Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Recommend UsEmail this PagePersecution News RSS Blog
Introduction & Updates
<< ... Worldwide ... >>
Monthly Newsreports
Annual Newsreports
Media Reports
Press Releases
Facts & Figures
Individual Case Reports
Pakistan and Ahmadis
Critical Analysis/Archives
Persecution - In Pictures
United Nations, HCHR
Amnesty International
US States Department
Urdu Section
Feedback/Site Tools
Related Links

Home U.S. Department of State Annual Report 1999
Pakistan Human Rights Practices, 1999

Excerpts from
U.S. Department of State
1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 25, 2000.

Both Governments imposed limits on freedom of religion, particularly for Ahmadis. Three Ahmadis sentenced in 1997 to life in prison for blasphemy remain incarcerated. [ Para 4 ]

There was considerable discrimination against religious minorities. Both Governments as well as sectarian groups continued to discriminate against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadis and Christians. Religious and ethnic-based rivalries resulted in numerous killings and civil disturbances. [ Para 5 ]

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

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

In 1997 cases filed under section 295(a) of the Penal Code (one of the so-called blasphemy laws) were transferred to the antiterrorist courts. Human rights advocates feared that if blasphemy cases were tried in the antiterrorist courts, alleged blasphemers, who in the past normally were granted bail or released for lack of evidence were likely to be convicted, given the less stringent rules of evidence required under the Anti-Terrorism Act. [ Para 4 ]

There are limited numbers of political prisoners. Certain sections of the Penal Code directly target members of the Ahmadi faith. Since they were adopted, Ahmadis incarcerated under these provisions number approximately 200, according to Ahmadi sources. A number of minority religious groups argue that other sections of the Penal Code -- particularly the related blasphemy laws -- are used in a discriminatory fashion by local officials or private individuals to punish religious minorities. While precise numbers are unavailable, the Ahmadis estimate that 61 of their coreligionists were charged in criminal cases “on a religious basis” as of August (see Section 2.c. and Section 5). [ Para 20 ]

Section 2
Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

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, while the Government generally permits peaceful assembly, it occasionally interferes with large rallies, which are held by all political parties. Since 1984 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings. [ Para 1 ]

c. Freedom of Religion

Pakistan is an Islamic republic in which approximately 95 percent of the population is Muslim, and while the Constitution grants citizens the right to “profess, practice, and propagate” their religion, the Government imposes limits on freedom of religion. The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim, but 20 to 25 percent of the population is Shi'a. The Constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam and imposes some elements of Koranic law on both Muslims and religious minorities. While there is no law establishing the Koranic death penalty for apostates (those who convert from Islam), social pressure against such an action is so powerful that most such conversions take place in secret. Reprisals and threats of reprisals against suspected converts are common. Members of religious minorities are subject to violence and harassment, and police at times refuse to prevent such actions or charge persons who commit them. For example, according to the HRCP, in one case prior to 1999, Muhammad Akram was threatened with death by an influential local religious organization after he joined the Ahmadiyya community, whose members are regarded as non-Muslims under the Constitution. The threat was published on the organization's own letterhead, but no legal action has been taken against the group.

“Islamiyyat” (Islamic studies) is compulsory for all Muslim students in state-run schools. Students of other faiths are not required to study Islam but are not provided with parallel studies in their own religion. In practice many non-Muslim students are compelled by teachers to complete the Islamiyyat studies. An education policy announced by the Government in 1998 included provisions for increased mandatory Islamic instruction in public schools.

Minority religious groups feared that the explicit constitutional imposition of Shari'a (Islamic law) favored by the Prime Minister in his proposed 15th amendment and his goal of Islamizing government and society might further restrict the freedom to practice non-Islamic religions. The Sharif Government countered that the proposed amendment contained specific language protecting the rights of minorities. In two areas of the NWFP -- in Malakand and Kohistan -- Shari'a law was instituted beginning in January, in the first by regulation and the second by an ordinance. On September 20, a bill was passed by the NWFP Assembly that incorporated the Kohistan ordinance in into law; Shari'a law now applies in Kohistan (see Section 1.e.). On December 23, the Supreme Court ruled that interest is un-Islamic and directed the Government to implement an interest-free financial system by June, 2001. Discriminatory religious legislation has added to an atmosphere of religious intolerance, which has led to acts of violence directed against minority Muslim sects, as well as against Christians, Hindus, and members of Muslim offshoot sects such as Ahmadis and Zikris (see Section 5). Since the coup, no action has been taken on the 15th amendment.

