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Minority communities also continued to face official discrimination in the form of the system of separate electorates through 2001, with the joint electorate eventually restored early in 2002. Members of minority communities boycotted the first stage of polls for local bodies that continued in several phases throughout the year in protest against the failure to restore joint electorate. The gunning of 18 Christians at Bahawalpur and the destruction of an Ahmadi place of worship at Syedwala during the year meanwhile highlighted the increased perils minority communities faced in the wake of rising intolerance and the official reluctance to act against those guilty of promoting it.
Administration of justice
Offences against religion
Eleven members of the Ahmadiya community were awarded imprisonment in seven cases for various terms under other provisions relating to offences against religion.
Out of the 11 Ahmadis convicted in seven cases during the year, two Nazir Ahmad and Allah Rakhio were awarded 118 years imprisonment by an ATC in Hyderabad. The case started in 1998 and the charges included demolition of a mosque and desecration of the holy Quran. Four persons, belonging to Sargodha and tried by an ATC in a case that began in 1995, were sentenced to five years in prison. Four others Laeeq Ahmed (Sargodha, Punjab), Inam Gondal (Kotri, Sindh), Abdul Quddus (Kotri), and Ejaz Ahmed were sentenced to two years in prison, and Ejaz Husain (Khushab, Punjab) to one years imprisonment.
I. Under section 295-C
II. Other offences against religion
Fifty-five people, including three women, were booked for offences against religion (other than under sec 295-C) in 37 cases. The particulars available were:
Freedom of thought,
Cases of intolerance
Various incidents during the year continued to draw attention to the rising levels of intolerance. Even the freedom to express opinions was repeatedly curbed within an increasingly closed society, while key issues, such as the separation of state and religion, were kept entirely out of most debate. Authorities in most cases failed to act against those perpetrating violence or intimidating minority or non-conformist groups.
Early in February, students of the Engineering University, Lahore, staged protests over several days to demand the dismissal from employment of Sharif, who ran a photocopying centre on campus. They maintained Sharif was an Ahmadi and during a telephonic conversation with a friend had made remarks that were blasphemous. These comments had been overheard by students. The protesters, joined by activists of orthodox groups, also demanded that a separate dining area be created for Ahmadi students. The university administration announced on February 3 that Sharif had been asked to leave the campus and a case had been registered. Ahmadi students at the University continued to complain of severe harassment, mainly by the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT). This was only one of numerous cases of discrimination against Ahmadis. [See section on Ahmadis].
An Ahmadi, writing to a daily newspaper from Rabwah (now Chenabnagar) in April, stated that an orthodox clergyman based at Tando Allahyar had made it a habit to repeatedly lodge complaints against a daily newspaper brought out by the Ahmadi community. This publication stated clearly on its front pages that it was intended for the guidance of Ahmadis only. The police at Tando Allahyar each time lodged an FIR on the clergymans complaint while the sessions judge issued summons to the editors and staff of the newspaper, based hundreds of miles away in the Punjab, to travel to appear before him. The writer of the letter saw this as a deliberate act of harassment.
At a sermon delivered by visiting clergymen in Dulmial village, district Chakwal, on April 20 local worshippers were asked to observe a complete 167 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion social boycott of Ahmadis. This included not buying anything from their shops, not exchanging greetings and avoiding attending their weddings or funerals.
At an emergency session, the Khatm-e-Nabuwat conference, at Kasur in September demanded that Ahmadis be removed from all posts in government by October 15, or else a campaign to attain this would be begun. A Khatm-e-Nabuwat Conference was also held at Lahore in September, during which speakers launched virulent attacks against Ahmadis and their beliefs. During a meeting of the All Parties Pasban-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwaat Conference, held at a hotel in Lahore, during the same month, a demand was made that the government dismiss all Ahmadis working with intelligence agencies and in the armed forces, and place a ban on such employment.
Laws that specifically denied Ahmadis the freedom to practise or propagate their religion also remained in place. [See also section on Ahmadis].
