Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
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Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report 1997
Pakistan Human Rights Practices, 1997

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
Pakistan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, - January 30, 1998.

Under Introduction it is stated “......The Government imposes limits on the freedom of assembly, movement, and--for the Ahmadis in particular -- religion.” [ Para 4 ]

“.....while religious zealots continued to discriminate against and persecute religious minorities, particularly Ahmadis and Christians, basing their activities in part on legislation that discriminates against non-Muslims. Government-imposed procedural changes have made the registration of blasphemy charges more difficult. Nonetheless, three Ahmadis were convicted under the blasphemy law during the year and a number of people are still facing trial.” [ Para 5 ]

Section 2
Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

c. Freedom of Religion

A 1974 constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because they do not accept Mohammed as the last prophet of Islam. (Note : See Ahmadiyya Beliefs). However, Ahmadis regard themselves as Muslims and observe many Islamic practices. In 1984 the Government inserted Section 298(c) into the Penal Code, prohibiting an Ahmadi from calling himself a Muslim and banning Ahmadis from using Islamic terminology. The punishment is up to 3 years' imprisonment and a fine. Since that time, the Government and some religious groups have used this provision to harass Ahmadis (see Section 5). [ Para 5 ]

Section 295(a), the blasphemy provision of the Penal Code, originally stipulated a maximum 2-year sentence for insulting the religion of any class of citizens. This sentence was increased to 10 years in 1991. In 1982 Section 295(b) was added, which stipulated a sentence of life imprisonment for “whoever willfully defiles, damages, or desecrates a copy of the holy Koran.” In 1986 another amendment, 295(c), established the death penalty or life imprisonment for directly or indirectly defiling “the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammad.” In 1991 a court struck down the option of life imprisonment. These laws, especially Section 295(c), have been used by rivals and authorities to threaten, punish, or intimidate Ahmadis, Christians, and even orthodox Muslims. Since 1996 magistrates are now required to investigate allegations of blasphemy to see whether they are credible before filing formal charges. [ Para 6 ]

Three Ahmadis were convicted of blasphemy in December. Abdul Qadeer, Muhammad Shahbaz, and Ishfaq Ahmad were found guilty of violating Section 295(c) and sentenced to life imprisonment and a 50,000 rupee fines. Lawyers for the men are appealing their cases at both the High and Supreme Court levels; in the meantime, the men are serving their sentences in the Sheikhupura jail. Meanwhile, a number of persons are in jails awaiting trial on charges of violating them. Among the blasphemy cases opened through August was one brought against a Muslim religious scholar, Muhammad Yusuf Ali, who was charged under Section 295(c). He has been jailed in a class “C” cell since March. Due to threats, his wife had to resign her job as a professor and go into hiding with their children. In January five Christians were detained by police for 2 weeks because they supposedly signed a letter that blasphemed the Prophet Mohammed and threatened to blow up a mosque. The five, all poor and reportedly illiterate, were eventually found innocent and released. The cases of Christians Anwar Masih (jailed for the past 4 years) and Ayub Masih (detained since October 1996), both of whom are charged under Section 295(c), remain pending in the courts. Christian activists allege that on November 6, someone fired a shot at Ayub outside the court. The police allege that the sound of gunfire was caused by a firecracker and have closed the investigation of the incident. According to Ahmadi activists, during the year 32 Ahmadis were charged with violating the blasphemy laws and sections of the Pakistan Penal Code that were Ahmadi-specific. Ahmadi leaders state that of 156 Ahmadis awaiting trial on various charges related to their religious beliefs, as of December 151 were free on bail. Four of the five who were in prison as of December -- Riaz Ahmed, Bashir Ahmed, Qamar Ahmed, and Mushtaq Ahmed -- were released from prison after their application for bail was approved by the Supreme Court. [ Para 7 ]

Ahmadis continue to suffer from a variety of problems, including violation of their places of worship, being barred from burial in Muslim graveyards, denial of freedom of faith, speech, and assembly, restrictions on their press, a social boycott, and alleged official support of extremist elements who act against the Ahmadi community (see Section 5). Several Ahmadi mosques remained closed. In January extremist religious agitation forced the caretaker Government to back down from a decision to replace the term “non-Muslim” with “Ahmadi” under the category of religion on passports. [ Para 8 ]

When religious cases are brought to court, extremists often pack the courtroom and make public threats about the consequences of an acquittal. As a result, judges and magistrates, seeking to avoid a confrontation with the extremists, often continue trials indefinitely, and the accused is burdened with further legal costs and repeated court appearances. Prior to his murder in October, Lahore High Court justice Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti, one of the two judges who in 1995 ruled to acquit accused Christian blasphemers Salamat and Rehmat Masih, received several death threats from Islamic extremist groups. Bhatti's killer had not been arrested by year's end. [ Para 10 ]

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

The Constitution provides for equality before the law for all citizens and broadly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth. In practice, however, there is significant discrimination based on these factors.

Religious Minorities

Government authorities afford religious minorities less legal protection than is afforded to Muslim citizens. Members of religious minorities are subject to violence and harassment, and police at times refuse to prevent such actions or to charge those who commit them.

Ahmadis are often targets of religious intolerance, much of it instigated by local religious leaders. For example, the chief mullah of the central mosque of Pattoki distributed a handbill in which he declared that all Ahmadis, as apostates, should be killed under Shari'a, but that, regretfully, the law had not been applied. Ahmadi leaders charge that militant Sunni mullahs and their followers stage frequent marches through the streets of the Ahmadi capital of Rabwah in central Punjab. Backed by mobs of 100 to 200 people, the mullahs purportedly stride down the streets uttering diatribes against Ahmadis and their founder, a situation that often leads to violence. Police are generally on hand during these marches, the Ahmadis claim, but as a rule do not intervene to prevent trouble. A number of Ahmadis were seriously injured in attacks by religious extremists, and Ahmadi leaders attribute three murders of their group during the year to anti-Ahmadi zealots. All three of the victims had received numerous threatening letters prior to their murders.

Ahmadis suffer from harassment (see Section 2.c.) and discrimination and have limited chances for advancement into management levels in government service. Even the rumor that someone may be an Ahmadi or have Ahmadi relatives can stifle opportunities for employment or promotion. Ahmadi students are subject to abuse by their non-Ahmadi classmates, and the quality of teachers assigned to the schools by the Government is poor. Young Ahmadis and their parents also complain of difficulty in gaining admittance to good colleges, forcing many children to go abroad for higher education. Certain sections of the Penal Code have also caused problems for the group (see Section 2.c.), 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 the standard Muslim greeting form and naming their children Mohammad.

Other religious minority groups also experience considerable discrimination in employment and education. In Pakistan's early years, minorities were able to rise to the senior ranks of the military and civil service. Today, many are unable to rise above mid-level ranks. Discrimination in employment is believed to be common. Christians in particular have difficulty finding jobs other than those of menial labor, although Christian activists say that the employment situation has improved somewhat in the private sector. Christians find themselves disproportionately overrepresented in Pakistan's most oppressed social group--that of bonded laborers. Like Ahmadis, many Christians complain about the difficulty that their children have in gaining admission to government schools and colleges, a problem they attribute to discrimination. Many Christians continue to express fear of forced marriages between Muslim males and Christian women, although the practice is relatively rare. Reprisals against suspected converts to Christianity are common, and a general atmosphere of religious intolerance has led to acts of violence against religious minorities (see Section 2.c.). There are also restrictions on testimony in court by non-Muslims (see Section 1.e.).

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