Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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It is now more than fifteen years since the Ordinance was promulgated. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has suffered a great deal after Dictator Ziaul Haq promulgated Ordinance XX in 1984. The suffering continues unabated. It is a touching story and this Souvenir tells only a part of it. (read it online)
US$14.99 [Order]

Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report (IRF) 2007: Pakistan
Int’l Religious Freedom Report - 2007: Pakistan

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
Pakistan International Religious Freedom Report 2007 External Link - Opens new browser window
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
September 14, 2007

The country is an Islamic republic. Islam is the state religion and the Constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. The Constitution states, “subject to law, public order and morality, every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice, and propagate his religion;” however, in practice the Government imposes limits on freedom of religion. Freedom of speech is constitutionally “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam.” [Para # 1]

The Government took some steps to improve its treatment of religious minorities during the period covered by this report, but serious problems remained. Law enforcement personnel abused religious minorities in custody. Security forces and other government agencies did not adequately prevent or address societal abuse against minorities. Discriminatory legislation and the Government’s failure to take action against societal forces hostile to those who practice a different faith fostered religious intolerance, acts of violence, and intimidation against religious minorities. Specific laws that discriminate against religious minorities include anti-Ahmadi and blasphemy laws that provide the death penalty for defiling Islam or its prophets. The Government enacted the Women’s Protection Act, which amended the Hudood Ordinances, by moving rape and adultery cases from the Shari’a to secular courts. President Pervez Musharraf ordered the release of all women imprisoned under the Hudood Ordinances; few remain in custody, and most are housed in Government-run group homes. [Para # 2]

The Ahmadiyya community continued to face governmental and societal discrimination and legal bars to the practice of its faith. Members of other Islamic sects also claimed governmental discrimination. [Para # 3]

Relations between religious communities were tense. Societal discrimination against religious minorities was widespread, and societal violence against such groups occurred. Societal actors, including terrorist and extremist groups and individuals, targeted religious congregations. [Para # 4]

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. During the period covered by this report, U.S. Embassy officials closely monitored the treatment of religious minorities and worked to eliminate the teaching of religious intolerance and encourage amendment of the blasphemy laws. [Para # 5]

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 310,527 square miles and a population of 168 million. Official figures on religious demography, based on the most recent census, taken in 1998, showed that approximately 96 percent of the population was Muslim. Groups comprising 2 percent of the population or less include Hindus, Christians, and others including Ahmadis. The majority of Muslims in the country are Sunni, with a Shi’a minority ranging between 10 to 20 percent. Parsis (Zoroastrians), Sikhs, and Buddhists each had approximately 20,000 adherents, while the Baha’i claimed 30,000. Some tribes in Baluchistan and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) practiced traditional animist religions. [Para # 6]

Less than 0.5 percent of the population was silent on religion or claimed not to adhere to a particular religious group. Social pressure was such that few persons would claim no religious affiliation. [Para # 7]

No data were available on active participation in formal religious services or rituals. Religion often played an important part in daily life. Most Muslims offered prayers on Friday, Islam’s holy day. Many prayed daily. During the month of Ramadan, many less observant Muslims fasted and attended services. Approximately 70 percent of English-speaking Roman Catholics worshiped regularly; a much lower percentage of Urdu speaking Catholics did so. Attendance at Hindu religious services increased during festivals. [Para # 8]

Foreign missionaries operate in the country. [Para # 9]

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion. It also declares that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely; however, in reality the Government imposes limits on freedom of religion, particularly on Ahmadis. [Para # 10]

A 1974 constitutional amendment declares Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. Section 298(c), commonly referred to as the “anti-Ahmadi laws,” prohibits Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, referring to their faith as Islam, preaching or propagating their faith, inviting others to accept the Ahmadi faith, or insulting the religious feelings of Muslims. The punishment for violation of the section is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine. Other religious communities were generally free to observe their religious obligations; however, religious minorities are legally restricted from public display of certain religious images and, due to discriminatory legislation and social pressure, are often afraid to profess their religion freely. [Para # 11]