Then-Prime Minister Sharif spoke out in support of the rights of religious minorities, and hosted a Christmas dinner in 1997 for 1,200 persons. In September, the Government removed colonial-era entries for “sect” from government job application forms to prevent discrimination in hiring. However, the faith of some, particularly Christians, often can be ascertained from their names. General Musharraf and members of his staff apparently consulted with religious minorities on some cabinet appointments.

In February 1997, a mob looted and burned the Christian village of Shantinagar in Punjab. Local police participated in the attack and are suspected of having instigated the riot by inventing spurious charges that a Christian man had desecrated a copy of the Koran. Hundreds of homes and a dozen churches were destroyed, and 20,000 persons were left homeless. The central Government took immediate relief action, deploying troops briefly to restore order, and the Prime Minister visited the village. The Government has rebuilt damaged and destroyed homes, but has not provided compensation for personal property lost in the incident. The villagers remain fearful of further attacks, and the police officers believed to be responsible for the riot, though transferred and briefly suspended, have not faced criminal sanctions. The 86 persons who were charged with offenses related to the attack remain free on bail and there was no indication that authorities planned to bring them to trial.

In March 1998, a district court in Rawalpindi removed three sisters, ages 11 to 15, who had converted from Christianity to Islam, from the custody of their Christian parents. The importance of the parents' religion in the judge's decision, however, was not clear. A subsequent court decision in March, over the parents' objections, awarded custody of the two youngest girls to their older sister (who reportedly had converted to Islam) and her Muslim husband; the eldest of the three girls reportedly had married her attorney. The girl's parents attributed the loss of their girls to the influence of religious extremists who packed the courtroom, and claim to have suffered harassment because of the case. The girls' family since has moved, and reportedly is in hiding.

The Ahmadis are subject to specific restrictions under law. A 1974 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 1984 the Government inserted Section 298(c) into the Penal Code, prohibiting Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim and banning them from using Islamic words, phrases, and greetings. The constitutionality of Section 298(c) was upheld in a split-decision Supreme Court case in 1996. The punishment for violation of this section is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine. This provision has been used extensively by the Government and anti-Ahmadi religious groups to harass Ahmadis. Ahmadis continue to suffer from a variety of 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 faith, speech, and assembly, and restrictions on their press. Several Ahmadi mosques remained closed. Since 1984, Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings. Tabloid-style Urdu newspapers also frequently whip up popular emotions against Ahmadis by running “conspiracy” stories.

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, Section 295(c), established the death penalty or life imprisonment for directly or indirectly defiling “the sacred name of the holy prophet Mohammed.” In 1991 a court struck down the option of life imprisonment. These laws, especially Section 295(c), have been used by rivals and the authorities to threaten, punish, or intimidate Ahmadis, Christians, and even orthodox Muslims. No one has been executed by the State under any of these provisions, although religious extremists have killed some persons accused under them. Since 1996 magistrates have been required to investigate allegations of blasphemy to see whether they are credible before filing formal charges. During the year, the Ministry of Religious Affairs announced the creation of “Peace Committees” to review charges of blasphemy before the police can act on them; however, these committees are not yet operative. On September 8, Ataulla Waraich was arrested and charged under Section 298(b) after he constructed an Ahmadi mosque on his property; during the year, Qim Ali was charged with violating Section 298(c) because he stated that he was a Muslim, and Dr. Abdul Ghani Ahmadi was charged under Sections 295(a), 295(c), 298(c) for preaching. In September 1998, a Shi'a Muslim, Ghulam Akbar, was convicted of blasphemy in Rahimyar Khan, Punjab, for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed in 1995. He was sentenced to death, the first time a Muslim had been sentenced to death for a violation of the blasphemy law. The case remained under appeal as of June 30; there was no further information on the case at year's end. Ghulam Hussain, a Shi'a Muslim, received a 30-year jail sentence and a $1,500 (PRs 75,000) fine for blasphemy against the companions of the prophet.

