U.S. Department of State
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
November 17, 2010
The constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and it 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 however, the government limited freedom of religion. Freedom of speech was also constitutionally “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam.”
Despite the government’s steps to protect religious minorities, the number and severity of reported high-profile cases against minorities increased during the reporting period. Organized violence against minorities increased; for example, there was violence against Christians in Gojra, Punjab, and a terrorist attack on Ahmadis in Lahore, Punjab. There were instances in which 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 or delay in addressing religious hostility by societal actors fostered religious intolerance, acts of violence, and intimidation against religious minorities. Specific laws that discriminated against religious minorities included the anti-Ahmadi provisions of the penal code and the blasphemy laws which provided 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, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus also reported governmental and societal discrimination.
Relations between religious communities remained tense. Societal discrimination against religious minorities was widespread, and societal violence against such groups occurred. Nongovernmental actors, including terrorist and extremist groups and individuals, targeted religious congregations. A domestic insurgency led by religious militants increased acts of violence and intimidation against religious minorities and exacerbated existing sectarian tensions. Extremists demanded that all citizens follow a strict version of Islam and threatened brutal consequences if they did not abide by it. Extremists also targeted violence against Muslims advocating for tolerance and pluralism, including followers of Sufism.
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 the amendment or repeal of the blasphemy laws.
Section I. Religious Demography
The country has an area of 310,527 square miles and a population of 174 million. Approximately 95 percent of the population is Muslim (75 percent Sunni, 25 percent Shia). Groups composing 5 percent of the population or less include Hindus, Christians, Parsis/Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmadis, and others. According to the Ministry for Minorities Affairs, Sikhs have approximately 30,000 adherents and Buddhists 20,000. According to a Parsi community center in Karachi, the number of Parsis (Zoroastrians) dropped to 1,750 in 2010 as compared to 2,039 in June 2006. The Baha’i claimed that the number of Baha’is is growing, with approximately 30,000 adherents. The number of Ahmadis living in the country, 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 not to identify themselves as non-Muslims. Some tribes in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPk) (formerly known as the North West Frontier Province) 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 claimed no religious affiliation.
No data were available on active participation in formal religious services or rituals; however, religious beliefs often played an important part in daily life. Most Muslims offered prayers on Fridays (Islam’s holy day) and many prayed daily. During the month of Ramadan, even 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 and Sikh religious services increased during festivals.
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.
Religious parties opposed any amendments to the constitution affecting its Islamic clauses, especially the ones relating to Ahmadis. In April 2010 the 18th Amendment to the constitution was passed without amending constitutional clauses affecting minorities, including blasphemy and Ahmadi-specific laws.
Freedom of speech was subject to “reasonable” restrictions in the interest of the “glory of Islam,” as stipulated in sections 295(a), (b), and (c) of the penal code. The consequences for contravening the country’s blasphemy laws were 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 brought charges under these laws to settle personal scores or to intimidate vulnerable Muslims, sectarian opponents, and religious minorities. Under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), any action, including speech, intended to incite religious hatred was punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. In cases in which a minority group claimed its religious feelings were insulted, the blasphemy laws were rarely enforced, and cases were rarely brought to the legal system. A 2005 law required that a senior police official investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint was filed. This law was not uniformly enforced.
Laws prohibiting blasphemy continued to be used against Christians, Ahmadis, and members of other religious groups, including Muslims. Lower courts often did not require adequate evidence in blasphemy cases, which led to some accused and convicted persons spending years in jail before higher courts eventually overturned their convictions or ordered them freed. Original trial courts usually denied bail in blasphemy cases, claiming that because defendants could face the death penalty, they were likely to flee; however, the state has never executed anyone under the blasphemy laws. Many defendants appealed the denial of bail, but bail often was not granted in advance of the trial. Lower courts frequently delayed decisions, experienced intimidation, and refused bail for fear of reprisal from extremist elements.