Freedom of speech is subject to “reasonable” restrictions in the interests of the “glory of Islam.” The consequences for contravening the country’s blasphemy laws are death for defiling Islam or its prophets; life imprisonment for defiling, damaging, or desecrating the Qur’an; and 10 years’ imprisonment for insulting another’s religious feelings. These laws are often used to settle personal scores as well as to intimidate reform-minded Muslims, sectarian opponents, and religious minorities. Under the Anti-Terrorist Act, any action, including speech, intended to stir up religious hatred is punishable by up to 7 years of imprisonment. Under the act, bail is not to be granted if the judge has reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is guilty; however, the law is applied selectively. [Para # 12]

In addition, any speech or conduct that injures another’s religious feelings, including those of minority religious groups, is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment. However, in cases where the religious feelings of a minority religion were insulted, the blasphemy laws were rarely enforced and cases rarely brought to the legal system. A 2005 law requires that a senior police official investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint is filed. [Para # 13]

The Government designates religion on passports and national identity cards. Citizens must have a national identity card to vote. Those wishing to be listed as a Muslim must swear to believe that Muhammad is the final prophet and denounce the Ahmadiyya movement’s founder as a false prophet and his followers as non-Muslims, a provision designed to discriminate against Ahmadis. Initial voter registration no longer required such an oath, but the Election Commission claimed that any Muslim registrant whose religion was challenged by the public would have to take the oath. As a result, Ahmadis continued to boycott elections. [Para # 17]

The Constitution provides for the “freedom to manage religious institutions.” In principle, the Government does not restrict organized religious groups from establishing places of worship and training members of the clergy. In practice, however, religious minorities suffered from restrictions on this right. [Para # 18]

“Islamiyyat” (Islamic studies) was compulsory for all Muslim students in state-run schools. Although students of other religious groups were not legally required to study Islam, they were not provided with parallel studies in their own religions. In some schools non-Muslim students could study “Akhlaqiyyat,” or Ethics. [Para # 23]

The Constitution specifically prohibits discriminatory admission to any governmental educational institution solely based on religion. Government officials stated that the only factors affecting admission to governmental educational institutions were students’ grades and home provinces; however, students must declare their religion on application forms. Muslim students must declare in writing that they believe that Muhammad is the final prophet, a measure that singles out Ahmadis. Non-Muslims must have their religion verified by the head of their local religious community. [Para # 24]

…… Some unregistered and Deobandi-controlled madrassahs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and northern Balochistan continued to teach extremism. Similarly, the Dawa schools run by Jamat-ud-Dawa continued such teaching and recruitment for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a designated foreign terrorist organization. [Para # 28]

A March 2007 report indicated that unregulated, extremist madrassahs in Karachi continued to thrive in the sprawling city with a large population of young, unemployed men. International Crisis Group reported that after 5 years of trying to reform madrassahs, the Government’s program has not fully succeeded, and that extremist groups were operating mosques and madrassahs in the open in Karachi and elsewhere, due to lack of consistent regulation. [Para # 29]

The Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)-led provincial government, a coalition of six conservative parties in the NWFP, continued to pass directives and legislation in accordance with conservative Islamic views. If implemented, many of these initiatives would impose Islamic law on all citizens, regardless of religious affiliation. Existing laws include antiobscenity measures under which advertising has been torn down, stores have been fined for selling certain western recordings, a complete ban on alcohol, and a requirement for civil servants to pray five times daily. [Para # 30]

The Government does not restrict religious publishing in general; however, the sale of Ahmadi religious literature is banned.… [Para # 31]

There are no legal requirements for an individual to practice or affiliate nominally with a religion. However, the Constitution requires that the president and prime minister be Muslims. All senior officials, including members of parliament, must swear an oath to protect the country’s Islamic identity. Government employees are not prohibited from displaying or practicing any elements of their faith. [Para # 34]

Missionaries (except Ahmadis) operate in the country and can proselytize, as long as there is no preaching against Islam and the missionaries acknowledge they are not Muslim.…… [Para # 35]

