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Ahmadis remained the minority group facing the most acute threat in society, while attacks on Hindus too increased. Deep-routed social and economic discrimination remained an immense peroblem for all minority groups.
Rule of Law
Administration of justice
Cases on religious grounds
In all, cases for offences relating to religion were registered against 64 people 30, Muslims, 32 Ahmadis and two Christians.
Cases against Ahmedis
Law and order
Other religiously-motivated killings: Two men facing trial for blasphemy were killed Prof. Mushtaq Ahmad in Lahore and Maulvi Sanaullah in Kasur (both were on bail). A senior advocate, Iqbal Ahmad, who was the district Ahmedi chief of Rajanpur was shot dead. Father George Ibrahim was shot dead in Okara. And a patron of Zikris was gunned down in Karachi.
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
It is the will of the people of Pakistan to establish an order wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality
Constitution of Pakistan
Subject to law, public order and morality (a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.
No one shall be subject to discrimination by any state, institution, group of persons, or person on the grounds of religion or other belief.
UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of
Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief
Articles 1(2) and 2(1)
Religious freedoms continued to come under threat in the country, with non-Muslim citizens facing increased problems in day to day life as a result of expanding discrimination.
Actions taken by the Muttahida-Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government in the NWFP resulted not only in a worsening of the conditions of women and minorities in the province, but also had a ripple effect across the country.
This growth in intolerance, already on the rise over the past many years, led to more cases of harassment and intimidation of non-Muslims, as well as a dramatic resurgence of sectarian violence, directed against Shias.
The Ahmadi community once more faced the main brunt of attack, including the loss of life and property, as well as growing social ostracisation and discrimination, in most case brought about as a result of actions by orthodox militant clerics. Although such clerics continued to incite hatred against Ahmadis, no attempts were made under the countrys laws to prevent them from delivering sermons attacking Ahmadis, most often in towns with large Ahmadi populations.
While the presence of a large number of MNAs linked to the alliance of religious parties, the MMA, in the central legislature, appeared to encourage more extremist views in society, the failure by authorities to take action that could resolve some of the problems of non-Muslims contributed to their difficulties. Ahmadis, for instance, remained on a separate voting list, with no steps taken to resolve this situation.
Freedom of religion
The existence of specific laws against Ahmadis meant that they continued to face legal discrimination, while attacks on the community appeared to accelerate during the year.
The Ahmadi community confronted violence, widespread discrimination, harassment, and in some cases death due to the beliefs it adhered to. Alarmingly, the threat came not only from orthodox forces in society but also from official quarters.
Anti-Ahmadi laws remained in place, while orthodox clerics were able to deliver sermons calling on Muslims to persecute or even kill Ahmadis, without any action taken against them under the law. The impact of such prejudice on the Ahmadi community was immense
One example of this came after the demise of the head of the global Ahmadi community, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, in April in London. Mirza Tahir Ahmad had been forced to leave Pakistan in 1984, as a result of growing victimisation under anti-Ahmadi laws, which left him unable to perform his duties. Despite the pleas by the Ahmadi community that permission be granted to bury their leader in his own country, orthodox clerics, particularly those linked to the Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat (Movement for the Protection of the Finality of Prophethood) threatened that a law and order situation would be created if the body was brought back. Eventually Mirza Tahir Ahmad was buried in London.
Ahmadis also faced discriminatory action by the government itself. On June 27, the Punjab education department dispatched a top priority registered letter to the management of three schools in Faisalabad, run by members of the Ahmadi community. In the letter, the school administrations were advised to declare their institutions as Qadiyani (a widely used alternative name for members of the Ahmadi community) schools, and to state this in their advertisements, on their letterheads and brochures. According to reports from Faisalabad, since June the police, education department officials, military intelligence personnel and police special branch officials had repeatedly visited the schools, all of which enjoyed a good reputation. Staff had been harassed, and as a result of the steps taken, some parents, fearing a possible closure of the schools, had withdrawn their children.
The Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat, which had for years conducted a vicious campaign against Ahmadis, continued its activities during the year. Even the town of Rabwah (renamed Chenabnagar), within which nearly 95 percent of the population was Ahmadi, was not a safe haven for the community. Indeed, anti-Ahmadi organisations often made the town the focal point for their campaigns against the community, and connived with police for the registration of various cases under anti-Ahmadi laws. The offences for which the cases were registered included the display of the kalima (Islamic creed) or were based on claims that a member of the community had committed blasphemy.
The Khatam-e-Nabuwat organisation, at a gathering in the Chamanabad colony of Rawalpindi in July, urged Muslims to enforce a complete social boycott of Ahmadis and distributed pamphlets inciting hatred against the community. Other such gatherings were held in various towns throughout the year, with loudspeakers, pamphlets and posters used to campaign against Ahmadis. No action was taken against those inciting such hatred.
