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U.S. Department of State
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
October 26, 2009
The country is an Islamic republic. Islam is the state religion, and the Constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. The Constitution states that “subject to law, public order, and morality, every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice, and propagate his religion;” 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.”
The Government took some steps to improve its treatment of religious minorities during the reporting period. The democratically elected Government appointed a Roman Catholic as Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs and upgraded his position to a cabinet minister. The Government allocated a 5 percent quota for religious minorities in all federal jobs, and directed provincial governments to implement the same at the provincial level. The Government also decided to celebrate Minorities’ Day on August 11 every year nationwide. Despite these steps, 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 religious belief 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 Ahmadiyya community continued to face governmental and societal discrimination and legal bars to the practice of its religious beliefs. Members of other Islamic sects also claimed governmental discrimination.
Relations between religious communities were tense. Societal discrimination against religious minorities was widespread, and societal violence against such groups occurred. Non-governmental actors, including terrorist and extremist groups and individuals, targeted religious congregations. A domestic insurgency led by Sunni Taliban elements increased acts of violence and intimidation against religious minorities and exacerbated existing sectarian tensions. An extremist insurgency increased its efforts to impose its extremist religious views on the majority. Extremists demanded that Muslims with progressive views, particularly women, follow a strict version of Islam and threatened dire consequences if they did not abide by it.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. During the reporting period, U.S. Embassy officials closely monitored the treatment of religious minorities, worked to eliminate the teaching of religious intolerance, and encouraged amendment of the blasphemy laws.
Section I. Religious Demography
The country has an area of 310,527 square miles and a population of 173 million. Official figures on religious demography, based on the 1998 census, showed that approximately 97 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 of approximately 20 percent. According to the Ministry of Minorities Affairs, Sikhs have approximately 30,000 adherents and Buddhists 20,000. The number of Parsis (Zoroastrians), according to a Parsi community center in Karachi, dropped to 1,822 in 2009 as compared to 2,039 in June 2006. The Baha’i claimed that the number of Baha’is is growing in Pakistan, with approximately 30,000 adherents. The number of Ahmadis living in Pakistan, according to Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, is nearly 600,000, although it is difficult to establish an accurate estimate because Ahmadis, who are legally prohibited from identifying themselves as Muslims, generally choose to not identify themselves as non-Muslims. Some tribes in Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) practiced traditional animist religious beliefs; other religious groups include Kalasha, Kihals, and Jains.
Less than 0.5 percent of the population, as recorded in the 1998 census, was silent on religious affiliation or claimed not to adhere to a particular religious group. Social pressure was such that few persons would claim no religious affiliation.
Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion. It also declares that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religious beliefs freely; however, the Government imposes limits on freedom of religion, particularly on Ahmadis.
A 1974 constitutional amendment declares that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. Section 298(c), commonly referred to as the “anti-Ahmadi laws,” prohibits Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, referring to their religious beliefs as Islam, preaching or propagating their religious beliefs, inviting others to accept Ahmadi teachings, or insulting the religious feelings of Muslims. The punishment for violation of the Section is imprisonment for up to three 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 freely their religious beliefs.
Freedom of speech is subject to “reasonable” restrictions in the interest 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. Some individuals bring charges under these laws to settle personal scores or to intimidate vulnerable Muslims, sectarian opponents, and religious minorities. Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, any action, including speech, intended to incite religious hatred is punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. Under the act, bail is not to be granted if the judge has reasonable grounds to believe the accused is guilty; however, the bail provision of the law is selectively applied.
Any speech or conduct that injures another’s religious feelings, including those of minority religious groups, is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment. In cases in which a minority group claimed its religious feelings were insulted, however, the blasphemy laws were rarely enforced, and cases were rarely brought to the legal system. A 2005 law requires that a senior police official investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint is filed. According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), this law was not uniformly enforced.
The Government designates religious affiliation on passports and requests religious information in national identity card applications. A citizen must have a national identity card to vote. Those wishing to be listed as Muslims must swear their belief that the Prophet 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. As a result, Ahmadis continued to boycott elections.
