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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Two murdered and 15 charged as discrimination against Ahmadis continues unabated
The Asian Human Rights Commission is concerned to find two cases this month in Pakistan’s Punjab province that have targeted the Ahmadi minority sect. In one incident fifteen men in Sargodha district have been charged for attending a place of worship that resembles a mosque, after a complaint was lodged by a radical local religious leader. In Multan city a man and woman from the same sect have been found murdered. Both cases highlight the intense, often deadly discrimination experienced by minorities in Pakistan.
The Ahmadi religion is a branch of Islam, and Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, yet in the Muslim world they are victims of wide-scale persecution and religious anger. Mainstream Muslims object to a number of divergent beliefs held by Ahmadis, including the claim that a second prophet came after Prophet Mohammed.
In 1974 the definition of a Muslim was amended in Pakistan’s constitution to exclude Ahmadis. Even though the freedom of speech and religion are enshrined in Articles 19 and 20, this ruling forced Ahmadis to keep a very low profile and it further popularised discrimination against them. Cases are now easy to file against them on charges of blasphemy or the ‘impersonation of Muslims’.
Earlier this month 15 prominent Ahmadi men (their names below) in Sillanwali Tehsil, Sargodha district, Punjab, were charged under Section 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code (First Information Report 96/2009), which applies only to Ahmadis and carries up to three years in jail. Three of the men have so far been detained and denied bail by a local judge. The amendment to Section 298 claims that Ahmadis should not pose as Muslims, call themselves Muslim, “or in any manner whatsoever outrage the religious feelings of Muslims.” The worship place the men attended has been used, unchallenged, by Ahmadis for decades.
More than a thousand Ahmadis are estimated to be in Pakistan’s jails on charges of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty, and despite promises by former rulers to make stronger evidence necessary for convictions, pressure from the religious right have left the law unchanged. As a result many convictions are part of personal vendettas or land disputes. In this case there had been a disagreement between a non-Ahmadi, Mr Liaquat, who requested a low rent deal for a series of shops owned by one of the sect members, Mr Mohammad Khan, who refused. This was closely followed by the case being filed by a local religious leader, Maulvi Mushtaq Ahmed (son of Mr Abdul Karim) who is the chief organizer of the Madrassa Jamia Islamiyaah of Silanwalli, Sargodha and also heads the International Movement for the Completion of Prophethood (an anti-Ahmadi group) in the village.
Meanwhile in Wapda Colony, Multan Rd, Punjab, on 14 March, 2009, a prominent Ahmadi couple, Dr Sheraz Ahmad Bajwa, 37, an eye specialist, and his wife Dr Nureen Sheraz, 29, a paediatrician, were found murdered in their apartment approximately three months after they started to receive anonymous death threats. The threats were about their religion, but local Ahmadis advised them not to go with their case to the police, since this would make them more vulnerable. The family are currently fearful about following through with the case.
Over the last 24 years at least 100 Ahmadis have been lynched and murdered, 18 of them doctors (their names below) and the government has not acted to lift public resentment towards them. The AHRC has reported on numerous cases in the past in which people inciting hatred of Ahmadis have not been officially challenged.
It is disturbing to note how easily Ahmadis can be arrested on arbitrary grounds, based on the hearsay of an openly prejudiced person. The fifteen men in Sargodha can expect little help from the police, who appear to be acting under the direction of the local mullah. Sadly, they can expect even less of the law, despite articles 19 and 20 in the Pakistan Constitution, which enshrine every citizen’s right to free speech and free worship. The amendment in 1974, and its 1984 additions, go against both of these rights and have too long been used as a personal tool of the powerful. Rather than allow this discrimination and violent persecution to continue, the government must recognize the right to life of every Pakistani, and start protecting and compensating those it has helped to make vulnerable.
15 Ahmadi men arrested in Sargodha district in March 2009
Mr Khan Mohammad, son of Mohammad Yar
Ahmadi doctors murdered in religion-related lynchings in Pakistan
Dr Abdul Qadir Sb on 16-06-1884 at Disrict Faisalabad.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.