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government used anti-Ahmadi laws to target and harass Ahmadis. The vague wording of the provision that forbids Ahmadis from directly or indirectly posing as Muslims enabled officials to bring charges against Ahmadis for using the standard Muslim greeting form and for naming their children Muhammad. The Ahmadi community claimed that during the period covered by this report, 28 Ahmadis faced criminal charges under religious laws or because of their faith: 4 under the blasphemy laws, 17 under Ahmadi-specific laws, and 7 under other laws but motivated by their Ahmadi faith. [Para # 40]

At the end of April 2006, four Ahmadis were in prison on blasphemy charges; one was in prison and two more were out on bail facing murder charges that the Ahmadiyya community claimed were falsely brought due to their religious beliefs. Seven more criminal cases, ranging from murder to destruction of property, were filed against prominent members of the Ahmadi community during the reporting period. The cases remained unprosecuted and the accused were allowed to post bail. [Para # 41]

Ahmadis continued to be arrested for preaching their faith. In July 2006 four Ahmadis were arrested in Sialkot District under the anti-Ahmadi laws for preaching. [Para # 42]

In August 2006 Mian Mohammed Yar was charged under the anti-Ahmadi laws on the charge of preaching. He was the president of the local Ahmadi community. [Para # 43]

Since 1983 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding public conferences or gatherings, they have been denied permission to hold their annual conference. Ahmadis were banned from preaching and were prohibited from traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or other religious pilgrimages. Ahmadi publications were banned from public sale, but they published religious literature in large quantities for a limited circulation. [Para # 44]

While the Constitution guarantees the right to establish places of worship and train clergy, in practice Ahmadis suffered from restrictions on this right. According to press reports, authorities continued to conduct surveillance on Ahmadis and their institutions. Several Ahmadi mosques reportedly were closed; others reportedly were desecrated or had their construction stopped. [Para # 45]

Public pressure routinely prevented courts from protecting minority rights. These same pressures forced justices to take strong action against any perceived offense to Sunni orthodoxy. Discrimination against religious minorities was rarely placed before the judiciary. Courts would be unlikely to act objectively in such cases. Resolving cases was very slow; there was generally a long period between filing the case and the first court appearance. Lower courts were frequently intimidated, delayed decisions, and refused bail for fear of reprisal from extremist elements. Bail in blasphemy cases was usually denied by original trial courts, arguing that since defendants faced the death penalty, they were likely to flee. Many defendants appealed the denial of bail, but bail was often not granted in advance of the trial. [Para # 46]

Sunni Muslims appeared to receive favorable consideration in government hiring and advancement. Shi’a and other religious minorities contended that the Government persistently discriminated against members of their communities in hiring for the civil service and in admissions to government institutions of higher learning. Promotions for all minority groups appeared limited within the civil service. These problems were particularly acute for Ahmadis, who contended that a “glass ceiling” prevented them from being promoted to senior positions and that certain government departments refused to hire or retain qualified Ahmadis. The Government discriminated against some groups, such as Ahl-e-Hadith and Barelvi, when hiring clergy for government mosques and faculty members for Islamic government colleges. [Para # 53]

There are reserved seats for religious minority members in both the national and provincial assemblies. Such seats are allocated to the political parties on a proportional basis determined by their overall representation in the assembly. [Para # 54]

Members of minority religious groups volunteered for military service in small numbers, and there were no official obstacles to their advancement; however, in practice non-Muslims rarely rose above the rank of colonel and were not assigned to politically sensitive positions. A chaplaincy corps provided services for Muslim soldiers, but no similar services were available for religious minorities. During this reporting period, a Sikh graduated from the military academy in Abbottabad for the first time. [Para # 55]

The public school curriculum included derogatory remarks in textbooks against minority religious groups, particularly Hindus and Jews, and the generalized teaching of religious intolerance was acceptable. The Government continued to modernize curriculum to eliminate such teachings and to remove Islamic overtones from secular subjects. Instead of a mandatory Islamic studies class, the Education Minister supported offering an ethics class as an alternative. The Government discriminated against Ahmadis and Christians when they applied for entry to university and medical school because of their religious affiliation. [Para # 56]

Officials used bureaucratic demands and bribes to delay religious groups trying to build houses of worship or to obtain land. While Ahmadis were prevented from building houses of worship, Sunni Muslim groups built mosques and shrines without government permission, at times in violation of zoning ordinances and upon government-owned lands. [Para # 57]