The Constitution provides for “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 of this right. District-level authorities consistently refused to grant permission to construct non-Muslim places of worship, especially for Ahmadiyya and Baha’i communities, citing the need to maintain public order. There is no official restriction on the construction of Ahmadiyya places of worship; however, Ahmadis are forbidden from calling them mosques. District governments often refuse to grant Ahmadis permission to hold events publicly; therefore, they hold their meetings in members’ homes. The Government can shut down these gatherings if neighbors report hearing the recitation of Qur’anic verses.
The Constitution specifically prohibits discriminatory admission to any governmental educational institution solely based on religious affiliation. Government officials stated that the only factors affecting admission to government educational institutions were students’ grades and home provinces; however, students must declare their religious affiliation on application forms. This declaration is also required for private educational institutions, including universities. Muslim students must declare in writing that they believe that the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet, another measure that singles out Ahmadis. Non-Muslims must have their religious affiliation verified by the head of their local religious community.
All wafaqs continued to mandate the elimination of teaching that promoted religious or sectarian intolerance, and terrorist or extremist recruitment at madrassahs. Inspectors mandated that affiliated madrassahs supplement religious studies with secular subjects. Wafaqs also restricted foreign private funding of madrassahs. Examination concerns remained under active discussion with the Government. Some unregistered and Deobandi-controlled madrassahs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Karachi, and northern Balochistan continued to teach extremism. Similarly, the Dawa schools, run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charitable front for the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, continued such teaching and recruitment for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Following the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, attributed to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the government of the province of Punjab took over management of several Jamaat-ud-Dawa institutions.
In an effort to end Taliban violence in the Swat valley, the NWFP government, led by the Awami National Party (ANP), concluded a peace deal in February 2009 with extremist organization Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) that included a commitment to implement the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation (NAR) in the Malakand division of the NWFP. In April 2009 President Asif Ali Zardari signed the NAR, making it effective. Based on previous attempts in 1994 and 1998 to establish Shari’a (interpreted locally as “swift justice“), the NAR establishes limits for deciding civil and criminal cases, re-creates qazi (religious judges) chosen by the state, and establishes a local appeals court whose judges are selected by the Peshawar High Court. Civil society in general and the minority religious community in particular expressed concern about the effects of creating an alternative religious-based system of justice in Swat. NAR defenders pointed out that, under the Constitution, all laws must already conform to Islam. In this respect the NAR is not a new regulation.
The deal was signed with the expectation that local militants would disarm in return for the implementation of Shari’a through the NAR. After the President signed the NAR, however, the militants refused to disarm, and extended their patrols to Buner District of the Malakand Division. Amid growing incidents of violence by the militants, the army launched a military operation on April 26, 2009, resulting in the largest mass migration in the country’s history since partition and clearing much of the territory claimed by the Taliban.
The Government does not restrict religious publishing in general; however, the sale of Ahmadi religious literature is banned. The law prohibits publishing any criticism of Islam or its prophets or insults to another’s religious beliefs.
Missionaries (except Ahmadis) are permitted in the country and can proselytize, as long as there is no preaching against Islam and the missionaries acknowledge they are not Muslim.………
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
The Government generally enforced existing legal restrictions on religious freedom.
Since 1983 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding public conferences or gatherings and from holding their annual conference. Ahmadis are banned from preaching and were prohibited from traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or other religious pilgrimages. Ahmadiyya publications are banned from public sale, but they published religious literature in large quantities for a limited circulation.
The Constitution guarantees the right to establish places of worship and train clergy, but in practice these rights were restricted for Ahmadis. According to media reports, authorities continued to conduct surveillance on Ahmadis and their institutions. Several Ahmadiyya mosques reportedly were closed; others reportedly were desecrated or their construction was stopped.
Public pressure routinely prevented courts from protecting minority rights and forced judges to take strong action against any perceived offense to Sunni orthodoxy. Discrimination charges against religious minorities were rarely brought before the judiciary. According to several NGOs, cases against Christians and Ahmadis continued to increase during the reporting period; however, the judiciary, even at the lower levels, acted more judiciously in dealing with these cases as compared with previous reporting periods. NGOs reported that cases against both the local Christian and Hindu communities continued but to a lesser degree and that social discrimination remained at high levels. There was generally a long period between filing a case and the first court appearance. Lower courts were frequently subject to intimidation, delayed issuing decisions, and refused bail for fear of reprisal from extremist elements. Original trial courts usually denied bail in blasphemy cases, arguing that defendants facing the death penalty were likely to flee. As with the majority of cases in the country, many defendants appealed the denial of bail, but bail was often not granted in advance of the trial.