Battle over blasphemy
Despite the often adverse circumstances they faced, minority groups and other activists within society continued to battle for an end to the misuse of blasphemy laws. Extremist groups meanwhile warned against any attempt to amend these laws.
In Karachi, on January 11, a protest against blasphemy laws was violently broken up by police. Batons and tear-gas were used against the protesters which included many members of minority groups as well as others opposed to the laws. A spokesman for the All Faiths Spiritual Movement, which had organised the protest, stressed that they were campaigning against the misuse of laws and not calling for them to be scrapped or even amended. Condemnation of the police action against the demonstrators came from human rights organisations, other groups and also the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). A week later, 300 women calling for steps to avoid the misuse of blasphemy laws and the release of 15 protesters detained during the previous protest, staged a sit-down in Karachi.
Numerous organisations representing different faiths, at various stages during the year, continued to demand a repeal of the blasphemy law and pointed out it was increasingly being used against minorities. Campaigners based both inside the country and overseas also demanded a scrapping of the blasphemy laws and the release of teacher and medical practitioner Dr Yunus Shaikh, arrested during the year on blasphemy charges and sentenced to death by a trial court in Rawalpindi. Dr Shaikh was accused of making comments derogatory to the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) while teaching a class at a private college.
While such initiatives continued from various groups, orthodox forces such as the Khatm-e-Nabuwat conference warned against any amendment in the law. At its annual meeting in Chiniot in September, the group said a protest drive would begin if the law was repealed or even altered.
Freedom of religion
The violence directed against specific communities continued, with the Ahmadis facing a distinctly worsening situation. Their places of worship came under repeated attacks, while the threat to individual Ahmadis was also on the increase.
The failure of the administration to penalise those responsible for carrying out acts of violence appeared to aggravate the situation, with attacks in many cases being instigated by orthodox clerics who succeeded frequently in creating new rifts within peaceful communities.
Pressures on members of all minority communities to convert to Islam also appeared to be on the rise. Some clerics seemed to take pride in the number of conversions they had presided over, with news items stating their names and their claim to have converted a particular individual or a group appearing regularly in the press.
Members of minority communities also complained of discrimination in seeking jobs and in other aspects of life. It was also pointed out that this often gave rise to a cycle of poverty and deprivation, with minority groups often unable to gain even marginal upward mobility in society, and their suffering increasing as a result of this well-established pattern.
The Ahmadi community across the country faced increased violence, intimidation and attacks on places of worship throughout the year. In many cases, orthodox clerics, particularly those associated with the Tehrik-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat instigated the violence.
One of the gravest incidents came in Syedwala, district Sheikhupura, in August where the Ahmadi place of worship was attacked and gravely damaged. [See section on attacks on places of worship].
Disturbingly, the harassment and discrimination against Ahmadis at times appeared to have official backing. Early in the year, an auction of state land at Rabwah (now called Chenabnagar) was carried out by the Punjab Housing and Physical Planning Department. Ahmadis were barred from taking part in the auction, despite the fact that many had lived in the area since 1947. This was made public through advertisments in newspapers, marking a change from the past when Ahmadi buyers were required to state their religion while applying for plots, but were not barred from making purchases.
In May, Manzoor Ahmed Chinioti, who had during recent years carried out an organised campaign against Ahmadis, moved a petition before the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking the termination of the grant of Rabwah (now Chenabnagar) land in favour of the Anjumn-e-Ahmadiya president. The grant of the 1,033 acres and seven kanals of land had been made in 1948 by the then Punjab Governor. The counsel for Manzoor Chinioti, Ismael Qureishi, argued that the grant required allotees to abide by specific terms and that by posing as Muslims the Ahmadis had violated this agreement.
During local body elections, scores of Ahmadis were included on the list of Muslim voters in district Chakwal due to an administrative error. Local clerics and those opposing the participation of Ahmadis in the polls as Muslims demanded action against them for proclaiming themselves to be Muslim. A judge however declared the Ahmadis innocent and ordered their names struck off the Muslim voters list. The Ahmadis declined the offer to be included in the non-Muslim voters list, a position they have maintained ever since separate electorates were revived in 1985.
