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Despite the claimed restoration of joint electorate in 2002, minorities found themselves placed on separate voting lists. The restoration of oath as to religious belief early in the year, as per the demand of extremist forces, effectively defranchised Ahmadis. Ahmadis also continued to face campaigns of hatred, incited by anti-Ahmadi clerics, with no official attempt made to prevent such intimidation. Indeed, in many cases, actions taken by authorities acted to discriminate against minority groups, and to place their rights under increased jeopardy. Reports of forced conversions and abduction of non-Muslim citizens increased.
NOTE: This year.s Annual Report is being released earlier than usual and covers the period from January 2004 to October 31, 2004. As per a revision of schedule, the report for 2005 will also be released before the end of the year.
Rule of Law
Laws and law-making
Bills adopted by the National Assembly / Senate
xi. The Act adds Section 156 A to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to the effect that the investigation of a case registered under Section 295 C of PPC (the principal blasphemy clause) will be done by an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police.
System of electorate
Early in the year the Election Commission announced measures that ran counter to the scheme of election on the basis joint electorate that was put into practice in 2002. An announcement by the Commission said all Muslim candidates in the forthcoming by-elections of local bodies would be required to sign a declaration affirming their belief in the finality of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The same condition was to apply to Muslims who wished to be registered as voters. The Commission also directed Assistant Election Commissioners and District Registration Officers to maintain separate lists of Muslim and non-Muslim voters.
Administration of justice
Cases on religious grounds
One of the most distressing incidents of religious intolerance ever was reported in May 2004. Samuel Masih was arrested in Lahore under sec 295 of the PPC on the basis of a complaint that he had insulted the Islamic religion. As he was suffering from tuberculosis he was taken out of the Kot Lakhpat Jail for transfer to a hospital for TB patients. He was attacked at the hospital by a police constable, who was a member of the escort party, and died three days later. The incident once again underlined the extremely vulnerable situation of anyone accused, rightly or wrongly, of blasphemy.
Sentenced: One Ahmedi, Mohammad Iqbal, was sentenced under sec 295-C. He was arrested in Samundari (Faisalabad district) in March and accused of defiling the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Early in November he was awarded life imprisonment by the trial court.
New cases: Six other cases, all under sec 298-C, were instituted against about a score of Ahmedis during the period under review.
Three cases were registered in Punjab while the other three were instituted in Sindh. Three persons, Khurshid Ahmed, Shakil Ahmed and Jamil Ahmed, were accused of preaching their faith.
One of the other cases was registered at Tando Adam (Sanghar district in Sindh). Zulfiqar Ali was arrested in March under sec 298-C and 420 of the PPC and sec 10 of the Zina Ordinance. The complainant alleged that Zulfiqar had married his daughter, a Muslim, through deception and was trying to convert her to the Ahmediyya creed.
A case was registered in January against Amir Ahmed at Kunri in Mirpurkhas district of Sindh. The accused, a teacher, claimed that while he was on leave somebody had placed some Ahmedi literature in his school office. He was granted bail by the Sindh High Court.
Finally, another case registered at Kunri was based on the allegation that the accused had used Islamic expressions on invitation cards (wedding).
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)
While minority communities continued to confront social and economic victimisation, the discrimination inflicted by State acted as the biggest threat to their welfare and safety.
Even the joint electorate, announced in 2002, was not maintained, with Ahmadis once more deprived of the right to vote and names of other non-Muslims maintained on separate lists.
Ahmadis were denied equal opportunities in education and employment, and also confronted ostracisation, violence, threats and extreme discrimination in many spheres of everyday life. The religious freedoms of the group were severely restricted under specific laws, with extremist clerics attempting to incite violence against them.
Minorities in the NWFP meanwhile continued to complain of growing discrimination. It was also evident that while State-enforced discrimination existed, there could be little hope of an improvement in the social conditions of minority groups, who had faced increased marginalisation in society over the past 25 years.
Discrimination by State
Whereas ahead of the 2002 general elections the separate electorates for Muslims and non-Muslims were ended, for most practical purposes the distinction remained in place. Early in the year, it was announced by Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (retd) Irshad Hassan Khan, that Muslims who had applied for registration as voters in the annual revision of voters’ lists would have to submit a declaration about their religious belief and declare absolute faith in the finality of the prophethood. It was further ordered this declaration would be restored in nomination forms for local government by-elections, as well as in voter registration forms. The status of Ahmadis would, therefore, remain unchanged, as they had remained on a separate voters’ list even while the joint electorate had been in force. Ahmadis, as such, remained effectively disenfranchised, with the community declining to take an oath that went against their belief.
Other non-Muslim groups were also placed on separate lists. The restoration of the oath on religious belief was carried out by the government in February on the demand of religious parties, with the Election Commission stating it was acting as per the official announcement in restoring the requirement of a declaration as to belief for voters.
In local bodies by-elections in the Punjab during the year, 90 percent of minority seats remained vacant due to non-filing of nomination papers. Minority representatives cited the reintroduction of the separate electorate system and a denial of funds to candidates as reasons for the loss of interest by non-Muslim communities in the process.