The Government sometimes funded and facilitated Hajj travel but had no similar program for pilgrimages by religious minorities. Due to the passport requirements to list religious affiliation and denounce the Ahmadi prophet, Ahmadis were restricted from going on the Hajj because they were unable to declare themselves as Muslims. Due to the fact that the Government does not recognize Israel, religious believers regardless of religious affiliation were unable to travel to Israel on pilgrimage. This especially affected Baha’is, since the Baha’i World Centre, the spiritual and administrative heart of the community, is located in northern Israel.
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 their promotion to senior positions and that certain government departments refused to hire or retain qualified Ahmadis.………
The public school curriculum included derogatory remarks in textbooks against minority religious groups, particularly Ahmadis, Hindus, and Jews, and the teaching of religious intolerance was widespread. The Government continued to revise curriculum to eliminate such teachings and remove Islamic overtones from secular subjects.
………Although 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 on government-owned lands.
Abuses of Religious Freedom
Police reportedly tortured and mistreated those in custody and at times engaged in extrajudicial killings. It was usually impossible to ascertain whether adherence to particular religious beliefs was a factor in cases in which religious minorities were victims; however, both Christian and Ahmadiyya communities claimed their members were more likely to be abused. Non-Muslim prisoners generally were accorded poorer facilities than Muslim inmates, including lack of access to spiritual resources. Conversion to other minority religious groups generally took place in secret to avoid societal backlash.
Ahmadiyya leaders claimed the Government used sections of the Penal Code against their members for religious reasons. Authorities often accused converts to the Ahmadiyya community of blasphemy, violations of anti-Ahmadi laws, or other crimes. The Government used anti-Ahmadi laws to target and harass Ahmadis. The vague wording of the provision that forbids Ahmadis from directly or indirectly identifying themselves as Muslims enabled officials to bring charges against Ahmadis for using the standard Muslim greeting and for naming their children Muhammad. According to the Rabwah-based Jamaat-e-Ahmadiya, as of April 2009, 88 Ahmadis faced criminal charges under religious laws or because of their religious beliefs: 18 under blasphemy laws, 68 under Ahmadi-specific laws, and two under other clauses.
According to data provided by Ahmadiyya leaders, at the end of the reporting period, 12 Ahmadis were in prison, of whom one was facing life imprisonment, three were facing death sentences, five had been arrested under blasphemy charges, and three others were awaiting trial. Most of the arrests took place in Rabwah, Kotli, Nankana Sahib, Kotri, and Sargodha. The Ahmadiyya community claimed the arrests were groundless and based on the detainees’ religious beliefs. Several criminal cases, ranging from killings to destruction of property, were filed against prominent members of the Ahmadiyya community during the reporting period. The cases remained unprosecuted, and the accused were allowed to post bail.
On May 28, 2009, Mian Laiq Ahmad, an Ahmadi trader in Faisalabad, died after unknown assailants brutally attacked him. According to Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, he was the fifth Ahmadi killed in 2009 and the 101st killed since anti-Ahmadi laws were introduced in 1984.
In May 2009 two students of a seminary in Chakwal, Punjab, entered the home of an Ahmadi, Mubashir Ahmed, and tried to behead him. Neighbors intervened and saved his life, but he was severely injured. One student was caught and brought to a local police station and the other escaped. Police booked a case and were trying to find the other assailant.
On March 4, 2009, 15 Ahmadis were charged under Section 298c of the Penal Code for calling their place of worship a mosque and for offering Eid prayers there. They were also charged with posing as Muslims. According to reports, the arrests were the result of a business dispute.
In January 2009 police arrested four Ahmadi teenagers and an adult in Layyah, Punjab, on charges of blasphemy. Because there was no supporting evidence, the accused were not indicted; however, they remain incarcerated more than five months after their arrest. Some local clerics reportedly attempted to incite communal tensions following the incident. Allegedly, a local Member of the National Assembly from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, Saqlain Shah, provided political support for the agitation. At the federal level, the Ministry of Minorities Affairs tried to win the release of the teenagers but had not succeeded by the end of the reporting period.