While Ahmadis continued to be barred by from holding religious conferences at Rabwah, the Tehreek-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat was permitted to hold numerous open-air gatherings in the town, including it annual congregation in August at which orthodox clerics from across the country called on the government to take further action against Ahmadis, and imprison those adhering to the faith.
Ahmadi students, and even school children, also continued to face problems. Under the arrangements by the Punjab education department, Ahmadi children from three local schools assembled at a government high school at Rabwah in March to sit the final school examinations. After they had assembled, an unexpected lecture was delivered by examination staff about the finality of the Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), and the school children informed that anyone who differed from these views was an infidel.
More instances of harassment at the workplace were reported. Two Ahmadis, Rafiq Ahmad and Abdul Shakoor, employed at Soofi Textile Mills, Millo Mor, Jhang, reported to Ahmadi organisations in July that they were facing repeated questioning by police, putting their jobs at risk. The police action apparently came after a letter, written to the assistant commissioner, accused the two Ahmadis of preaching their faith and inviting colleagues to watch MTA (Muslim Television Ahmadiyya).
In another incident reported from Pasrur, Awais Ayub Butt, an Ahmadi who had been appointed lecturer at a the Government Degree College in the town, was dismissed in September, with no solid reasons given for his dismissal. He believed he had faced such action only because of his faith, and filed an appeal before the LHC. The court, a few months later, gave a decision in his favor and Butt was accordingly appointed once more to the college. However, when he reported to join, the college principal did not allow him to do so. Sermons against Ayub were meanwhile delivered from mosques in the area. A day later, the college principal handed the lecturer a letter stating that in view of the clerics opposition and the sentiments of college staff against Qadianis, he should seek appointment elsewhere. The letter bore the signature and official seal of the college principal.
Daud Shakir, the Ahmadi headmaster of a government primary school in Nankana Sahib, complained in June that he had faced harassment and threats, warning him he would be punished because of his beliefs, after he turned down the demand made by a union council nazim that he issue a bogus letter. Other similar complaints by Ahmadis came in from across the country, with some reporting they had been declined jobs at banks, private firms and businesses, solely on the basis of their faith.
Attacks on places of worship
In May, at Bhakkar, four persons jumped over the wall of the Ahmadi place of worship in the town at around 2.00am, beat up the caretaker and locked him in a room. The attackers then took away the television set and a receiver kept in the building. The town had also seen harassment of Ahmadis in the past.
Some 18 years ago, a place of worship was built by Rana Wali Mohammad, an Ahmadi, on his own land and at his own expense, at Ahmadnagar, a village near Rabwah. Ahmadis had been using the building for worship for nearly two decades. But after a campaign by a cleric linked to the Tehreek-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwat, Ghulam Mustafa, who alleged that the building was being used to propagate the Ahmadi faith, it was sealed in October on the orders of the home secretary.
Ahmadis in Rabwah (Chenabnagar), Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Hyderabad and other towns also received threats that their places of worship would be attacked.
Acts of violence
Ahmadis continued to face violence of various kinds, including beatings, verbal assault and even murder. Alarmingly, the number of such cases during the year was higher than in 2002, with the trend of accelerating anti-Ahmadi violence seen over the decade continuing.
Some of the cases reported during the year were as follows:
In July, Brigadier Iftikhar Ahmad, aged 65, was shot dead by three assailants in broad daylight at his home in Rawalpindi. Brigadier Iftikhar lived near the well-guarded Army Officers Colony, opposite the official residence of the President of Pakistan. At about 13:45pm on July 17, while he was having lunch, three armed intruders forced their way inside the house, opened fire on him and hit him in the chest. A brief scuffle took place as the victims brother-inlaw attempted to apprehend them, but all the assailants were able to escape. Brigadier Iftikhar was rushed to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) where he died after surgery. The attack on an army officer sent out clear signals to the Ahmadi community that none of them were safe. While police maintained the murder was part of a robbery attempt, even though no item was taken away from the house, Ahmadi groups held that the broad daylight shooting and the methods used, indicated this was another targetted killing of an Ahmadi.
In August, two men attempted to murder an Ahmadi, Munawar Ahmad Khan, at his home in Chak 82 D, district Sahiwal. Munawar was a former official of the district organisation of Ahmadi elders. The two assailants arrived at his house early in the morning, when the victim got up for prayers. As soon as he answered the doorbell, they opened fire on him, after confirming his identity. The victim was rushed to the district hospital by his family in a critical state, and then taken to a private hospital in Lahore. He survived the attack, but spent several weeks in hospital.