Ahmadis also complained of members of the community being dismissed from government service on the basis of their faith. Their leaders stated in March that Taufiq Ahmed Khawar, a corporal technician in the Pakistan Air Force, was dismissed under discretionary powers available to the Chief of Air Staff after he refused to give up his faith. Other accounts detailed the difficulties experienced by Ahmadis across the country in acquiring employment.
The re-opening of graves where Ahmadis were buried also continued, with several such incidents reported. In July, the body of Abdullah, buried at his village in district Sargodha at the Muslim graveyard by his family who were non-Ahmadi, was disinterred after local clerics insisted it be buried at the Ahmadi graveyard.
Across the country, the intimidation of Ahmadis using various tactics was common. The distribution of anti-Ahmadi leaflets, sermons from mosques and the issuing of religious edicts (fatwas) against Ahmadis remained a part of such campaigns.
In January, in Badin, Ahmadis of Tando Ghulam Ali were sent notes warning them they would face death if they did not convert to Islam within three days. In March, Ahmadis at Chak 23 DNB in district Bahawalpur received a warning to move out of the village or face action. A few days later, in Goth Mehr Boota, Mirpur Khas, a leaflet urged Muslims to cleanse their village of Ahmadis. No administrative action was taken. The Ahmadiyya Community, Rehmanpura, Lahore in October received an abusive and highly threatening letter from an organisation calling itself the Anti-Qadiani Movement, based at Allama Iqbal Town, Lahore.
A leaflet targetting a school in Faislabad whose proprietor was an Ahmadi was distributed in April by a group affiliated to the Tehrik-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat. It urged Muslims to avoid any contact with Ahmadis or they would suffer on the Day of Judgement. In district Badin, at Tando Ghulam Ali, Ahmadi children were in October reported to be facing discrimination at a local school. They were not permitted to drink water from the common source or attend Islamiat classes. In November, the President of the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatame Nabuwat, at Sheikhupra, distributed a leaflet giving guidelines on the observance of Ramazan. He advised the boycott of a popular brand of soft drinks manufactured by a firm that he claimed was owned by Ahmadis.
Another method to persecute Ahmadis was to threaten them with the filing of cases against them under Ahmadi-specific laws. The registration of a case almost invariably resulted in arrest, with bail often proving difficult to obtain. As such, even petty disputes frequently led to such threats to Ahmadis.
On January 14, police refused to allow Ahmadis in Hyderabad to stage a religious gathering. Such incidents were reported through the year from various locations.
Ahmadis at Takht Hazara, district Sargodha, where five Ahmadis had been killed last year by a mob, continued to face harassment by authorities. Ahmadi groups also maintained that the verdict delivered in the case by an anti-terrorist court of Sargodha on October 31 was questionable. While six non-Ahmadis, involved in the attack on the place of worship, were awarded life-terms and a fine, four Ahmadis were also sentenced to a five-year prison sentence for taking part in the riot. Those believed to have instigated the riot escaped without punishment.
In August, the HRCP wrote to the Inspector General of Police, Punjab, requesting steps to ensure the safety of Malik Qasim Naeem, an Ahmadi based in Lahore, who had complained of harassment, threats and attempts to take over his property. His efforts to lodge a complaint with the local police station had failed.
Registration of cases against Ahmadis, intimidation and harassment were also common, while at least eight Ahmadis were killed during the year on the basis of their belief. Others faced a threat of violence, while places of worship also came under repeated attack.
Attacks on places of worship
In the gravest incident to take place during the year, Ahmadis gathered at their local place of worship at Syedwala in District Sheikhupura on August 26 were attacked and extensive damage caused to the building.
The Ahmadis were watching a religious telecast when they were warned by police that a mob led by orthodox elements was approaching the place of worship. Police made no attempt to prevent the mob from reaching the spot. Tension in the area had been high for several days, and requests had been made by Ahmadis for protection. These were ignored by the district administration.