In January 2009 an Ahmadi shopkeeper, Saeed Ahmed, was shot and killed in Kotri, Sindh Province. Ahmed was killed because of his faith, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya community claimed in a press release.
In September 2008 authorities arrested 10 Ahmadis under Ahmadi-specific sections of the Penal Code. On October 11, 2008, eight more Ahmadis were arrested using the same case number and under the same sections of the code.
The Punjab provincial government permitted Muslim religious leaders to hold an anti-Ahmadi conference in Rabwah on September 7, 2008, on the anniversary of the constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims.
In 2008, an antiterrorism court acquitted five persons who were arrested for the 2005 attack on Ahmadi worshippers in Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab that resulted in the killing of eight and injuring of 20.
In March 2008, police arrested Ahmadi Altaf Husain in Kabeerwala on charges of desecrating the Qur’an. Altaf Hussain was released in July 2008 by a District Court in Khanewal, Punjab.
There was no update in the January 2008 arrest of an Ahmadi in Wazirabad, Punjab, on charges of distributing Ahmadi-related pamphlets. He was granted bail in March 2008 and forced to leave the area after receiving numerous death threats.
In January 2008 police in Nankana Sahib, Punjab, charged an Ahmadi businessman, Manzur Ahmed, with destroying pages that included religious inscriptions. At the end of the reporting period, he remained behind bars for destruction of holy material.
In September 2007 police accused Mumtaz Ali, an Ahmadi, of subscribing to, receiving, and subsequently distributing the newsletter of the local Ahmadiyya community. He was taken into police custody for 10 days and released because of his age. He died in October 2007, but police refused to drop the charges and threatened his family with imprisonment if the household continued to receive the newsletter. The family has left Rajan Pur, Punjab, and moved to a different city.
In November 2007 three Ahmadis were arrested in Sargodha, Punjab, on charges of proselytizing when they invited other locals to their places of worship. They were given bail in mid-February 2008. There was no update on this case at the end of the reporting period.
In December 2007 Larkana police arrested 21 Ahmadis on charges of gathering and worshipping like Muslims after neighbors told the police that they heard Islamic verses being recited in the home of one of the members. All involved were released by the end of the reporting period.
Authorities routinely used blasphemy laws to harass religious minorities and vulnerable Muslims and to settle personal scores or business rivalries. Authorities detained and convicted individuals on spurious charges. Judges and magistrates, seeking to avoid confrontation with or violence from extremists, often continued trials indefinitely.
According to the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), in 2008 at least 75 persons were victimized in 24 cases registered under the blasphemy laws. Punjab had the largest share, with 67 percent of the blasphemy allegations and cases registered; 21 percent of the cases were reported in Sindh. Of the 75 persons, 26 were identified as Muslims, six Christians, and two Hindus. The number of Ahmadis is unknown. In addition to the Ahmadis charged in 2008, police charged the entire Ahmadi populations in Rabwah and Kotli with blasphemy in June 2008 for celebrating 100 years of Caliph-ship and constructing a mosque for the community. The NCJP stated: “Generally we do not request bail because of security. Blasphemy suspects are often safest in prison under police protection.”
In June 2008 six Ahmadis were arrested and charged with blasphemy in Kotri, Sindh. The arrests took place after a dispute over construction of an Ahmadiyya prayer center and protests from mullahs of Tahaffuz Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, an anti-Ahmadiyya religious clerical group.”
In September 2006 police arrested five Ahmadis working for an Ahmadiyya publication, Al Fazl, on blasphemy charges. According to Jamaat-e-Ahmadiya, all were released but police gave them strict warnings to stop publishing. The provincial and district governments were pressured to shut down the publication activities of all Punjabi Ahmadis after this case.
Abuses by Rebel or Foreign Forces or Terrorist Organizations
Section III. Societal Attitudes
Relations among religious communities remained tense. Violence against religious minorities and between Muslim sects continued. Most believed a small minority was responsible for attacks; however, discriminatory laws and the teaching of religious intolerance created a permissive environment for such attacks. Police often refused to prevent violence and harassment or refused to charge persons who committed such offenses.