According to Ahmadi sources, 80 Ahmadis were implicated in criminal cases on a “religious basis” (including blasphemy) in 22 cases between January and early December; 44 Ahmadis were charged with violating blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws during 1998. According to these sources, a total of 195 Ahmadis have been charged under the law since its inception. A Christian organization, the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), used public sources to compile lists of accused under the blasphemy law. By the NCJP's statistics, 14 incidents involving accusations of blasphemy on the part of Muslims took place between January and June. Ghulam Mustafa, an Ahmadi religious teacher, was charged for preaching on February 15 under Sections 298(c) and 295c. Intizar Ahmad Bajwa was charged in Purur under 298(c) on May 19. On June 21, three Ahmadis were arrested and another three were charged with blasphemy in Sheikupura, Punjab. Seven Ahmadis were charged in Bakhoo Bhatti, Punjab, with blasphemy on July 3. Mustaq Ahmad Saggon and Nasir Ahmad, two Ahmadis, were charged in Muzaffargarh on July 19 under Section 295 for preaching and distribution of religious literature. The case has been transferred to an antiterrorist court at Dera Ghazi Khan. On July 30, according to Ahmadi sources, a subdivisional magistrate ordered an Ahmadi mosque sealed in Naseerabad, Sindh; it remained sealed at year's end. Three Ahmadis were convicted of blasphemy in December 1997. Abdul Qadeer, Muhammad Shahbaz, and Ishfaq Ahmad were found guilty of violating Section 295(c) and sentenced to life imprisonment and $1,250 (PRs 50,000) fines. Lawyers for the men have appealed the decision to the Lahore High Court, whose ruling had not been issued by year's end. The Lahore High Court has turned down an application for bail while this appeal is under consideration. Their request for bail has been taken to the Supreme Court, which has not yet given a date for a bail hearing. In the meantime, the men are serving their sentences in the Sheikhupura jail. A number of other persons are in jails awaiting trial on blasphemy charges. A Muslim religious scholar, Muhammad Yusuf Ali, was charged under Sections 295(a) and (c) and was jailed in a class “C” cell from March 1997 until his release in June. Due to threats by religious extremists, his wife had to resign from her job as a professor and go into hiding with their children.

On December 14, a group of several hundred persons looted and burned property in Haveli Lakha, Okara district, Punjab that belonged to Mohammad Nawaz, a local Ahmadi leader accused of planning to build an Ahmadi house of worship. A neighbor reportedly incited the incident by accusing Nawaz of building the house of worship after the two were involved in a property dispute. Nawaz, a doctor, reportedly intended to build a free standing clinic next to his home. The mob destroyed the clinic, which was under construction, and looted and burned Nawaz's home. Police arrived at the scene, but did nothing to stop the crowd. By year's end, neither the neighbor nor anyone in the crowd had been arrested or questioned in connection with the incident, and police had taken no steps to find or return any of Nawaz's property. However, Nawaz and his two sons were arrested by the police on December 15 and charged with blasphemy. On December 20, Nawaz and his sons were granted bail, but the blasphemy case against them was pending at year's end. Other Ahmadis in Haveli Lakha also were charged with blasphemy in connection with the incident, even though they were not in the town at the time. Abdul Sattar Chaudhry, Muhammad Yar Jandeka, and Nasir Jandeka were charged under Section 298(c) for declaring themselves Muslims.

The predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center of Rabwah often has been a site of violence against Ahmadis (see Section 5). On November 17, 1998, the Punjab assembly unanimously passed a resolution to change the name of the Punjab town that serves as the administrative religious center of the Ahmadi community from “Rabwah” to “Chenab Nagar”. The son of a prominent Muslim fundamentalist filed charges in March against prominent Ahmadi leaders in Rabwah. He charged that Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the country's senior Ahmadi leader, and retired Colonel Ayyaz Mahmud, the leader of the Ahmadis in Rabwah, had directed Ahmadi activists to cross out the name Chenab Nagar on a recently installed plaque and write in Rabwah. The plaque also contained Koranic verses. The Ahmadi leaders denied this allegation. On April 30, Ahmad and three of his colleagues were arrested on blasphemy charges for allegedly inciting the desecration of the plaque. The blasphemy charges against three of the four eventually were dropped, and the four were released after spending more than a week in jail. However, Ahmad still faces charges under Section 295(c), and the three others still face criminal charges under the Maintenance of Public Order Act.