The mob attacked the place of worship and destroyed property, including religious literature. Items such as ceiling fans were looted. The mob then encircled two homes where the Ahmadis had taken shelter, with police again failing to intervene. Some members of the Muslim community persuaded the mob not to attack the Ahmadis, warding off possible further violence and even death.
The superintendent of police eventually ordered that all the 28 Ahmadi men be taken into custody and kept at the local police station. Attempts following the intervention of army authorities to reach a settlement with clerics failed after they declined to come to the police station for several days after the incident. No action under relevant laws was initiated against them or other members of the mob.
The Ahmadis, who the police claimed were being given protection were kept detained at the police station, in effect being punished for violence initiated against them. Many families fled the area, and according to last reports, in October, a number had still been unable to return to their homes. Ahmadis were also prevented by police from rebuilding the damaged place of worship, according to reports from local leaders.
In February, following a campaign by local members of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), police at Chobara in district Layyah ordered Ahmadis to demolish the niche at a place of worship, because they claimed it was visible to the public despite a high wall built around it. A few days later, according to Ahmadi leaders, policemen joined local clerics in demolishing the niche and arrested Ahmadis who attempted to resist the action.
On May 12, in Chawinda, district Sialkot, on the orders of the assistant commissioner, a contingent of police demolished a niche at an Ahmadi place of worship, despite the fact that this was not illegal. The niche had been constructed by the Ahmadi owner of a rice mill in the area. The administrative action followed complaints from local orthodox clerics, including those linked to the SSP.
Acts of violence
On the night of May 9, Abdur Rahim and his wife were murdered at their home in Sahiwal. The elderly couple had been tortured before being killed. The Ahmadi community feared the murder was carried out on the basis of religion.
On July 28, Sheikh Nazir Ahmed, an Ahmadi living at Madina Town, Faislabad, was shot dead at his home. Sheikh Nazir was in his 70s and was a leader of the local Ahmadi community. His family believed a local nazim of the area, who had been attempting to grab land owned by Ahmadis, was behind the murder. Police claimed the victim had been attempting to convert Behram Khan, the man held for the shooting, who had killed him in anger.
At Saddowala, in district Narowal, a local Ahmadi, Noor Ahmed, and his son, Tahir Ahmed, were killed when five assailants shot them dead while they were asleep. Another son, Javed Ahmed was injured in the attack.
An Ahmadi father and son, Ejaz Ahmed Basra, and Shahjehan, 16, were gunned down on October 19 near Ghatialian. It was thought by Ahmadi groups that the killing was carried out because Ejaz Basra was actively following the trial of terrorists accused in the murder of five Ahmadis at Ghatialian Mosque last year, and participating in efforts to provide evidence against them.
Naeem Ahmed, 20, an Ahmadi living at Goleki village in district Gujrat was killed while asleep in the first week of October. Local Ahmadi leaders believed he had been targetted because of his religion.
The threat of violence also lingered over many Ahmadis. In district Toba Tek Singh, on March 20, the SHO of the local police station sent for Muhammad Sharif, an Ahmadi of Chak 281 G.B. and formally informed him that he faced the probability of murder by an extremist organisation. A man held for robbery had reportedly stated that the Sipah-e-Sahaba, to which he belonged, intended to kill Sharif, a well-known Ahmadi of the area. Sharif was asked to take appropriate security measures. He was not offered any protection by police.
The Ahmadi community reported in July that Saeed Qureishi, a new convert to the Ahmadi faith, had been severely beaten up by clerics in Shikarpur, Sindh. He was set free by them only after he agreed to report twice a week to the local office of the SSP. Pressure was also exerted to extract the names of those who had assisted him in his study of the Ahmadi faith prior to his conversion.
Cases against Ahmadis
Under Sections 295-A and B
Abdul Qadoos was sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine by the additional sessions judge Kotri in March. He had been accused in 1992 of defiling the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Ejaz Ahmed Khan, aged 73, was sentenced to two years in jail by the same judge a few days later. He had been accused, along with other Ahmadis, of abusing the Islamic religion.