The government designated religious affiliation on passports and requested 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; however, in practice 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 were instances of minority places of worship being seized by land mafias or being illegally sold by government authorities. There is no official restriction on the construction of Ahmadiyya places of worship; however, Ahmadis were forbidden from calling them mosques. Ahmadis also reported that their mosques and community land were routinely confiscated by local governments and given to the majority Muslim community. District governments often refused to grant Ahmadis permission to hold events publicly; therefore, they held their meetings in members’ homes. The government can shut down these gatherings if neighbors reported hearing the recitation of Qur’anic verses.
Government policies did not afford equal protection to members of majority and minority religious groups. Religious minorities were legally restricted from public display of certain religious images and, due to discriminatory legislation and social pressure, were often afraid to profess freely their religious beliefs. The 2008 establishment of the Ministry for Minority Affairs removed responsibility for protection of religious minorities from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The Ministry of Minority Affairs, a stand-alone, cabinet level ministry that has the “aim to protect the rights of minorities as envisaged under the 1973 constitution of Pakistan” is headed by Shahbaz Bhatti, a Roman Catholic. The Ministry for Minority Affairs’ budget covers assistance to indigent minorities, the repair of minority places of worship, the establishment of minority-run small development projects, and the celebration of minority religious festivals. These expenses were previously covered by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Religious minorities claimed that the Ministry for Minority Affairs is underfunded and that localities and villages that were home to minority citizens went without basic civic amenities.
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 generally not offered parallel studies in their own religious beliefs. In some schools non-Muslim students may study Akhlaqiyyat, or Ethics. Parents may send children to religious schools, at the family’s expense, and private schools were generally free to teach or not to teach religious studies as they choose. Madrassahs, private schools run by Islamic groups, were prohibited from teaching sectarian or religious hatred or encouraging sectarian or religious violence, although some did.
The constitution specifically prohibited 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 was also required for private educational institutions, including universities. Students who identified themselves as Muslim must declare in writing that they believe that the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet, another measure that singled out Ahmadis. Non-Muslims must have their religious affiliation verified by the head of their local religious community.
In recent years a small, yet influential, number of madrassahs have, in violation of the law, taught extremist doctrine in support of terrorism. In an attempt to curb the spread of extremism, the 2002 Madrassah Registration Ordinance required all madrassahs to register with one of the five independent boards (wafaqs) or directly with the government, cease accepting foreign financing, and accept foreign students only with the consent of their government. According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, as of June 2010, 19,104 madrassahs had been registered. Of these 770 madrassahs were registered in 2009 alone; however, many civil society organizations and education experts disputed the number of madrassahs operating across the country.
The government announced, but has not approved, a uniform curriculum for madrassahs, with a more secular tone. The Secretary General of the Deobandi Madrassah Board (the Wafaq-ul-Madaris-al-Arabiyya), Maulana Mohammad Hanif Jalandhri, opposed this policy in April 2009 stating that no interference by the government would be tolerated and no revision of madrassah curriculum would be accepted without consultation and approval of the five sectarian boards.
…… A comparatively small, yet influential, number of unregistered and Deobandi-controlled madrassahs continued to teach extremism and/or allow recruitment of their students by terrorist organizations. 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 Punjab provincial government took over management of several Jamaat-ud-Dawa institutions.
The government does not restrict religious publishing in general; however, the sale of Ahmadi religious literature was banned. The law prohibited publishing any criticism of Islam or its prophets or insults to another’s religious beliefs.
Missionaries (except Ahmadis) were 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.
Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding conferences or gatherings since 1983. They were also banned from preaching and from traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or other religious pilgrimages. Ahmadiyya publications were also banned from public sale, but they published religious literature, circulated only within Ahmadi communities.
The constitution provides for the right to establish places of worship and train clergy, but in practice these rights were restricted for Ahmadis. Authorities continued to conduct surveillance on Ahmadis, and several Ahmadiyya mosques reportedly were closed or confiscated; others reportedly were desecrated or their construction 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. Lower courts were frequently subjected 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.
……Sacred books for religious minorities, except Ahmadis, were freely imported. Hindus faced some difficulty in importing books from India. Other groups did not face hardship in obtaining religious materials although availability may be limited to some specific bookstores or religious centers.
……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. Because 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, was located in northern Israel.