In October Shafiq Masih, a Christian, was acquitted of a blasphemy charge under Section 295(c), but was sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment under Section 295(a) for having uttered derogatory comments against the Prophet Mohammed; he is appealing the decision. In December Hussain Masih, a Christian charged with blasphemy under Section 295(c), was granted bail due to lack of evidence, according to Christian activists. Masih, his son Isaac, and Sehr Ghuri had been accused in November 1998 of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed and against the Muslim community. Ghuri was previously released on bail; Isaac Masih never surrendered to the authorities. Ayub Masih (a Christian detained since October 1996) was convicted of blasphemy under Section 295(c) for making favorable comments about Salman Rushdie, author of the controversial book “The Satanic Verses” and was sentenced to death in April 1998. Ayub's family and 13 other landless Christian families were forced from their village in 1996 following the charges. Masih survived an attempt on his life in 1997, when he was shot at outside of the courtroom while on trial. Although the case was pending appeal before the Lahore High Court, Ayub's principal defender, Faisalabad Roman Catholic bishop and human rights activist John Joseph, committed suicide in May 1998 with a handgun outside the Sahiwal court where Ayub had been convicted, to protest the conviction. The High Court appeal is still pending. Following the Bishop's suicide, there were violent incidents in Faisalabad and Lahore, involving both Christian and Muslim perpetrators. Another Christian, Ranjha Masih, was charged with blasphemy during one of these incidents after throwing rocks at an Islamic sign; he remains in a Faisalabad prison. Nazir Masih, a Christian arrested and charged under Sections 298 and 298(a) in August 1998 for allegedly insulting the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, was released on bail during the year.

In March a judge in the antiterrorist court of Muzaffargarh sentenced Muhammad Ishaq to 17 years in jail and a $2,000 (PRs 100,000) fine for propagating “un-Islamic” ideas. Ishaq was a member of the association of Partisans of Islam. In November two journalists, Zahoor Ansari and Ayub Khoso, were sentenced to 17 years in prison and a fine by an antiterrorist court. The journalists, who worked for the Sindhi daily newspaper Alakh, were charged with publishing derogatory words against the Prophet and insulting the religious feelings of Muslims, according to press reports (see Section 2.a.).

Sectarian violence and tensions continued to be a serious problem throughout the country. One newspaper reported that there have been 300 persons killed in sectarian violence in Punjab in the last 2 years (see Section 1.a.). However, sectarian violence decreased after the October 12 coup.

In April Prime Minister Sharif established a 10-member committee of religious scholars whose declared purpose was to eliminate growing sectarian terrorism and religious dissension in the country. The committee collapsed after a few weeks because Shi'a leaders were unhappy with the committee chairman, Dr. Israr Ahmad, head of the Tanzeem-e-Islami, who reportedly has a reputation for religious intolerance. In the same month, President Rafiq Tarar chaired a seminar in Lahore to foster better understanding between Christians and Muslims. At this interfaith gathering, participants discussed reconciliation efforts since the February 1997 anti-Christian violence in the Christian community of Shantinagar in Punjab, in which mobs looted and burned the village. Hundreds of homes and a dozen churches were destroyed, and 20,000 persons were left homeless.

However, after the coup, sectarian violence decreased. General Musharraf emphasized the rights of religious minorities in his speeches, and the Musharraf Government stated that it was committed to protecting the rights of religious minorities. According to persons in religious minority communities, the Musharraf Government made efforts to seek minority input into decision-making and offered cabinet positions to individuals from religious minority communities. General Musharraf appointed an Islamic religious scholar to the National Security Council. 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, 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. Many judges also seek to pass the cases to other jurists. Prior to his killing in 1997, 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, presumed to be a religious extremist, was arrested during the year, and is being held in Camp Jail in Lahore.

The Government distinguishes between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to political rights. In national and local elections, Muslims cast their votes for Muslim candidates by geographic locality, while non-Muslims can cast their votes only for at-large non-Muslim candidates. Legal provisions for minority reserved seats do not extend to the Senate and the Federal Cabinet, which currently are composed entirely of Muslims. 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 a religious oath to “strive to preserve the Islamic ideology, which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan” (see Section 3).

Upon conversion to Islam, the marriages of Jewish or Christian men remain legal; however, upon conversion to Islam, the marriages of Jewish or Christian women, or of other non-Muslims, that were performed under the rites of the previous religion are considered dissolved.