Mobs occasionally attacked individuals accused of blasphemy and their families or their religious communities. 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.
Ahmadi individuals and institutions long have been victims of religious violence, much of it organized by religious extremists. According to a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya community, since the promulgation of anti-Ahmadi laws in 1984, 101 Ahmadis have been killed on religious grounds.
According to the press section of the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, 1,033 anti-Ahmadiyya statements were printed in Urdu national newspapers in 2008, an increase of 59 from the previous year.
On March 14, 2009, unknown assailants killed two Ahmadi doctors, husband and wife, at their residence in Multan. According to reports, both showed signs of physical abuse, and none of their belongings were taken from their home. The Ahmadiyya community claimed the killings were religiously motivated.
On October 29, 2008, a man attacked Dr. Muhammad Aslam, an Ahmadi, at his clinic in Haripur, NWFP. According to reports, the attacker stabbed the doctor four times before being apprehended. The doctor survived.
In September 2008 a former federal minister and host of a popular religious television show declared on air that killing Ahmadis was the “Islamic duty of devout Muslims;” at least two Ahmadis were killed in Sindh within 48 hours of this declaration. Dr. Abdul Mannan Siddiqui, district president of the Ahmadiyya community in Mirpur Khas, Sindh, was killed on September 8, 2008, at his hospital in Mirpur Khas. He was attending to patients when two assailants shot him. The other victim, Seth Muhammad Yousuf, district amir of the Ahmadiyya community Nawab Shah, Sindh, was killed in broad daylight in a local bazaar. Taking serious note of the killings, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called for urgent action to protect minorities and to stop hate-preaching in the media. At the end of the reporting period, the the government continued to stall investigation into the deaths.
In September 2008 extremist elements at Kunri, Sindh, mounted a sustained campaign of agitation and persecution against Ahmadis that resulted in angry processions and attacks on Ahmadi homes. The agitators urged police to register blasphemy cases against Ahmadis. Two Ahmadis were arrested and remained incarcerated at the end of the reporting period.
An Ahmadi pharmacist, Sheikh Saeed Ahmad, was shot and killed, reportedly by religious zealots, on September 1, 2008, in Manzoor Colony, Karachi, Sindh. He died on September 13, 2008.
On September 10, 2008, an Ahmadi, Daud Ahmad Joyia, was fired several weeks after his appointment as a lecturer at Cadet College, Kallar Kahar, Punjab, when the college administration learned of his beliefs.
In September 2008 the Tehrik-e-Khatme Nabuwwat, based in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, issued a Ramadan calendar that devoted nearly 70 percent of the space to hate propaganda characterizing Ahmadis as infidels, cursed, and apostates.
On June 5, 2008, the principal of Punjab Medical College (PMC) expelled 15 female Ahmadi students and eight male students accused of preaching Ahmadiyyat at the university. The same day, students at the school had gone on strike, demanding the expulsion of all Ahmadi students. The college formed a committee to resolve the case. In October 2008 the Health Department of Punjab permitted 15 of the 23 Ahmadi students to continue studies at the PMC. At the end of the reporting period they were attending the college, and the female students resided in a hostel. The Government, with approval of the Punjab Chief Minister, issued a notification for the eight other students, three male and five female, to be transferred to other colleges. No case was registered against any of the non-Ahmadi students or teachers who precipitated the strikes and riot.
In September 2008 the annual Anti-Ahmadi, Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (End of Prophethood) Conference was held in Lahore, Punjab, where clerics declared their drive against Ahmadiyyat would continue until it was eliminated from the country.
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.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
U.S. Embassy officers maintained a dialogue with government, religious, and minority community representatives to encourage religious freedom and discuss the blasphemy laws, the Hudood Ordinance, the implementation of the NAR in the NWFP, curriculum reform in 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 non-governmental organizations working on religious freedom issues. Embassy officials also raised with parliamentarians the treatment of Ahmadis.
As part of its overall public education reform program, valued at $90 million (7.27 billion rupees), the U.S. Government provided substantial financial support to the Government’s curriculum reform initiative, which included eliminating the teaching of religious intolerance.