The Election Commission announced in September that Local Government polls, scheduled for 2005, would be held on the basis of separate voting lists for Muslims and non-Muslims, prepared in 2000-01, under section 157 of the Local Government Ordinance. The EC held the joint voters’ lists, prepared in 2002, were intended for parliamentary elections. It cited lack of time as the reason for its inability to prepare a joint list for Local Government polls in 2005, and hoped this duality would end after the polls, with a single list for all elections. Minority leaders criticised the decision and held the system was confusing for voters.
Blasphemy laws continued to promote intolerance and bigotry against religious minorities. More than 100 persons remained detained for blasphemy offences, with the laws increasingly widely misused against Muslims as a means to settle scores. A minor amendment in the administration of blasphemy laws, requiring investigation by a more senior police officer, was introduced as part of the bill against honour killings, passed by parliament in October. Minority rights groups, and HRCP, criticised the failure to scrap the blasphemy law or to address the many fundamental flaws in it.
President Pervez Musharraf had announced in mid-May that the Hudood and blasphemy laws would be reviewed, and in July a draft ‘Criminal Law (Amendment) Act’ was tabled in the National Assembly before being passed on to the Council of Islamic Ideology. The Council stated that amendments were possible as the laws were man-made and not Shariah law. These comments were strongly condemned by religious parties, particularly the MMA.
In the NWFP, the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) demanded the federal government stop the provincial government from enacting the proposed Hisba Act as it amounted to creation of parallel judicial system and a state within state. APMA maintained that adoption of the bill was violative of the fundamental rights of all religions and tantamount to the Talibanisation of the country. Opposition parties also rejected the proposed bill, stating it was a dictatorial law that would curb civil liberties. The MMA, through the year, continued to take steps to enforce the law. There were reports that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) had opposed the law, but this stance was not made public.
…… Ahmadis were prevented from enlisting in the armed services, while widespread discrimination against minority groups continued in employment in both public sector, semiautonomous and private organisations.
Freedom of religion
The United States, in its annual report on international religious freedoms, released by the State Department in September, once more found Pakistan among the top flouters of religious freedoms, and declared it a country of ‘particular concern’ . The report stated Pakistan imposed limits on religious freedoms and had failed to protect the rights of minorities, as its constitution required laws be consistent with Islam. At a conference to promote inter-religious harmony, organised in Islamabad soon after the report was released, President Pervez Musharraf denied the religious freedoms of minorities were restricted.
Ahmadis continued to face some of the worst victimisation under specific laws that barred them from posing as Muslims, calling their places of worship mosques, worshipping in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer rooms, publicly quoting from the Quran, or displaying other basic affirmations of the Muslim faith they professed. Further, it remained illegal for Ahmadis to preach in public, seek converts or publish and disseminate their religious material. The presence of these laws, and the restoration of the oath for Muslim voters, meant that discrimination against Ahmadis was in fact carried out by State.
In February, it was reported that public sector Sui Southern Gas Company Limited wanted prospective share buyers to declare themselves as a ‘Muslim’ or ‘Non-Muslim’ on forms distributed by it. Ahmadis saw the column demanding religion be declared as being directed against them.
The intolerance of religious political parties towards the Ahmadi community was evidenced throughout the year. In June, religious parties called for the ban of a Seraiki translation of the Holy Quran by Ahmadis, and demanded that a case be registered against the author, translator, printer and publisher under sections 295 B and 298 C of the blasphemy laws. The Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP), Jamiati-Islami (JI) and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islami-Fazl (JUI-F) lobbied for the registration of a case on the basis that the Ahmadis had changed the meaning of a number of verses. On July 6, the NWFP government vowed to take legal action against any un-Islamic and unconstitutional practices, including so-called interference by the Ahmadi group in Islam and its interpretation. It also ordered the confiscation of all copes of translations of verses from the Holy Quran being circulated by Ahmadis and vowed strict action against those found involved in this.
Ahmadis continued to be attacked by MNAs linked to the alliance of religious parties, the MMA, and orthodox militant clerics who propagated extremist views. In the National Assembly, JI MNA Farid Piracha submitted two resolutions for discussion in May. According to newspaper reports, on June 8, 2004 Maulana Manzoor Ahmed Chinioti, General Secretary of the Khatm-e -Nabuwwat Movement (Movement for the Finality of Prophethood), claimed responsibility for the resolutions, which further threatened the already severely impeded religious freedom of the Ahmadi community. The resolutions entailed the take over of management of Ahmadi charity endowments and properties on the stated basis that Ahmadis spent these funds on publicity against Islam and Muslims and on the promotion of their own ‘ false’ convictions. Further, the resolutions demanded that religion should be included on national identity cards or that the colour of the cards should be different on the basis of religious identity. These resolutions were forwarded to the Minister of Interior and Minister of Religious Affairs for comments. The resolutions had been signed by 26 MNAs, 21 from the MMA and the rest from the PML-N.
Maulana Manzoor Ahmed Chinioti passed away at the end of June. The Khatme-Nabuwwat movement continued its anti-Ahmadi activities.
