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The Author: Mujeeb-ur-Rehman
A chronicle and a critique of the legislative and the judicial events leading to a gradual denial and erosion of religious freedom to Ahmadis in Pakistan. This work is intended to provide an insight into the background of the Supreme Court judgment in the Ahmadis' case.
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Author: Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad
Description: This book is a brief introduction to the five fundamental articles of the Islamic faith. The articles of faith, which all Muslims believe in, are: Unity of God, Angels, Prophets, Holy Books and Life after Death. Throughout the book, the author emphasises the areas of similarities between Islam and other religions. He shows how religious teachings evolved through the ages culminating in the complete, perfect and universal teachings of Islam. (read it online)
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Home Critical Analysis/Archives A Review of the …
A Review of the Annual Report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Country Report: Pakistan - May 2005

THE UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM was created by the International Religions Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) of U.S. to monitor violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in IRFA and set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and Congress of United States. The Commission publishes its report annually; every year detailed reports and reviews are undertaken on special subjects, and country reports are made on particular and selected countries that deserve special mention.

Pakistan was one of the countries from South Asia that the Commission chose to report upon. It is a three page report that does not go into details and incidents, however it makes considered and well-worded appraisals, comments and recommendations based on ground realities and information available to the Commission through its own reliable sources. The opening paragraph of the country report is as follows:

The response of the government of Pakistan to persistent sectarian and religiously motivated violence in Pakistan continues to be inadequate. In addition, official government policies, such as the anti-Ahmadi and blasphemy laws, frequently result in imprisonment and other violations of freedom of religion or belief. The Commission continues to recommend that Pakistan be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC. To date, the State Department has not designated PakistThu. June 16, 2005an a CPC.

The response of the government of Pakistan to the Commission’s report was prompt and routine. The Foreign Office rebuttal was published in the daily ‘The News’ of May 13, 2005 as follows:

FO rejects US report on religious freedom
ISLAMABAD: Slamming the Annual report of the US commission on International Religious Freedom, which expressed concern about the state of religious freedom in Pakistan, the spokesman of the Foreign Office on Thursday said the report presents the distorted picture of the situation in Pakistan. In a statement issued here, the spokesman said the freedom of religion or belief is recognized as a fundamental right in Pakistan and enforced through appropriate legislation. All citizens of Pakistan irrespective of their religious beliefs enjoy complete freedom of expression and there is absolutely no discrimination. The government of Pakistan is fully committed to protect the rights of minorities. __Online

The tone and content of the above response is not specific to this Report; it is always the same, in general, to all such reports issued by such agencies and NGOs of international standing. Such reaction is rather strange and unbecoming from a government that claims to give importance to human rights, and has established even a ministry to attend to this subject of great import. One would expect the government to take serious note of such reports, go into the details of reported incidents and findings, and take suitable corrective action in the light of the facts of the issues and incidents. A routine denial and report that ‘all is well’ will convince no one, and will only betray the lack of will and resolve of the government to attend to and improve the freedom of religion situation in the country.

In this review it is intended to take up the Commission’s reports and such comments that are specific to the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, and offer only one or two brief but sample explanations and testimony to support them. This will hopefully help all concerned, including the government of Pakistan and the US Commission, to reassess the value of the Report and the government’s response, and thus we hope to make useful inputs to improve the freedom of religion in Pakistan that is so essential to improve the society in this professedly ‘God-given State’.

