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Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report 2003
Pakistan Human Rights Practices, 2003

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 25, 2004.

The press was able to publish relatively freely; however, journalists practiced self-censorship, especially on sensitive issues related to the military, and human rights groups continued to report acts of intimidation against journalists by the central Government. Provincial and local governments occasionally arrested journalists and closed newspapers that were critical of the Government or printed allegedly offensive material. …… The Government imposed some limits on freedom of association, religion, and movement. Governmental and societal discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Christians and Ahmadis, remained a problem. [ Para 8 ]


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 groups continued, although the number of Shi'a professionals killed in Karachi and elsewhere decreased from 2002. In addition, Ahmadis, Christians, and other religious minorities often were targeted. [ Para 21 ]

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 2.c. and 5). [ Para 36 ]

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The anti-terrorist courts, set up in August 1997, designed for the speedy punishment of terrorist suspects, have special streamlined procedures; however, due to the continued intimidation of witnesses, police, and judges, the courts initially produced only a handful of convictions. Under the act, terrorist killings were punishable by death and any act, including speech, intended to stir up religious hatred, is punishable by up to 7 years’ rigorous imprisonment. …… [ Para 75 ]

Section 2
Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution also prohibits 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. In addition, any person who printed, published, or disseminated any material from these organizations was subject to 6 months’ imprisonment [ Para 98 ]

The Government generally did not restrict academic freedom. However, the atmosphere of violence and intolerance fostered by student organizations, typically tied to religious political parties, continued to limit academic freedom. On some university campuses, well-armed groups of students, primarily from radical religious organizations, had armed clashes with and intimidated other students, instructors, and administrators over issues such as language, syllabus contents, examination policies, grades, doctrines, and dress. These groups frequently facilitated cheating on examinations, interfered with the hiring of staff, controlled who was admitted to the universities, and sometimes also controlled the funds of the institutions. Such control generally has been achieved through a combination of protest rallies, control of the campus media, and threats of mass violence. For example, in October, feuding tribes of students fought one another at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. One student was shot and killed. In November, at Karachi University, a student mob ransacked the Department of Visual Studies and destroyed musical instruments, sculptures and paintings. At Punjab University, the student wing of the political party Jaamat-i-Islami continued to impose its self-defined code of conduct on teachers and students by threatening to foment unrest on campus if its demands were not met. [ Para 114 ]

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

…… Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings since 1984 (see Section 2.c.). …… [ Para 115 ]

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and states that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely; ** however, the Government limited freedom of religion. Islam was the dominant religion. The Constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam and imposed some elements of Koranic law on both Muslims and religious minorities. All citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation, were subject to certain provisions of Shari'a, such as the blasphemy laws. Reprisals and threats of reprisals against suspected converts were common. Members of religious minorities were subject to violence and harassment, and police at times refused to prevent such actions or to charge persons who commit them, which contributed to a climate of impunity for acts of violence and intimidation against religious minorities. [ Para 121 ]

During the year, the number of cases filed under the blasphemy laws continued to be significant. A local NGO estimated that 157 persons had been incarcerated for violations of the blasphemy law during the year. For example, in July, Munawar Mohsin, an editor at the Frontier Post newspaper, was convicted of publishing a blasphemous letter and sentenced to life imprisonment (see Section 2.a.). The appeal of Wajihul Hassam, who in 2002 was accused of blasphemy, continued during the year. There were no developments in the 2000 trial of Nasir Ahmad. The blasphemy laws also have been used to “settle scores” unrelated to religious activity, such as intrafamily or property disputes. There was no further action taken in the 2001 blasphemy case against Pervez Masih, a Christian in Sialkot District. By year's end, the Lahore High Court acquitted two Christian brothers who had been sentenced to 35 years' imprisonment for allegedly desecrating the Koran and blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed. On August 7, the Lahore High Court upheld the life sentences of two Christians, Amjad Masih and Asif Masih, who allegedly set fire to the Koran while in police custody. [ Para 124 ]

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 126 ]

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 127 ]

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 130 ]

Permission to buy land comes from one municipal bureaucracy, and permission to build a house of worship from another. For all religious groups, the process appeared to be subject to bureaucratic delays and requests for bribes. [ Para 131 ]

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 2002, the Government announced the restoration of a voter registration form that singled out Ahmadis by requiring them to swear they believe in the “finality of Mohammed's prophethood.” 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, limits on 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 133 ]

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 135 ]

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 139 ]

Ahmadi individuals and institutions often are targets of religious intolerance, much of which is instigated by organized religious extremists. For example, on July 17, Brigadier Iftikhar Ahmad, a well-known Ahmadi, was shot in his home in Rawalpindi. [ Para 140 ]

Ahmadis suffer from harassment and discrimination and have limited chances for advancement into management levels in government service. In 2002, most Ahmadis boycotted the national elections after the government developed two voting lists, one for Ahmadis and one for all other citizens, including other religious minorities. 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 141 ]

For a more detailed discussion see the 2003 International Religious Freedom Report. [ Para 145 ]

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

…… The Government distinguished between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to politics and political rights (see Section 2.c.). In addition to joint electorates, minorities could vote for reserved at-large candidates who would represent their groups. The 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 non-minority candidates who represent geographic constituencies. Under Article 106 of the Constitution, minorities also had reserved seats in the provincial assemblies (see Section 2.c.). [ Para 169 ]

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provided for equality before the law for all citizens and broadly prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth; however, in practice there was significant discrimination based on these factors. [ Para 175 ]

** Word “freely” which appeared in the original Objective Resolution, passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in March, 1949, was omitted when it was made a substantive part of the Constitution of Pakistan by P.O. (Presidential Order) No.14 of 1985, Art.2 and Sch.item 2 (with effect from March 2, 1985). Resume Reading
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