Discrimination against Hindus, Sikhs, and Ahmadis in admission to higher education institutions persisted. There were no reports of discrimination against Christians when they applied for entry to universities and medical schools. Shi’a leaders did not report that they were subjected to discrimination in hiring for the civil service or admission to government institutions of higher learning. Sikh leaders reported they faced restrictions in securing admissions at college and university level as they were required to obtain a certificate of permission from the Evacuee Trust Property Board, which they said was a lengthy process that discouraged Sikhs from pursuing higher education.
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 certain government departments refused to hire or retain qualified Ahmadis. The government discriminated against some groups, such as Ahl-e-Hadith and Barelvi, in hiring clergy for government mosques and the military and faculty members for Islamic studies positions in government colleges.
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 the curriculum to eliminate such teachings and remove Islamic overtones from secular subjects.
Officials used bureaucratic demands and bribes to delay religious groups trying to build houses of worship or obtain land. Although Ahmadis were often 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 without repercussions.
Abuses of Religious Freedom
Police reportedly tortured and mistreated those in custody on religious charges and were accused of at least one extrajudicial killing in a blasphemy case. For example, on September 16, 2009, a young Christian man, Robert Fanish, who had been accused of blasphemy, died while in police custody. The case prompted widespread media attention, and several human rights groups asserted that he had been killed extrajudicially. Christian and Ahmadiyya communities claimed their members were more likely to be abused. Non-Muslim prisoners generally were accorded poorer facilities than Muslim inmates.
According to the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), in 2009 112 cases were registered under the blasphemy laws. Of the 112 persons, 57 were identified as Ahmadis, 47 Muslims, and eight Christians. A total of 1,032 persons have been charged under the blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2009.
Ahmadiyya leaders claimed the government used sections of the penal code against their members for religious reasons. The government used anti-Ahmadi laws to target and harass Ahmadis and often accused converts to the Ahmadiyya community of blasphemy, violations of anti-Ahmadi laws, or other crimes. 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-Ahmidaya, as of June 2010 42 Ahmadis faced criminal charges under Ahmadi-specific laws or blasphemy laws, and 25 Ahmadis faced false charges under other sections of the penal code.
According to Ahmadiyya leaders, at the end of the reporting period, six Ahmadis were in prison; one was facing life imprisonment, three were facing death sentences, and two were incarcerated on charges of preaching. 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.
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.
Unknown terrorists attacked two separate Ahmadi congregations in Lahore during Friday prayers on May 28, 2010. The attackers used explosive devices, grenades, and automatic weapons. More than 86 persons died and 124 persons were injured. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, President Zardari, and Prime Minister Gilani condemned the attack ordered an immediate inquiry. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued a statement on May 28 condemning the attack and criticizing the government for failing to increase security at Ahmadi places of worship in light of terrorist threats against the Ahmadiyya community. The HRCP called on the government to provide foolproof security for the Ahmadiyya community.
On April 1, 2010, unidentified militants in Faisalabad attacked a car carrying three Ahmadi men, fired multiple shots, killed brothers 60-year-old Sheikh Ashraf Parvez and 57-year-old Sheikh Masood Jawad, and Jawad’s 24-year-old son Asif Masood. There were reports that victims had been previously threatened because of their religious affiliation.
On January 14, 2010, authorities in Ahmad Nagar confiscated an Ahmadiyya mosque and transferred it to non-Ahmadi Muslims on the grounds of “preempting the extreme law and order disturbance” when extremist religious elements threatened to take over the mosque by force. The district coordination officer cited the anti-Ahmadiyya constitutional amendment to justify his actions.
In January 2010 land belonging to Ahmadis in Rabwah was confiscated and sold at public auction. The auction notice contained a “Special Note” indicating that neither Ahmadis nor their relatives could bid on the property, and any land purchased could not be subsequently sold to Ahmadis.
In September 2009 police instructed Ahmadi shopkeepers of Green Town in Lahore to remove Qur’anic verses from their shops to avoid being attacked by Muslim extremists. Under the constitution Ahmadis were not permitted to participate as members of the Muslim community. The shopkeepers noted that the verses had been displayed on their shops for many years and claimed that Sunni shopkeepers had raised the issue with police due to jealousy and business rivalries.