From the Report
Successive governments have severely violated religious freedom in Pakistan. Discriminatory legislation has fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance and eroded the social and legal status of members of religious minorities.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. The anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX of 1984 is highly offensive to religious freedom. It is now a part of the Constitution. General Zia promulgated this Ordinance; successive governments have maintained it and continue to implement its provisions to the detriment of the Ahmadiyya community.
From the Report
Perpetrators of attacks on minorities are seldom brought to justice.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. Out of the recent cases:
  1. The murderers of Mr Iqbal Ahmad, President of Ahmadiyya Community, District Rajanpur have not been traced. - Details
  2. Fanatics disinterred the dead body of Feroz-ud-Din Ahmadi in District Hafizabad and decamped with it. The culprits have not been found, nor the dead body. - Details
  3. Miscreants set fire to the clinic of Dr Mansur Ahmad Waqar, Ahmadi on the night of January 20, 2005 at Lahore. Perpetrators of the crime have not been apprehended. - Details
From the Report
Ahmadis, who number three-four million in Pakistan, are prevented by law from engaging in the full practice of their faith. The Constitution of Pakistan declares members of the Ahmadi religious community to be “non-Muslims,” despite their insistence to the contrary. Barred by law from “posing” as Muslims, Ahmadis may not call their places of worship “mosques,” worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms which are otherwise open to all Muslims, perform the Muslim call to prayer, use the traditional Islamic greeting in public, publicly quote from the Koran, or display the basic affirmation of the Muslim faith.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. Ordinance XX contains all the provisions stated above; it is now a part of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. The wording of this law is designed, such as ‘poses himself as Muslim’, to cast a wide net and prosecute successfully even a doubtful breach of the bad law.
From the Report
It is also illegal for Ahmadis to preach in public, to seek converts, or to produce, publish, and disseminate their religious materials. Ahmadis have been arrested and imprisoned for terms of up to three years for all of the above acts and they are reportedly subject to ill treatment from prison authorities and fellow prisoners.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. These provisions are imposed through Ahmadi-specific law, and are part of the statute book as PPC 298C and Amendment of Section 24, West Pakistan Ordinance No. XXX of 1963, ordered through the Gazette of Pakistan (Extraordinary) of April 26, 1984. During the period under Report, 23 Ahmadis were booked under PPC 298C: 13 in FIR 119/04 at Police Station (P.S.) Kunri, four in FIR 312/04 at P.S. Bambanwala, five in FIR 45/05 at P.S. Machhiwal and one of Kakki Nau in District Jhang on March 31, 2005. Also according to the news published in the daily Khabrain, Lahore of April 11, 2005, the government proscribed different issues of (Ahmadiyya) Daily Alfazl, Monthly Ansarullah and Tashheezul Azhan.
From the Report
President Pervez Musharraf did ban a number of militant groups several years ago, but most of those have since reemerged, under new names, and have continued to function.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. For instance, Shafiq Dogar, a gang leader of the defunct Sipah Sahabah of Pakistan (SSP), banned for its terrorist activities, renamed Millat Islamia, is greatly active against Ahmadis in District Sialkot. He was recently instrumental in registration of a false case of blasphemy against an Ahmadi, Mr Rana Ashraf at Police Station Kassowal. He also later made a forced entry along with his vigilantes into the Ahmadiyya mosque at Khiva Bajwa, District Sialkot. He did that in collaboration with the police SHO.
At Rabwah, the Ahmadiyya headquarters town, such people enjoy special immunity, and they display it pompously. The Al-Rashid Trust banned for its support to terrorism has an office and dispensary at Rabwah, and its sign board is conspicuous to-date at the Muslim Colony, shown blow:
Al-Rasheed Trust Clinic
From the Report
Because they are required to register to vote as non-Muslims, a policy that was reaffirmed by Pakistani government officials in February 2004, Ahmadis who refuse to disavow their claim to being Muslims are effectively disenfranchised.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. The Election Commission restored the Half Nama (affidavit) concerning the End of Prophethood in the electoral forms (Newspaper reports of 31 January and 1 February 2004 refer). It was also restated that all Muslim candidates for the posts of Nazim and Naib (Deputy) Nazim will have to declare on oath in writing that they have complete and unqualified faith in the end of prophethood of the Last Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). The candidates will also have to deny the veracity of any and all claimants of prophethood after him (The daily Nawa-i-Waqt; January 31, 2004).
From the Report
The one potentially positive development, the December 2004 abolition of the religion column in Pakistani passports, thereby, among other advances, enabling Ahmadis to participate in the hajj, was derailed the following March, when members of a government ministerial committee decided to restore the column.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. The cabinet approved the restoration of the religion column in Pakistani machine readable passport on March 24, 2005. According to press report: ‘Nine ministers opposed the decision’ (the daily Pakistan, Lahore; March 25, 2005).
From the Report
There continues to be no indication that the current government intends to institute any reforms to the anti-Ahmadi laws.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. There is no light yet at the end of this tunnel. In fact the government has asserted the opposite. It was reported by the press: ‘No revision shall be undertaken of the protection of End of Prophethood Law (the anti-Ahmadiyya law) - Federal Cabinet’ (the daily Awaz, Lahore; March 10, 2005).
From the Report