While Ahmadis remained barred from holding their traditional annual religious conference in Rabwah (renamed Chenabnagar by the Punjab government), the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat organisation was permitted to assemble in the town, where nearly 95 percent of the population was Ahmadi. On May 4, the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat movement held a conference in the town at which provocative speeches against Ahmadis where delivered to an audience brought in from other areas. As in previous years, existing laws were not used to prevent the dissemination of hatred.
Provocative sermons against the Ahmadi community were also reported during August in Rabwah and in Lahore.
The Urdu press reported that, in June, clerical leaders of the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Movement expressed joy and satisfaction at having the body of an Ahmadi disinterred, as they objected to an Ahmadi being buried in a common graveyard. Naseer Ahmad, an Ahmadi public servant, had been buried in the graveyard at the end of June. The Khatm-e-Nabuwwat objected to the burial. Initially, the authorities decided that as Ahmadis had no separate graveyard, the body was not to be moved. However, amid continuing protests, days later the authorities ordered the removal of the body. Naseer Ahmed was reburied on land belonging to a relative.
In September, a police post at Rabwah was handed back to the police on the orders of the provincial chief minister, after protests by anti-Ahmadi clerics. The police post, built on land loaned from the Ahmadis community nearly 25 years ago, had been shifted to a new site after Ahmadis sought the return of the land for community activities. Soon after this shifting, by mutual consent, in August a row erupted with clerics linked to the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Movement accusing Ahmadis of damaging a small mosque built within the police post. Ahmadis leaders stated that, though the mosque had been built on Ahmadi-owned land, without permission, it had been left intact due to respect for religious sensibilities. The issue showed how even minor issues could be used to whip up anti-Ahmadi feeling, as well as the extent of discrimination shown by authorities. Groups representing Ahmadis strongly protested the provincial government’s decision.
Some of the cases of victimisation and threat to Ahmadis during the year were as follows:
In March, in Faislabad, a case of blasphemy under Section 295-C of the penal code was registered by police against Muhammad Iqbal, who had reportedly converted to the Ahmadi faith in 1990. Iqbal’s family members were stated to have asked a local cleric to try and persuade him to give up the religion. The cleric chose to do so by accusing him of blasphemy. Iqbal was granted bail before arrest.
It was reported in April that stickers had appeared pasted on walls in Lahore, warning people not to consume beverages bottled by a particular company, as it was run by Ahmadis, and stating anyone shaking hands with an Ahmadi would be punished in hell.
In September, a case was registered against 15 Ahmadis, including four women, in Kunri, district Mirpur, after a family had wedding cards printed for the marriage of their son. The cards bore the traditional blessings, with the word ‘Bismillah’ (in the name of God) and ‘ Inshallah” (God willing) inscribed on them, with this leading local clerics to initiate action under anti-Ahmadi laws.
During the same month, pamphlets were circulated in the Mansehra area of the NWFP, appealing to Muslims to ‘ exterminate’ Ahmadis and drive them out of the region.
There were also numerous other complaints about the harassment of Ahmadis, attempts by orthodox clerics to stir up hatred against them or the defilement of buried bodies.
Blasphemy laws and their victims
The blasphemy laws continued to be misused, both against Muslims and religious minorities, as a means to settle personal scores. Property disputes, business rivalries or rows between neighbours over petty issues led in some cases to the framing of blasphemy charges.
In recognition that the lives of those accused of blasphemy were at risk, an inspection team of the Lahore High Court (LHC) in February sent letters to all district and sessions judges in the Punjab, advising that in the interest of the safety for the judges, lawyers, witnesses and accused, such trials should take place in jails, as adequate security arrangements could not be made for them in courts. The letter also stated all pending blasphemy cases should be disposed off as quickly as possible.
The long delay in blasphemy trials, largely due to the reluctance of judges to issue decisions in such cases or even take them up for hearing given risks to their own safety, was highlighted by a case taken up by the LHC. On July 2, a trial court in Lahore was ordered by the LHC to deliver a verdict in a blasphemy case against Mehdi Hussain, which had been pending for almost four years. Hussain had been charged with desecrating the Quran in August 2000.
In January, nearly three and a half years after being arrested on a blasphemy charge, Dr. Younis Shaikh was acquitted by an additional district and sessions judge in Islamabad. Dr. Shaikh had been a lecturer at a homeopathy college in Islamabad and a human rights activist. The case against Dr. Shaikh began in 2000 when one of his students, an employee of the Foreign Office, complained to a cleric that the doctor had made blasphemous remarks during a lecture.
Sentenced to death in September 2001, Dr. Shaikh spent more than two years on death row until he was released in November 2003. His accusers then filed an appeal. His release followed the October 2003 decision of a referee judge to remand the case back to the lower courts for retrial on the basis that the original judgment was unsound. Due to constant death threats, Dr. Shaikh remained in hiding after his release and left to seek asylum in Europe in January. Aside from the well-publicised blasphemy cases against Samuel Masih and Dr. Younis Shaikh, others too fell victim to the laws, across the country. Many of these were mentally ill, or had been targetted due to disputes on other issues.