Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Pakistan claims to be a republic and a democracy. However, since the promulgation of Ordinance XX in 1984, the state has taken steps and adopted procedures to deliberately deny the right of vote to Ahmadis. Ahmadis have not been able to take part in any of the seven national elections held since then. Procedures are designed every time to solicit Ahmadis’ refusal to participate in voting, even at municipal level.
Elections are on the anvil a few months hence. The instructions in force remain unchanged. Asian Human Rights Commission has rightly commented:
If Pakistan will not pay heed to this call (as outlined in AHRC Statement) it will continue to remain maimed democracy and an embarrassment to the respectable democracies of the world.
The leading article of this chapter provides essential overview of the past history and the present scenario of elections in Pakistan in the context of Ahmadis.
Asian Human Rights Commission’s Statement on
Denial to Ahmadis their right to vote
May 8, 2012: The AHRC issued a statement concerning Pakistan on the subject mentioned above. Some of its extracts are reproduced below:
PAKISTAN: A maimed democracy that denies its citizens the right to vote
May 8, 2012:
Internationally, a democracy is defined by a government elected by the people. However, in Pakistan there is an exception to this role in that Ahmadis on account of their faith and belief are excluded from the electoral system….
…The separate electorate system has divided the Pakistan polity into numerous entities based on religion but the worst is the case of the Ahmadis who have been forced out of their proclaimed faith and denied a fundamental civic right damaging and maiming Pakistan’s claim to be a democracy.
Again in 2002, General Musharraf, instead of introducing a Joint Electoral System, required voters to sign a declaration concerning belief about the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and those who refused to sign the certificate were to be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters as non-Muslims.
These devious and unacceptable procedures have usurped the fundamental civic rights of Ahmadis and for decades now they cannot stand as candidates for any assembly, national, provincial or even district. Ahmadis have no representation even in the town council of their own town Rabwah where they make up 95 per cent of the population.
To hoodwink the world community, Pakistan has now introduced a form for the registration of all voters but every applicant who ticks himself as a Muslim is made to sign a certificate printed on the back of the form declaring that he or she is not associated with the Qadiani or Lahori group, or calls himself an Ahmadi.
This form includes a warning that a violation will be punished with imprisonment.
The irony of the matter is that Article 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and Pakistan is also a signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights, which makes it obligatory upon the government to safeguard the fundamental rights, of all without any discrimination whatsoever, based on religion, faith or belief.
The UN, EU, human rights organizations and the world media urged the government of Pakistan, before the 2008 general elections, to establish a Joint Electorate Roll system free of discrimination against faith, belief, caste, race or colour.
Now that Pakistan is preparing for the next General Election, it is time to place serious pressure on the government of Pakistan to take immediate steps to demolish the inhumane discrimination against Ahmadis. For the credibility of Pakistan’s claim to democracy, it is vitally important that all discrimination in the form of declarations and orders be withdrawn and Joint Election Lists prepared without any reference to religion.
The right of Ahmadis to vote must be restored and candid facilities provided for the members of this minority community to participate safely and without duress as voters and candidates in the following elections.
If Pakistan will not pay heed to this call it will continue to remain maimed democracy and an embarrassment to the respectable democracies of the world.
Document Type: Statement
Document ID: AHRC-STM-100-2012
Issues: Freedom of religion, Minorities, Democracy
Asian Human Rights Commission took notice again
October 12, 2012: The AHRC issued a statement AHRC-STM-202-2012 on the subject of Ahmadis’ exclusion from the national democratic and electoral process. The statement was appropriately titled:
PAKISTAN: No legitimacy to be at the UN with Ahmadis disenfranchised
November 7, 2012
The Ahmadis, a sect that believes in Islam and claims to be an ardent follower of it, has been declared as non-Muslim under the Pakistani legislation. Evidently, the Government of Pakistan has not only confiscated their freedom to faith, belief and practice, but also proactively victimises them socially, economically and educationally.
The declaration goes against the very fundamental tenets of democracy which accords all the citizens of the country their fundamental rights and freedom, of which freedom to faith is an integral part. It is to this effect that the United Nations has provided a declaration on human rights and there are international civil rights which provide the basic traits of a Democracy. Pakistan had proclaimed to be a democracy four years ago and it was in this context that everyone hoped that its government will soon fulfill all criteria essential for being recognized as a democratic State.
However, even today, there is a substantive portion of the citizenry of Pakistan who have been deprived of their voting rights and there are many others who can only vote as members of minority groups and use their vote strictly within their own minority.
Ahmadis are one such group which is denied their right to vote; they cannot register as a voter in Pakistan. It is a most shameful and horrifying fact that all Muslims in Pakistan in order to get their I.D cards which are essential for registering as a voter, have to make a mandatory declaration pronouncing the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community as an imposter and a liar. No civil society in the modern times can tolerate such arrogance of a country towards its own nationals.
Pakistan has been a member of the UN Human Rights Council despite the fact that it has totally failed in fulfilling its responsibilities and obligations entrusted to it. It may once again be aspiring to become a member of the Human Rights Council but the world must know that a country which has shown little respect for the Human Rights Charter and which is openly discriminating against, abusing and victimising a peace-loving, law abiding Community should never even be considered for such an honor.
The UN Human Rights Council members during the upcoming UPR must pressurise and question Pakistan on its gross failures as a Democracy and censure Pakistan for the way it is treating and depriving the Ahmadis in every sphere of life. It is only then that Pakistan can face the world and claim itself to be a member of the World Democracies.