Prescribed penalties for blasphemy include death for whoever “defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad” and life imprisonment for whoever “willfully defiles, damages, or desecrates a copy of the holy Koran.” Blasphemy allegations, which are often false, result in the lengthy detention of, and sometimes violence against, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and members of other religious minorities, as well as Muslims on account of their religious belief. In December 2004, an Ahmadi was given a life sentence and a heavy fine for purported blasphemous statements….
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. Pakistan Penal Code sections PPC 295C and PPC 295B refer. The quoted case is that of Mr Muhammad Iqbal, Ahmadi of Chak No. 227/GB Faisalabad who was accused falsely of blasphemy by a mullah who wanted him to recant. He was awarded ‘life imprisonment by Sajjad Hussain Sindher, Additional Sessions Judge, Faisalabad on November 29, 2004. Mr Iqbal is now serving the underserved sentence in the Central Jail, Faisalabad. The Lahore High Court has not yet found the time to hear the appeal of the victim of personal vendetta and the blasphemy law.
Since last year, five Ahmadis have been booked under various clauses of the blasphemy laws.
From the report
Following an abortive attempt in 2000 at introducing procedural reforms, the Musharraf government has made no further effort to reform, much less repeal, the blasphemy laws. Although they were amended in October 2004 with the aim of reducing the more maliciously applied charges, the procedural changes called for will not likely have a significant affect on the way the blasphemy laws are exploited in Pakistan.
Ahmadiyya view
CORRECT. After October 2004 three Ahmadis were charged in FIR 280/04 P.S. Kassoki under PPC 295B for allegedly burning old pages of a Quran. In fact, one of the accused was not even present in the village on the day of the reported occurrence. The gloss of procedural change has proved futile, as suggested by the Commission.
From the Report
The Commission’s May 2001 report on Pakistan played a key role in highlighting to US and Pakistan government officials the un-democratic nature of the Pakistani separate electorate system for religious minorities. In January 2002, the Pakistan government abolished the system of separate electorates.
Ahmadiyya view
PARTLY CORRECT. As for Ahmadis are concerned, the system of separate electorates continues. Separate electoral rolls are still prepared for Ahmadis. Everyone who is professedly Muslim is made to sign Form IV and certify his belief in the End of Prophethood. General Musharraf issued Chief Executive Order No 15 of 2002, had it published in the Gazette of Pakistan (Extraordinary) of June 17, 2002, to further amend the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002. The order stated that the Status of Ahmadis will remain unchanged; it also reasserted the language of the Half Nama (Attestation) concerning the End of Prophethood and denial of belief in a person who claims to be prophet in any sense. As a result, Ahmadis cannot be candidate nor can they vote in these elections.
From the Report
In addition to recommending that Pakistan be designated a CPC, the Commission has recommended that the US government should:
Take the position that the existence and enforcement of laws targeting Ahmadis which effectively criminalize the public practice of their faith violate the right to freedom of religion guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
Ahmadiyya view
The recommendation is in Pakistan’s interest; its acceptance and early implementation is long overdue.
From the Report
The U.S. government should urge the government of Pakistan to implement procedural changes to the blasphemy laws that will reduce and ultimately eliminate their abuse;
Ahmadiyya view
Any procedural change will turn out to be futile, and the problem will persist; that is the consistent experience of the Ahmadi community. The blasphemy laws should be withdrawn, and the legal situation of pre-1982 should be restored. Prior to 1986 (when during General Zia’s regime PPC 295C was legislated) there were hardly any incidents of blasphemy in this country. According to statistics, from 1948 to 1986, a total of 14 cases of blasphemy were reported, that is, on the average, less than one in three years; compare this to 52 cases in year 2000 alone. It is noteworthy that the blasphemy laws PPC 295B and 295C were introduced during the military regime of General Zia. These laws are not found in the Quran, the primary source of Sharia.
From the Report
The US Government should urge the government of Pakistan to take effective steps to prevent sectarian violence and punish its perpetrators, including disarming militant groups and any religious schools that provide weapons training;
Ahmadiyya view
Yes, a good recommendation.
From the report
The US Government should support, in conjunction with other donors: (a) improvements in the public education system; (b) judicial reform and law enforcement training; (c) legal advocacy to protect the right to freedom of religion; and (d) educational programs in religious tolerance.
Ahmadiyya view
A good recommendation; however law enforcement training must be preceded by withdrawal of bad laws like the Blasphemy laws, Ahmadi-specific laws, Hudood Ordinance, 1991, Qanoon Shahadat Order, the Rules that make it obligatory for candidates for jobs and career promotion in the government service to have the knowledge of Islam and (the official version of) Pakistan Studies, etc.
At the end, a few observations and comments are exigent. The Commission’s Report on Pakistan, as regards Ahmadis, is correct. There is no reason to doubt its authenticity regarding others. In fact, the Commission’s Report on Pakistan is rather brief and had to omit mention of many serious violations of norms of religious freedom. For example, as for Ahmadis, the Report could not mention major issues and events like the Police Post mosque case at Rabwah, sentence of death to three innocent Ahmadis of Chak Sikandar, total neglect by the government to civic services in Rabwah the Ahmadi headquarters town, and a host of criminal cases initiated by authorities under Ahmadi-specific and religious laws and those based upon consideration of faith. The details are available to all concerned on this website. The government here should be happy that the Commission had to be brief this year; a plain denial by the Foreign Office may urge the Commission to give a more detailed report supported by facts, figures and narratives next year. The government should implement an effective and vigorous policy to visibly improve the situation regarding freedom of religion in the country, rather than issue routine denials.