Abuses of Religious Freedom

Police commonly tortured and mistreated those in custody and at times engaged in extrajudicial killings. It was usually impossible to ascertain whether religion was a factor in cases in which religious minorities were victims; however, both Christian and Ahmadi communities claimed their members were more likely to be abused. Non-Muslim prisoners generally were accorded poorer facilities than Muslim inmates. [Para # 59]

Authorities routinely used the blasphemy laws to harass religious minorities and reform-minded Muslims and to settle personal scores or business rivalries. Authorities detained and convicted individuals on spurious charges. Judges and magistrates, seeking to avoid a confrontation with or violence from extremists, often continued trials indefinitely. [Para # 60]

Ahmadi leaders claimed the Government used regular sections of the Penal Code against their members for religious reasons. Authorities often accused converts to the Ahmadiyya community of blasphemy, violations of the anti-Ahmadi laws, or other crimes. Conversion to other minority religious groups generally took place in secret to avoid a societal backlash. [Para # 61]

During the reporting period, authorities arrested at least 25 Ahmadis, 10 Christians, and 6 Muslims on blasphemy charges. Many remained in prison at the end of the reporting period. The National Commission for Justice and Peace stated that “Generally we do not request bail because of security. Blasphemy suspects are often safest in prison under police protection.” [Para # 62]

In October 2006 police arrested Ahmadi Mohammed Tariq and charged him under blasphemy laws for allegedly tearing off anti-Ahmadiyya stickers inside a bus. Police released him on bail in December 2006 and at the end of the reporting period, he was awaiting trial. [Para # 72]

In September 2006 police released on bail two Ahmadi journalists working for an Ahmadi publication, Al Fazl, whom they had charged under blasphemy laws. Three others from Al Fazl, an editor, a publisher, and a printer, remained in confinement awaiting court proceedings on the same charges. [Para # 73]

In the spring of 2007, members of the Ahmadi community purchased 6 acres of land outside Lahore to expand a preexisting cemetery. Local clerics denounced the purchase and held demonstrations against the Ahmadi community. Police sided with the clerics, and local authorities claimed the construction of a wall on the land would be used to form a “center of apostasy.” When the Ahmadis refused to remove the wall, five buses of policemen arrived and destroyed it in the middle of the night. Officials admitted the action was taken under pressure of local clerics. [Para # 76]

In December 2006 a local mullah collaborated with police to prevent the burial of Bakht Bibi, an Ahmadi woman, in the common village graveyard. She was finally buried on private land 1.5 kilometers away. The same mullah had convinced police to close an Ahmadi prayer center 1 month prior. [Para # 78]

In October 2006 police stopped construction of a new Ahmadi school in Sialkot district. Mullahs reportedly then destroyed the partially constructed building. [Para # 79]

In September 2006 Malik Saif ur Rahman, the president of a local Ahmadi organization, completed construction of a small mosque on the property of his farm. The local mullah objected to police. Later, a contingent of police in plain clothes came and destroyed it. [Para # 80]

In June 2006, following an attack during which a mob injured two Ahmadis and destroyed their property, Sialkot District police arrested seven Ahmadis and removed 75 from the village for fear of more attacks. Police arrested four Ahmadis for alleged Qur’an desecration. Later, hundreds of persons demonstrated against the alleged desecration and damaged an Ahmadiyya house of worship. Police deployed to avert more damage. [Para # 82]

In September 2006 a Sindh district court granted provisional bail for three Ahmadis who had been in hiding, fearing arrests on charges of attempted conversion. Police had previously arrested two other Ahmadis, to whom the higher Sessions Court had granted bail. [Para # 83]

Between July and December 2004, at least eight separate incidents of anti-Ahmadi arrests occurred, many involving blasphemy charges. In most cases, police released the victim or dismissed the charges without trial. [Para # 90]

Following July 2004 protests, police in Chenab Nagar (Rabwah) continued to retain property of the local Ahmadiyya community on which a makeshift mosque had once existed. [Para # 94]