Section 3
Respect for Political Rights:

The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Minorities are underrepresented in government and politics. [ Para 9 ]

Under the electoral system, minorities vote for reserved at-large seats, not for nonminority candidates who represent actual constituencies. Because of this system, local parliamentary representatives have little incentive to promote their minority constituents' interests. Many Christian activists state that these “separate electorates” are the greatest obstacle to the attainment of Christian religious and civil liberties. Ahmadi leaders encourage their followers not to register as “non-Muslims”, so most Ahmadis are completely unrepresented. In the National Assembly (NA), Christians hold four reserved seats; Hindus and members of scheduled castes another four; Ahmadis one; and Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, and other non-Muslims one (see Section 2.c.). Each of the four categories is maintained on a separate electoral roll, and minorities cannot cast votes for the Muslim constituency seats. Also, under Article 106 of the Constitution, seats in the provincial assemblies are reserved for minorities. However, on June 28 the election tribunal of the NWFP disqualified Walter Siraj, the elected Christian seat member of the provincial assembly. Siraj's opponent had filed a petition alleging that Siraj rigged the election. A by-election was ordered. With the disqualification of Siraj, two of the three seats reserved for minorities in the NWFP were vacant. The 1997 general election report states that each Christian NA member represents 327,606 persons; each Hindu and scheduled castes NA member, 319,029; the Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, and other non-Muslim member, 112,801; and the Ahmadi member 104,244. These figures significantly understate the population of most of the minority groups because they are based on 1981 census figures. By year's end, the 1998 census figures for religious minorities had not been published. [ Para 10 ]

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

Religious Minorities

Government authorities afford religious minorities fewer 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.

Sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'a continued to be a serious problem throughout the country. In Punjab in particular, a deadly pattern of Sunni-Shi'a violence in which terrorists killed persons because of their membership in rival sectarian organizations, or simply for their religious identification, continued. On January 4, several motorcycle gunmen fired on an early morning prayer service at a Shi'a mosque in Karamdad Qureshi, Punjab, killing 17 persons and wounding at least 25 others. Police arrested 46 members of the Sipah-e-Sahabah Pakistan (SSP), a Sunni militant group, in connection with the attack. It was widely believed that an offshoot of the SSP, the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, was responsible for the attack. On March 24, motorcycle gunmen shot and killed Barkat Ali, a leader of the Shi'a group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafria, outside his home in the Tunsa area of Punjab. The gunmen are believed to belong to the SSP. Four individuals abducted and then killed Mirza Ghulam Qadir on April 14. Qadir was the nephew of the supreme head of the Ahmadi community. Ahmadis believe that militants from the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi killed him for religious reasons. Police killed the perpetrators in an encounter following the killing. On the evening of April 25, (the 8th of Moharram), four Shi'a Punjabis visiting a village near Dera Ismail Khan in the NWFP to recite Moharram morning prayers were killed in their sleep. Sunni religious militants were believed to have committed the killings in order to provoke Shi'a-Sunni conflict during the traditionally tense 9th and 10th of Moharram. Local authorities in the NWFP and in Punjab took steps to calm sentiments, and there was no further violence in connection with this incident. On August 19, Mohammed Khalid Rajput, an SSP activist, was shot and killed, apparently when members of the rival Shi'a organization, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-Jafria, fired on an SSP rally in Dera Ismail Khan, NWFP. On the following day, a Shi'a mourning procession was fired upon, although there were no casualties. Five persons were charged in connection with the killing; three had been arrested by year's end. On September 6, an explosion in a madrassah in Karachi injured more than 20 persons; those injured had rushed to the scene of a previous explosion, in which there were no injuries. On September 24, the Secretary General of the TJP in Dera Ismail Khan was killed by three SSP leaders, setting off a wave of sectarian violence. All three of the leaders were arrested soon after the killing; the case was pending at year's end. After the killing, attacks began in Punjab and Sindh, perpetrated by both Shi'as and Sunnis, in which more than 30 persons were killed. Among those killed were President of the Gujranwala division of the TJP, Ijaz Hussain Rasool Nagri, on September 30; 9 worshipers in a Shi'a mosque in Karachi on October 1; Assistant Inspector General of Police in the NWFP, Farooq Haider, a Shi'a, on October 2; 5 students in a Sunni madrassah in Karachi, on October 2; Dr. Qaiser Abbas Sayyal, a relative of an advisor to the Prime Minister, along with several others, in a clinic in Lahore in early October. On October 6, Nisa Ali Hazara, A Shi'a member of the Baluch Assembly and the Baluchistan Education Minister, was shot and injured in Quetta by masked gunmen as his car left the Baluch Assembly; his driver was killed. Also on October 6, two Shi'a homeopathic doctors, Al-e Hassan and Muttasim Hassan, were shot and killed at their home in Karachi by motorcycle gunmen; another doctor, Mohammad Nisar, an influential member of the Sunni Jamaat-i-Islami, was killed in Karachi earlier on the same day. Aun Mohammed Rizvi, a senior Shi'a official from the state-run television station, was shot and killed by motorcycle gunmen in Rawalpindi on October 7. The Punjab government ordered a crackdown on extremists in early October, as a result of which several hundred persons, including the leader of the SSP, Maulana Mohammad Azam Tariq, and SSP branch president Maulana Mohammad Ahmad Ludhianvi, were arrested. Tariq has since been released. On November 4, three explosions occurred in Murdike, where the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was holding its annual conference; 1 person was killed and more than 30 were injured. There were reports of between 16 and 40 encounter killings of members of the SSP and the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. On December 27, 13 Sunnis were killed and 6 were injured in Sikanderpur village, Haripur district, NWFP. The victims, who reportedly belonged to the SSP, were returning from the funeral of another SSP member and were killed by three Shi'as. Prior to the incident, there had been a dispute in the area over the construction of a Shi'a mosque in a graveyard claimed by local Sunnis. On December 28, despite an increase in security in the area, thousands of SSP members destroyed homes and shops belonging to local Shi'as after attending the funerals of those killed the previous day. At year's end, no suspects had been detained in connection with these events.