It may seem superfluous to say that such Commissions and NGOs do a great service to the country they report upon, however, inappropriate attitude of some officials and authorities in Pakistan to such reports shows that there is a need to restate the obvious. Almost always these important reports are available gratis to the government. If a concerned national government collects all these inputs on its own, it would cost a great deal. Collection of reliable information through official sources is almost impossible in Third World countries. Federal and central governments are normally kept in the dark by provincial and district governments on issues and events concerning human rights and religious freedom. It is a fact that while the Federal Government here shows relatively more concern about these issues, the authorities at lower rung are not only less concerned, they themselves are a part of the problem. They are often shy to take a principled stand and make a fair and candid report. In these circumstances, the Federal Government will do well to take all the incident reports issued by NGOs seriously, and demand factual reports and explanations from provincial and district administrations on every reported incident. These explanations will be often partial and one-sided; the Federation should have a way to cross-check and examine these reports through reliable officials who are motivated and committed to human rights and religious freedom.

Last but not least, the US State Department has not designated Pakistan a CPC — not yet, for its own reasons. Pakistan is an ally of United State in its war against terror. But freedom of religion, thought and conscience and human rights are important needs of Pakistani society itself. These are a very important and essential part of good governance. The state should promote these for its own sake. If some agencies and organizations make useful inputs through factual reports, these should be welcomed as basis for active concern and effective follow-up.

See Also : USCIRF Report, May 2005

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