmadiyya faith, the provincial government issued an order forbidding Ahmadis to offer sweets or have illuminations on this day. The order was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Mosque case 5
During its visit to Rabwah, the Mission was told that a total of 22 Ahmadi mosques had been destroyed, 28 sealed and only a few weeks prior to the visit of the Mission an Ahmadi mosque had been handed over to ‘opponents’.
The Mission found that there are a number of areas where Ahmadis are discriminated against in law or official state policy: issuance of passports, voting, property rights, schools policy, public sector employment, media freedom.
(i)The Mission was frequently told by interlocutors that Ahmadis have to be identified as such on their identity cards. An Ahmadi wanting to be shown as Muslim has to take an oath denouncing the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement.
The Mission was shown a copy of a passport application form, with a section showing ‘Religion –Ahmadiyya’ and the ‘Declaration in case of Muslim’ which includes the following text: “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Quadiani [founder of the Ahmadiyya faith] to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Quadiani group to be non-Muslims”.
(ii)the Mission heard from several sources that the law discriminates against Ahmadis in the area of voter registration, again forcing Ahmadis to denounce the founder of the movement if they want to be included in the general list of voters or be listed on a separate voter list where they are officially recognised as non-Muslims.
(iii)In Rabwah the Mission was told that in Pakistan all private educational institutions that had been nationalised, have by now been returned to private ownership as part of a de-nationalisation policy. However, Ahmadiyya educational institutions have not been de-nationalised. In the course of its visit to Rabwah the Mission saw the site of an empty, abandoned school, owned by the Ahmadiyya community but not permitted to be used as a school.
(iv)The Mission heard from representatives of the Ahmadiyya community Ahmadis face discrimination in government employment and in the awarding of official contracts. One case brought to the attention of the Mission concerned two commercial entities owned by Ahmadis, namely Amir Brothers (prop. Dawood Medical Hall), Main Bazaar, Kotli, Azad Kashmir and United Medical Stores of Hafiz Aslam Road, Kotli, who had submitted a joint tender to supply food and medicine to DHQ Hospital Kotli, Azad Kashmir. They were informed on 14 June 2008 that their tender “has not been entertained and hence returned to them vide”. The Mission’s attention was drawn to the fact that the letter mentioned that due to ‘Firqa Ahmadiyya’ their tenders of Ration and Medicines “cannot be entertained.” This refusal letter was issued by the office of the Medical Superintendent DHQ Hospital Kotli, Azad Kashmir, reference 1878/MS/08.
(v)The Mission was told by the representatives of the Lahori Ahmadiyya community that a criminal suit had been brought against the editor of the Lahoris’ magazine, which in any event had been banned between 1990 and 2002. At present, the magazine must state on its cover that it cannot be published publicly.
(vi)The Mission was told by a number of witnesses that the judicial process moved very slowly in the case of Ahmadis and that discretionary remedies, like the granting of bail, were frequently refused to Ahmadis. For instance, in Lahore the Mission was told by a witness that a Ahmadi, alleged to have preached as a Muslim, remained in jail for five and a half years without bail.
(vii)Representatives of the Ahmadiyya community told the Mission that the situation that currently exists cannot be attributed solely to extremist Mullahs who openly incite hatred and murder. It is also the state and political parties in power who are contributing to the discrimination against and persecution of Ahmadis.
The Mission met several state representatives, who without exception stated that state bodies were pressurised by religious extremists and that their own ability to reign in these parties was very limited. Representatives of the Islamabad Ahmadiyya community told the Mission that the reason for the failure of the government to take active steps against religious extremists was the fact that even the government was reliant on their support. This could have been the case when President Musharraf, who had promised to repeal section 295-C PPC but pulled back from this promise. Musharraf also made concessions to terrorist groups he had previously banned.
In Lahore the Mission was told that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan that extremist Mullahs have developed a power base and now wield much influence because they are being encouraged by the government’s failure to act against them. While there is impunity there is no reason for these groups to stop. According to the Commission the government must make examples of extremist Mullahs. At the local level, the police are often reluctant to touch the Mullahs – again this reflects the failure of the government to deal with the situation at any level.
The Mission’s attention was also drawn to the case of the TV broadcast of 7 September 2009 on the anniversary of the 1974 amendment of the 1973 Constitution, which declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. A popular TV chat-show featured three mullahs, with the programme host asking ‘what can the common man do to further the cause of Islam against the cancer of the Ahmadiyya?’ The tone of the questioning by the TV host was reportedly encouraging rather than enquiring and eventually one of the mullahs said that the Ahmadiyya should be killed. The TV programme was broadcast from Dubai and a complaint was submitted to the broadcasting authorities there through solicitors, with the result that the TV host was voluntarily withdrawn for a period of time. There were reportedly two murders in the Ahmadiyya community the day after the programme was broadcast.
As noted in the introductory passages of this Report, the Mission was limited in time and could only engage briefly with representatives of the Shia and Christian communities. Complaints of a similar nature to of the Ahmadiyyas were made by the Shias and Christians; specifically against the operation of the blasphemy laws, discrimination in the areas of education and state employment and the failure of the State to adequately protect their adherents from violence and other criminal acts.
The Mission recommends that a follow-up mission or missions be sent to concentrate on the complaints of Shias, Christians and other religious minorities.