Section III. Societal Attitudes

Relations between the country’s religious communities remained tense. Violence against religious minorities and between Muslim sects continued. Most believed that a small minority were responsible for attacks; however, discriminatory laws and the teaching of religious intolerance created a permissive environment for attacks. Police often refused to prevent violence and harassment or refused to charge persons who commit such offenses. [Para # 122]

Mobs occasionally attacked individuals accused of blasphemy, their family, or their religious community prior to their arrest. When blasphemy and other religious cases were brought to court, extremists often packed the courtroom and made public threats against an acquittal. Religious extremists continued to threaten to kill those acquitted of blasphemy charges. High-profile accused persons often went into hiding or emigrated after acquittal. [Para # 123]

On April 8, 2007, local extremists tortured and killed Chaudhry Habibullah Sial, an 82-year old Ahmadi man who was using his home as a prayer center for Ahmadis. [Para # 124]

On March 1, 2007, a former police officer killed Mohammed Ashraf, an Ahmadi, because Ashraf changed his religion from Sunni to Ahmadi. The killer claimed to have done nothing wrong and that he followed Islamic law, since apostasy is punishable by death. [Para # 125]

In November 2006 two Ahmadi men in Bagar Sargana were attacked by a mob on their way home after Friday prayers. [Para # 126]

In October 2006 an Ahmadi imam at a mosque in Chawinda was attacked in his apartment in the mosque complex. [Para # 127]

In September 2006 Professor Abdul Basit, an Ahmadi, was attacked in his home in Dera Ghazi Khan. [Para # 128]

On August 22, 2006, Munawwar Ahmad Sahib, an Ahmadi, was killed by two gunmen in his home in Gujrat. [Para # 129]

In August 2006 an Ahmadi youth, Etzaz Ahmad, was attacked in the shop where he worked as an apprentice. The attacker said he was trying to kill an infidel. [Para # 130]

Ahmadi individuals and institutions long have been victims of religious violence, much of which organized religious extremists instigated. Ahmadi leaders charged that in previous years militant Sunni mullahs and their followers staged sometimes violent anti-Ahmadi marches through the streets of Rabwah, a predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center in central Punjab. Backed by crowds of between 100 and 200 persons, the mullahs reportedly denounced Ahmadis and their founder, a situation that sometimes led to violence. The Ahmadis claimed that police generally were present during these marches but did not intervene to prevent violence. In contrast with the previous report, there were no such reports during this reporting period. [Para # 131]

Some Sunni Muslim groups published literature calling for violence against Ahmadis, Shi’a Muslims, other Sunni sects, and Hindus. Some newspapers frequently published articles that contained derogatory references to religious minorities, especially Ahmadis, Hindus, and Jews. Sermons at mosques frequently railed against religious minorities. [Para # 149]

Throughout the reporting period, attacks, threats, and violence by Islamic extremists increased across Pakistan, but especially in the NWFP. The origin was perceived to be from the influence of the Taliban coming across the border from neighboring Afghanistan. [Para # 158]

Between July 2005 and June 2006 Ahmadis and Christians were the primary targets of religious attack in Pakistan. One Ahmadi was killed, and an Islamic cleric refused to allow the remains of an Ahmadi girl to remain in a Muslim graveyard. Christians faced arson attacks upon their churches, and following the publication of cartoons of Mohammed in the Danish press, at least six Christian institutions were attacked, and one pastor was kidnapped and tortured. [Para # 162]

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

Embassy officers maintained a dialogue with government, religious, and minority community representatives to encourage religious freedom and to discuss the blasphemy laws, the Hudood Ordinances, curriculum reform in the public education and madrassah education systems, treatment of the Ahmadiyya and Christian communities, and sectarian violence. Embassy officials, including the Ambassador, met with leaders from communities of all religious groups and NGOs working on religious freedom problems. Embassy officials also raised and discussed treatment of the Ahmadis with Members of Parliament. [Para # 163]

As part of its overall public education reform program, valued at $100 million (6 billion rupees), the United States provided substantial financial support to the Government’s curriculum reform initiative, which included eliminating the teaching of religious intolerance. [Para # 164]

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