Extremist organisations in the NWFP, including the little-known Dawat Tehrir, Hizbullah and the Jaish-e-Muhammad distributed threatening letters to Ahmadis in May, making specific demands and warning of grim consequences if these were not met. For example, a letter sent to Saleem Ahmad in Peshawar stated the family must either declare Ahmadi beliefs false, or pay jizya tax (an Islamic tax payable by non-Muslims) or hand over their son for service to Islam by having him volunteer for a suicide bomb attack.
Shafqat Raza, an office-bearer for the local Ahmadi organisation in village Alipur Chatta, district Gujaranwala was in July, intercepted by four members of an extremist group on two motorcycles. They took him to an isolated spot, beat him and detained him for over four hours. They also threatened him with murder and before releasing him told him that he should not be seen again at the Ahmadi centre in the village.
In another incident in October reported from Shahpur Sadr in the Punjab, an Ahmadi, Hamid, who had gone from Rabwah to Shahpur Sadr to visit relatives, allegedly started discussing his faith with a non-Ahmadi, Muhammad Aslam. Muhammad Aslam became very angry and beat Hamid up with shoes, while others in the area blackened his face, made him ride a donkey and forced him out of the town.
Blasphemy laws and their impact
The expanding evidence of the misuse of blasphemy laws, often to settle minor dispute, brought continued protests from groups campaigning for the laws to be repealed.
While non-Muslims remained especially vulnerable to being targetted under the laws, more and more Muslims were also accused under sections 295-B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), dealing with blasphemy. The climate of intolerance, and the increasing number of cases in which charges brought on the basis of economic or social motives had resulted in people being jailed, setting a precedent that more and more persons chose to follow, was largely responsible for the increase in the filing of blasphemy cases.
In December, Christians in Paracha Colony in Lahores Shahdara area alleged that a recent convert from within the community, Naseer Masih, who had changed his name to Naseer Ahmed, was using the blasphemy law to settle old scores. As a result of accusations he had made, a Christian labourer, Anwar Masih, had been charged with blasphemy and detained at the Camp Jail.
Fears, particularly within the lower judiciary, of retaliation by orthodox forces in cases where a person accused of blasphemy was acquitted, meant judges almost invariably chose to safeguard their lives by convicting persons produced before them, Even in cases where the accused were later acquitted by higher courts, they spent prolonged periods in jails, and faced a threat to life even after their release.
The rising risk of death faced by persons accused of blasphemy, before courts could deliver any final verdict as to their guilt or innocence, was illustrated by two cases in Lahore. Naseem Bibi, 45, was battered to death at Lahores Kot Lakhpat Jail in the middle of the year. In February, Professor Mushtaq Zafar, on bail granted by the Lahore High Court in a blasphemy case he faced, was gunned down less than a kilometre from the court as he was leaving after a hearing. Another victim facing trial was murdered in Kasur.
No official moves to amend or repeal the laws were made during the year.
A growing number of Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs were during the year reported to have converted to Islam, with clerics often publicly claiming credit for such conversions. The trend of collective conversions at the hands of clerics before public gatherings also appeared to be on the increase.
According to organisations monitoring the rights of minority communities, many conversions took place under immense social pressure, while in other cases, these were merely cosmetic, and aimed at warding off harassment by clerics or to acquire employment, in some cases made available only to Muslims.
In March, more than 30 Hindus of Rajpur Tharo Mandi village including, 13 women, embraced Islam at the hands of Shakargarhs religious scholar Sahibzada Ghulam Mohiuddin.
On November, 17 Qadiani families comprising over 160 individual men, women, and children converted to Islam at Mohallah Qazian, village Shaikh Muhammadi on the outskirts of Peshawar.
Many other similar conversions continued to be reported throughout the year.
Religious codes: The efforts launched in some parts of the country to enforce what is described as shariah are causing increasing anxiety. This drift will extend the area of abuse of belief, undermine the message of Islam, and cause further distortions in official policies and conduct to the disadvantage of the people, especially the under-privileged.
Religious extremism: The renewed efforts to pass the Hisba Act and the enforcement of segregation and a dress code on women is having a hugely negative impact on the rights of women and minorities in the NWFP. The enforcement of Taliban-like restrictions is also having an adverse impact on the provision of healthcare for women, with male technicians and doctors prevented from attending to them. There is alarming evidence of the expansion of such extremism in other provinces as well, including university campuses in the Punjab.
Blasphemy law victimsFebruary 7: The gunning down of yet another person accused under blasphemy laws before courts could deliver a verdict in the case highlights the increased risk victims of this law face.
Mushtaq Zafar, on bail granted by the Lahore High Court, became the second blasphemy accused within the year to be murdered in cold blood.
The heightened threat to those charged under the flawed law once more underscores the increasingly urgent need to review the statute and take measures to prevent its widening misuse to settle petty scores and minor disputes.