In July the Government released Sunni extremist leader Mohammad Azam Tariq, chief of the SSP, who had been arrested in May 1997 and charged with the murder of a former PPP member of Parliament and in 58 other cases of murder, terrorism, and incitement to sectarian violence. The SSP and its militant offshoot, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, frequently are involved in anti-Shi'a sectarian violence.

Ahmadis are often targets of religious intolerance, much of which is instigated by organized religious extremists. For example, in a July 1998 sermon at a rally in Lahore, the head of the influential Tanzeem Islami organization, Israr Ahmed, stated that the Government and Muslims have a right to commit a “general massacre” of the Ahmadis, since they are heretics. 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 mobs of 100 to 200 persons, the mullahs purportedly stride down the streets uttering diatribes against the Ahmadis and their founder, a situation that often leads to violence. Police generally are present during these marches, the Ahmadis claim, but as a rule do not intervene to prevent trouble. A number of Ahmadis were injured seriously in attacks by religious extremists, and Ahmadi leaders attribute several killings of Ahmadis during the year to anti-Ahmadi extremists. The Majlis Tahafuz Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (Committee for the Finality of the Prophethood) actively promoted an anti-Ahmadi agenda during the year. According to press reports, in August Religious Affairs Minister Raja Zafarul Haq asserted that “un-Islamic” activities would not be tolerated and sent a message of support to the international Khatam-e-Nabuwwat movement. According to press reports, Muslim clerics called on President Tarar on April 23 to ask the President to extend the anti-Ahmadi ordinance to Azad Kashmir. There has been no progress in the 1998 killings of Muhammad Ayub Azam and Maleek Nasir.

Ahmadis suffer from harassment and discrimination and have limited chances for advancement into management levels in government service (see Section 2.c.). 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 is poor. However, most Ahmadis are home-schooled or go to private Ahmadi-run schools. 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 also have 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 Mohammed.

Other religious minority groups also experience considerable discrimination in employment and education. In the country'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 over-represented 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 occur, and a general atmosphere of religious intolerance has led to acts of violence against religious minorities (see Section 2.c.). For example, on October 22, a Christian church in Lahore was set on fire and sustained major damage. An individual was charged in connection with the incident the same day. There are restrictions on certain testimony in court by non-Muslims (see Section 1.e.).

In August the leader of the Sunni religious party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islami (JUI), Fazlur Rehman, accused the Aga Khan Foundation of the killing of a Sunni religious leader and his nephew in Chitral and called for the closure of Aga Khan activities. The Sunni leader was killed by an Ismaili in a property dispute on August 19. The Aga Khan Foundation is a community service organization sponsored by Ismaili Shi'as. On November 4, a series of explosions killed one person and injured 30 others in Murdike. The militant Sunni extremist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba was holding its annual conference in the town at the time. In November 1998, nine members of a Christian family were killed and mutilated in their home in Nowshera, in an attack that some Christians alleged was sectarian. In December 1998, four family members were arrested and charged with the crime. They asserted their innocence to the press. Two alleged that they had been tortured to induce confessions; one of the family members who confessed was being tried at year's end.

Although there are few if any citizens who are Jewish, anti-Semitic sentiments appear to be widespread, and anti-Semitic press articles are relatively common.

Top of Page