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Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report 2002
Pakistan Human Rights Practices, 2002

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2002
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 31, 2003.

... President Musharraf has spoken out against some of the human rights abuses of the previous government; however, the Government only made minimal progress toward achieving the goals set at conferences devoted to human rights themes that were held during the year. .... [ Para 5 ]

... Governmental and societal discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis, remained a problem, and the Government failed to take effective measures to counter prevalent public prejudices against religious minorities.... [ Para 6 ]


Section 1
Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

Sectarian violence and tensions continued to be a serious problem throughout the country. Despite the Government's ban on groups involved in sectarian killings, violence between rival Sunni and Shi'a Muslim groups continued, although the number of Shi’a professionals killed in Karachi and elsewhere decreased significantly. In addition, Ahmadis, Christians, and other religious minorities often were the targets of such violence. During the year, at least 53 cases of sectarian violence occurred in the country, most carried out by unidentified gunmen. [ Para 18 ]

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Police failed in some instances to protect members of religious minorities--particularly Christians and Ahmadis--from societal attacks (see Section 5). [ Para 39 ]

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

... Additional offenses that can be tried under the Anti-Terrorist Act include acts to stir-up religious feelings; efforts to “wage war against the State;” conspiracy; acts committed in abetting an offense; and kidnaping of or abduction to confine a person.... Cases were to be decided within 7 working days, but judges were free to extend the period of time as required. Trials in absentia initially were permitted but later were prohibited. Appeals to an appellate tribunal also were required to take no more than 7 days, but appellate authority since has been restored to the High and Supreme Courts, under which these time limits do not apply. Under the Anti-Terrorist Act, bail was not to be granted if the court has reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is guilty. [ Para 74 ]

Section 2
Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

... The Constitution also prohibited the ridicule of Islam, the armed forces, or the judiciary. The Penal Code mandates the death sentence for anyone defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad, life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran, and up to 10 years in prison for insulting another's religious beliefs with the intent to outrage religious feelings (see Section 2.c.). The Anti-Terrorist Act stipulates imprisonment with rigorous labor for up to 7 years for using abusive or insulting words, or possessing or distributing written or recorded material, with the intent to stir up sectarian hatred. No warrant was required to seize such material. [ Para 99 ]

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

...Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings since 1984(see Section 2.c.)... [ Para 118 ]

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom “to assemble peacefully and without arms subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order;” however, the Government imposed significant restrictions on this right during the year. Rallies and processions on streets, roads, and railway stations remained prohibited, and provincial and district administrations were given authority to determine the time and place of meeting. Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings since 1984 (see Section 2.c.). Throughout the year, the Government occasionally interfered with large opposition rallies, which were held by an alliance of political parties. In March 2000, the Musharraf Government enacted an ordinance banning all public political gatherings, processions, and strikes held outdoors. During the election campaign, the Government approved some public political gatherings, including pro-government and opposition candidates rallies and outdoor meetings. During the year, the ban was enforced unevenly. [ Para 118 ]

During the year, the number of cases filed under the blasphemy laws continued to be significant. A Christian NGO reported that 58 cases were registered during 2000 and 2001, compared to 53 cases during 1999-2000. In October 2000, police arrested Nasir Ahmad of Rajanpur district under Section 295(b) for allegedly defiling a copy of the Koran. Ahmad remained in custody and his trial had not been concluded at year's end. The blasphemy laws also have been used to “settle scores” unrelated to religious activity, such as intrafamily or property disputes. On July 5, a mob of approximately 300 persons killed a 48-year-old Muslim on the fatwa of a cleric in the central Punjab province. The man previously had been charged with blasphemy; however, he was acquitted on the grounds he was mentally ill. [ Para 128 ]

When blasphemy and other religious cases are brought to court, extremists often pack the courtroom and make public threats about the consequences of an acquittal. As a result, the accused often are denied requests for bail on the grounds that their lives would be at risk from vigilantes if released. Many judges also try to pass such cases to other jurists; some judges reportedly have handed down guilty verdicts to protect themselves and their families from religious extremists. [ Para 131 ]

The Constitution specifically prohibited discriminatory admission to any governmental educational institution solely on the basis of religion. Government officials state that the only factors affecting admission to governmental educational institutions are students' grades and home provinces. However, students must declare their religion on application forms. Ahmadis and Christians reported discrimination in applying to government educational institutions due to their religious affiliation. [ Para 132 ]