A case was registered against four Ahmadis of Chak 93 TDA in district Layyah on April 24 for having a minaret and niche at their local place of worship and for keeping a copy of the Holy Quran at it. 295-B was also applied.
Under Section 295-C
On March 17, four Ahmadis of Tando Adam, district Sanghar, were accused by a local leader of the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwat of making certain references to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in a publication, the monthly Ansarullah. The Ahmadis were also charged under sections 295-B and 298-C.
Under Sections 298-B and C
On March 14, the additional sessions judge, Kotri, awarded two years imprisonment to Inamullah Gondal. He had been accused in 1991 of inscribing verses from the Holy Quran at his house.
On May 28, Asad Zahur, an Ahmadi of Ladhar, district Sialkot, was denied bail by the additional sessions judge, Sialkot. He had been held under sections 298-B and C for using a title reserved for holy personages in a letter written to the Supreme Head of the Ahmadi community.
Ejaz Hussain was sentenced to one years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 by the Khushab area magistrate on July 27 under section 298-C. He was accused of stating his religion to be Islam at the time of the registration of his childs birth in September, 1995.
On August 4, Abdul Aziz was arrested in Silanwali, district Sargodha, on charges of preaching his views. The magistrate refused to grant bail.
On November 24, Laiq Ahmed, a shopkeeper from Sargodha was sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 20,000 by an ant-terrorist court. He was accused of having the kalima written at his shop.
Education at madrassahs
The results of a survey of children at around 1,085 schools in urban Sindh, including 131 madrassahs, carried out over 1999 and 2000 were published in June. Pupils at the matriculation level were asked to fill out a questionnaire. The results indicated that militant religiosity and ethnicity were both on the rise, with madrassah going pupils showing an alarming opposition to granting equal rights to minorities or women. Children at all other schools favoured rights to these groups. Overwhelming opposition to rights for Ahmadis was also witnessed among madrassah pupils. In sharp contrast to their counterparts at Sindhi, Urdu and English medium schools, madrassah-goers also opposed a free press or democracy. The results drawn from the survey by the social analyst behind it led to the conclusion that not only was a dangerous division based on class opening up in the country but that religious militancy could assume a truly threatening dimension in the future. Some of the girls able to attend school in the country.
Violence against minorities and growth of intolerance:
The burning down of parts of an Ahmadi place of worship at Syedwala, near Sheikhupura, is one of the worst episodes of violence against minority groups in recent months.
In a now familiar pattern, the incident is said to have been instigated by local leaders of the Khatm-e-Nabuwat Movement and the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), who took exception to the collection of a few Ahmadi families to watch a TV transmission.
Unless firm administrative action is urgently taken, the situation could deteriorate further. Those guilty of attacks against Ahmadis must be punished under the relevant laws. A failure to carry out steps necessary to achieve this will result only in more peaceful communities being torn apart by disturbing violence and further damage to the already fragile religious harmony within the country.
The use of apparently excessive force against a small group of people protesting against the blasphemy laws in Karachi (Where 17 arrests were made) and Lahore is bound to increase the sense of fear among those attempting to raise a voice against orthodox forces and discrimination. The authorities must also recognise that the use of force will do nothing to dispel the existing injustice repeatedly meted out under this law. Indeed, the difficulties of those victimised under the law will continue to increase until steps are taken to remove all laws that discriminate against citizens of the country or can be used to victimise them in any way.
The news that a young man accused under the countrys blasphemy laws has committed suicide at Adiala Jail is disturbing.
This is especially true given that the circumstances of the suicide remain somewhat suspicious. The unfortunate death also draws attention to the brutality so many prisoners face in jails, the lack of care available to those inflicted with mental illness and the plight of the growing number in the country accused of blasphemy. Action needs to be taken without further delay to alleviate the suffering of such persons and guard against the increasing misuse of the blasphemy law in order to avoid further tragedy and ensure justice for all persons in the country.