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, but the other escaped. Police opened an investigation and were seeking the other assailant. There was no new information on this case by the end of the reporting period.
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. The Ahmadis were released on bail, but the case is ongoing. There was no new information on this case by the end of the reporting period.
There was no new information on the January 2009 killing in Kotri, Sindh Province, of an Ahmadi shopkeeper, Saeed Ahmed. At the time a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya community claimed that Ahmed was killed because of his faith.
In January 2009 police arrested four Ahmadi teenagers and an adult in Layyah, Punjab, on charges of blasphemy. Some local clerics reportedly attempted to incite violence following the incident. The accused were released on bail in November 2009; their case went to trial in December 2009 and remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.
In September 2008 authorities arrested 10 Ahmadis under Ahmadi-specific sections of the penal code. On October 11, 2008, eight more Ahmadis were added to the same case. All individuals arrested were released on bail.
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. During the conference panelists repeatedly spoke of how Ahmadis were “Wajb-ul-Qatl” (liable to death).
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 killing eight and injuring 20 persons. There was no new information on this incident by the end of the reporting period.
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 in jail.
Minority communities claimed the government was complicit in seizures of their property by Muslims, and that the policy of dismantling illegal slum settlements disproportionately targeted minority communities. These groups also accused the government of inaction in cases where extremist groups attacked places of worship belonging to minority groups.
Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
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. Conversion to other minority religious groups generally took place in secret to avoid societal backlash.
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. 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, 108 Ahmadis have been killed on religious grounds.
In September 2009 Ulema in Karachi announced that they would celebrate September 11 as a day of protest, declaring that Ahmadiyaat was a fitna (chaos) and that Ahmadis are blasphemers.
On June 13, 2010, according to India Today, two persons were injured in an explosion in Lahore when an explosive device detonated outside the Ahmadi-owned Shezan Factory. The police were investigating whether the attack had targeted Ahmadis.
On May 31, 2010, in the town of Narowal, Abid Butt stabbed Naimatullah Ahmed, a 55 year-old Ahmadi, and his son Mansoor Ahmed. Naimatullah died of knife wounds, and Mansoor was taken to the hospital. The attacker escaped, but was quoted as threatening to not leave any Ahmadi alive.
On March 19, 2010, unknown individuals kidnapped Iftikhar-ul-Haq, an Ahmadi lawyer from Quetta, at gunpoint and held him for a ransom of 100 million rupees (approximately $1.17 million dollars.). While he was held, he was accused of distributing Ahmadi literature and converting others. He was also asked to name Ahmadi community officials and businessmen. He was released for 3,085,000 rupees ($45,000) on April 7.
According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, on January 5, 2010, two masked gunmen on motorcycles shot Muhammad Yusuf, a 70-year-old retired Ahmadi professor, in Lahore. He died on route to the hospital.
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.
Discrimination in employment based on religious affiliation appeared widespread.……
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. U.S. embassy and consulate officers maintained a dialogue with government, religious, and minority community representatives to encourage religious freedom and discuss the blasphemy laws, curriculum reform in public education and madrassah education systems, treatment of the Ahmadiyya and Christian communities, and sectarian violence.
Officers investigated and monitored human rights cases involving religious minorities and pressed government officials to respond swiftly and effectively to these incidents, as well as to improve the regular protection of and outreach to minority groups.
Following the May 28, 2010, attacks on the Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, the Department of State, the embassy, and consulate general Lahore publicly condemned the attacks and called for a thorough investigation.
Embassy officials, including the ambassador, and visiting State Department officials met with government officials as well as leaders from communities of all religious groups and nongovernmental organizations working on religious freedom issues. For example, during her October 2009 visit to Pakistan, Secretary Clinton visited the shrine of the Bari Imam in Islamabad. She also met with the imam of the 17th century Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. Under Secretary for Global Affairs Otero chaired a roundtable with minority leaders. Embassy and consulate personnel participated in interfaith dialogue efforts organized by Pakistani religious and civil society organizations.
Embassy officials also raised with parliamentarians the treatment of Ahmadis, Christians, and Hindus. During Ramadan embassy and consulate officials hosted several iftars (evening meal during Ramadan).