Ahmadiyya voting rights issue raised in Swedish Parliament
Stockholm; May 30, 2012: A question was raised in the Swedish Parliament on May 25, 2012 by MP Shadiye Heydari (S) on the issue of universal and equal suffrage in Pakistan. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt answered it on May 30. The official translation of both the Question and the Answer from the Internet is reproduced below:
Allmän och lika rösträtt i Pakistan
den 30 maj
Svar på fråga
2011/12:600 Allmän och lika rösträtt i Pakistan
Utrikesminister Carl Bildt (Parliamentary Reference)
Translation of the question
Equality and absolute justice are the cornerstones of universal democracy. In Pakistan, this right is limited to certain groups with groups such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community excluded. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is an international religious organization established in over 190 countries. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community face many difficulties most notably they are denied the basic fundamental human right of vote. In previous elections this concern has been expressed by many, including NGOs such as the Asian Human Rights Commission.
Pakistan is now facing a new election and therefore it is important that Sweden and the international community trying to support Pakistan in efforts to ensure equal and universal voting right for all.
This issue also affects many Swedes as there are now five local chapters (Jamaats) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Sweden with the largest Ahmadiyya Mosque, Nasir Ahmadiyya Mosque being in Gothenburg. Sweden with its long democratic tradition has a special responsibility.
From the Swedish side, we support a democratic election in Pakistan, both on their own with the EU and the UN.
What action will the Minister take to ensure that all citizens (including members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community) in Pakistan have equal voting rights there and can freely take part in the elections?
Translation of the answer from the Foreign Minister
2011/12:600 Universal and equal suffrage in Pakistan
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt
Shadiye Heydari has asked me what steps I intend to take and ensure that all citizens, including members of religious minorities in Pakistan be given equal voting rights.
To promote and strengthen respect for human rights it is a priority issue in Swedish foreign policy. Persecution on religious beliefs is unacceptable and repression of particular Ahmadiya Muslims in Pakistan is extremely serious. As Shadiye Heydari points out it is therefore extremely important that the international community is assisting Pakistan in efforts to ensure universal and equal suffrage in the country.
I visited Pakistan in March 2012 and complained in my bilateral talks the importance of strengthening the protection of human rights, especially for persons belonging to religious minorities. The importance of free and fair elections was pointed out specifically. Our Human Rights Ambassador, Hans Dahlgren, visited shortly after Pakistan and met, among others, Ahmadiyarörelsens President Tahir Ahmed Malik.
In order to work more actively for the rights of persons belonging to minorities, the EU Delegation in Pakistan this year has included religion as one of four priority areas of work relating to human rights. At the EU level also has an engagement plan with Pakistan drawn and the question of general and fair elections has there been a high priority. It is also hoped that the EU at the planned elections in 2013 to participate in an election observation mission.
The Government shares Shadiye Heydari’s concern and will continue to act bilaterally and through EU and UN to the general elections in Pakistan to live up to international standards.
Ahmadis denied once again their democratic rights in national elections
Islamabad; August 2011: The government, through the Election Commission of Pakistan, undertook the massive exercise of updating the electoral lists for the forthcoming national elections, but made sure that despite the proclaimed Joint Electorate system, Ahmadis were discriminated against, and religion was mentioned in Form A in a manner that Ahmadis were forced to accept their non-Muslim status to avail voting rights, to which they would not submit. This is the Pakistani version of Gore Vidal’s “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace”; the state policy here is “Perpetual Denial of Human Rights to Ahmadis for Perpetual Political Self-Interest”.
The Election Commission issued a booklet of instructions for its registration staff for the verification and updating of electoral lists by checking house to house all over Pakistan. The booklet is in Urdu. All the relevant instructions are there. It also provides specimen copies of the various Forms meant for preparing the lists.
To be more specific, this booklet provides ‘Wazahat’ (explanation) of some important points, at its end. The last point mentioned is: Ahmadiyon key vote ibtidai intikhabi fehrist mein elahdah darj kiye jaen gai aur, register key sufah key ooper “Ahmadiyon ke liye” likha jae ga; that is: “Ahmadis’ votes will be entered separately in the Initial Electoral List, and at the top of that register the notation “For Ahmadis” will be entered.” (Extract placed at Annex X to Annual Report 2011.) It is noteworthy that the Commission entered this instruction in the booklet on its last page as the last entry; this betrays the guilt feeling.
The new Form A, for registration of fresh voters, is essentially the same as the old Form 2. It has a column for religion which specifies religions as 1. Musulman, 2. Hindu, 3. Eesai, 4. Sikh, 5. Buddh, 6. Parsi, 7. Qadiani/Ahmadi, 8. Deegar (other) Ghair Muslim (Non-Muslim). It provides a square after each entry for ticking. The applicant is required to affirm with signature or thumb impression, the following oath (if he claims to be a Muslim):
“I affirm on oath that I believe completely and unconditionally in the finality of Prophethood of Khatam un Nabiyyeen Muhammad (peace be upon him), and I am not follower of any person who claims to be a prophet in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever after Muhammad (peace be upon him) or recognize such a claimant as prophet or a religious reformer; nor am I associated with the Qadiani group or the Lahori group nor do I call myself an Ahmadi.”
The language of the above affidavit is noteworthy. One can be confident that the inquisitors of the Spanish Inquisition in medieval ages would not have been more thorough in preparation of their affidavits.
This raises an important question. If the present democratic dispensation cannot put right the obvious wrongs in the field of human and democratic rights, what justification do they have in insisting that people should prefer them over autocratic regimes who otherwise deliver better services and governance in the short run?
Also, the ruling PPP considers its claim irrefutable that Ms. Benazir Bhutto gave her life for liberal democracy!