The Government designates religion on passports, and to get a passport citizens must declare whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. Muslims also must affirm that they accept the unqualified finality of the prophethood of Mohammed and declare that Ahmadis are non-Muslims. [ Para 135 ]

The Ahmadis are subject to specific restrictions under law. A constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because, according to the Government, they do not accept Mohammed as the last prophet of Islam. [Note : See Ahmadiyya Belief]. However, Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslims and observe Islamic practices. In May the Government announced the restoration of a voter registration form designed to single out Ahmadis. The section, which required Muslims to swear they believe in the “finality of Mohammed's prophethood,” singled out members of the Ahmadis sect who are less categorical about this tenet of Islam. The Government and anti-Ahmadi religious groups have used this provision extensively to harass Ahmadis. Ahmadis suffer from various restrictions of religious freedom and widespread societal discrimination, including violation of their places of worship, being barred from burial in Muslim graveyards, denial of freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, and restrictions on their press. Several Ahmadi mosques remained closed. Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding conferences or gatherings. Ahmadis are prohibited from taking part in the Hajj (the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca). Some popular newspapers publish anti-Ahmadi “conspiracy” stories, which contribute to anti-Ahmadi sentiments in society. [ Para 138 ]

Sectarian violence between members of different religious groups received national attention during the year and continued to be a serious problem. Christians, Ahmadis, and other religious minorities often were the targets of such violence. [ Para 140 ]

Government authorities afford religious minorities fewer legal protections than are afforded to Sunni Muslim citizens. Members of religious minorities are subject to violence and harassment, and police at times refuse to prevent such actions or to charge persons who commit them. [ Para 144 ]

Ahmadi individuals and institutions often are targets of religious intolerance, much of which is instigated by organized religious extremists. Ahmadi leaders charge that militant Sunni mullahs and their followers sometimes stage marches through the streets of Rabwah, a predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center in central Punjab. Backed by crowds of 100 to 200 persons, the mullahs purportedly denounce Ahmadis and their founder, a situation that sometimes leads to violence. The Ahmadis claim that police generally are present during these marches but do not intervene to prevent trouble. For example, in January Ghulam Mustafa Mohsin was killed in his home in District Toba Tek Sing, after receiving a series of death threats. [ Para 145 ]

Ahmadis suffer from harassment and discrimination and have limited chances for advancement into management levels in government service. In the past few years Ahmadis claim that even the rumor that someone may be an Ahmadi or have Ahmadi relatives can stifle opportunities for employment or promotion. Ahmadi students in public schools are subject to abuse by their non-Ahmadi classmates, and the quality of teachers assigned to predominantly Ahmadi schools by the Government generally is poor. However, most Ahmadis are home-schooled or go to private Ahmadi-run schools. Young Ahmadis complain of difficulty in gaining admittance to good colleges and consequently having to go abroad for higher education. Certain sections of the Penal Code discriminate against Ahmadis, particularly the provision that forbids Ahmadis from “directly or indirectly” posing as Muslims. Armed with this vague wording, mullahs have brought charges against Ahmadis for using standard Muslim salutations and for naming their children Mohammed. [ Para 146 ]

The predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center of Chenab Nagar (formerly known as Rabwah) in Punjab often has been a site of violence against Ahmadis (see Section 5). [ Para 147 ]

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights:

The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

There are 10 minorities in the 342-seat legislature; there are none in the Cabinet; and there are none in the Supreme Court. The Government distinguished between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to politics and political rights (see Section 2.c.). Furthermore, according to the Constitution, the President and the Prime Minister must be Muslim. The Prime Minister, federal ministers, and ministers of state, as well as elected members of the Senate and National Assembly (including non-Muslims) must take an oath to “strive to preserve the Islamic ideology, which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan.” Electoral reforms prepared during the year eliminated the separate electorate system for religious minorities. In addition to joint electorates, minorities could vote for reserved at-large candidates who would represent their groups. The Musharraf Government restored the conditions for voting as outlined in the Constitution; however, pressure from religious groups led the government to declare that Muslim voters had to sign an oath to declare the finality of the prophet Mohammed. Voters who did not sign the oath would be put on a separate electoral roll in the same constituency. This requirement singled out Ahmadis. Under the previous electoral system, minorities voted for reserved at-large seats, not for nonminority candidates who represent actual constituencies. Under Article 106 of the Constitution, minorities also had reserved seats in the provincial assemblies (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 175 ]

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