Asian Human Rights Commission takes notice of Ahmadiyya plight in Pakistan
Lahore: AHRC took serious notice of worsening Ahmadis’ human rights situation in the country, and expressed its condemnation of specified incidents. A report published in the Daily Times of March 20, 2009 is reproduced below verbatim:
AHRC condemns arbitrary arrests of Ahmadis
Commission references recent events of murdered couple, arrested men
Lahore: The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Thursday condemned the ease with which a member of the Ahmadi sect could be arbitrarily arrested, based on hearsay evidence from an openly biased party.
Referencing two recent events in which an Ahmadi couple was found murdered and 15 men were arrested for gathering at a place of worship that resembles a mosque, the AHRC said these events highlighted the intense discrimination experienced by most minorities in Pakistan. It noted that it was very easy to file cases of blasphemy against most minorities.
In the first cases, the AHRC noted, 15 prominent Ahmadi men in Sillanwali tehsil, Sargodha district, were charged under Section 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code, an amendment that applies only to Ahmadis and carries up to three years in jail. Three of the men have been detained so far and denied bail by a local judge. The amendment to Section 298 claims that Ahmadis should not pose as Muslims, call themselves Muslim, “or in any manner whatsoever outrage the religious feelings of Muslims”.
According to the AHRC, the 15 men in Sargodha can expect little help from the police. Rather than allowing this discrimination and violent persecution to continue, the commission added, the government must recognize the right to life of every Pakistani, and start protecting and compensating those it has helped to make vulnerable through such amendments as Section 298C. In the second incident reference by the AHRC, a prominent Ahmadi couple was found murdered in their apartment in Wapda Colony, Multan Rd, approximately three months after they started to receive anonymous death threats. The threats warned them against practicing their religion, but their family advised them against taking the case to the police, claiming this would make them more vulnerable. The family is currently fearful about following through with the murder case.
According to the commission, more than a (!) Ahmadis are estimated to be in Pakistan’s jails on charges of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty. It claims that many of these convictions are a part of personal vendettas or land disputes. The commission also points out that over the past 24 years, at least 100 Ahmadis have been lynched and murdered; 18 of them doctors.
Amnesty International’s statement on the blasphemy laws
Below are excerpts from Amnesty International’s statement regarding the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
PAKISTAN: Government should take concrete action to amend or abolish the blasphemy laws within a year.
As Pakistan marks Minorities Day, Amnesty International calls on the government to take meaningful action to protect religious minorities which have increasingly been the target of religiously-motivated attacks and persecution.
The rise in attacks against religious minorities comes against a backdrop – and in tandem – with rising religious extremism in the country. Amnesty International is concerned at the discrimination, harassment and attacks against all religious minorities, including Ahmadis, Christians, Shiite, Sikhs and Hindus, that are widespread in Pakistan.
Amnesty International welcomes Prime Minister Gilani’s announcement that the government would set up a committee to review and improve laws detrimental to religious harmony. The Prime Minister’s statement comes in the wake of the Gojra attack which flared up over allegations of blasphemy. Though not explicitly stating which laws would be reviewed, his statement alluded to the country’s blasphemy laws introduced in 1982 and 1986 by military leader Zia-ul-Haq in attempt to use Islam to promote popular appeal for his military regime.
The blasphemy laws, while purporting to protect Islam and religious sensitivities of the Muslim majority, are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution of religious minorities. In January this year, five Ahmadis, including one minor (sic), were detained on spurious charges of blasphemy in the Layyah district, with no evidence or witnesses to support the charges against them.
Amnesty International urges the government of Pakistan to amend or abolish the blasphemy laws, particularly section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code which carries a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of blasphemy. The organization calls on the Pakistan government to guarantee the human rights of minorities laid down in the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, notably Article 18 which provides that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
US Commission on International Religious Freedom indicts Pakistan
The daily Dawn of May 5, 2009 reported in brief from the USCIRF Annual Report 2009 issued recently. Excerpts:
Washington, May 4: Pakistan is one of the 13 countries named by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in which the persecution of minorities is common and condoned or supported by the government. The year 2009 “has seen the largely unchecked growth in the power and reach of religiously motivated extremist groups whose members are engaged in violence in Pakistan and abroad, with Pakistan authorities ceding effective control to armed insurgents espousing a radical Islam ideology,” the Annual Report 2009 of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom stated.
“Today, the threat to religious freedom or belief in Pakistan has measurably and demonstrably increased,” she said, “and therefore we renew our recommendation that Pakistan be named a CPC.”
The USCIRF made the following recommendations for US policy towards Pakistan, inter alia:
The US government should urge the government of Pakistan to inter alia;
- Decriminalize blasphemy and, in the interim period until that action is taken, implement procedural changes to the blasphemy laws that will reduce and ultimately end their abuse; and ensure that those who are accused of blasphemy and their defenders are given adequate protection, including by investigating death threats and other actions carried out by militants and that full due process is followed;
- Prioritize the prevention of religiously motivated and sectarian violence and the punishment for its perpetrators, including by:
- … investigating acts of religiously motivated and sectarian violence and punishing perpetrators in a timely manner and
- rescind the laws targeting Ahmadis, which effectively criminalize the public practice of their faith and violate their right to freedom of religion guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights; and
- confront and work to address the consequences of the political alliances maintained by past military dominated governments with Islamist parties, which afforded an excessive amount of influence to these groups, and which, in turn, had a strong negative impact on religious freedom in Pakistan.
- set national text book and curriculum standards that actively promote tolerance towards all religions, and establish appropriate review and enforce mechanisms to guarantee that such standards are being met in government (public) schools; and … .
Quotable quote from an independent source on Ahmadiyya human rights
The monthly Herald, Karachi of August 2009 published an interview of Mr. Iqbal Haider, a leading human rights activist in Pakistan. Its excerpts are reproduced below:
It’s shocking that three percent non-Muslims can make 97 percent of Muslims feel insecure.
Iqbal Haider, Co-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and senior Supreme Court lawyer
“The most discriminatory piece of legislation against non-Muslims is the Constitution of Pakistan that makes it mandatory for the president to be Muslim. …
As law minister, I conducted a survey about blasphemy cases and found out that with some minor exceptions all these cases were motivated by personal enmity, prejudices and local rivalries. …
The societal discrimination they face deprives them of equality of opportunity which is a basic requirement for a democracy. Ahmadis are the worst victims of such discrimination and deprivation, mainly because they refuse to regard themselves as non-Muslims whereas the state and the society are unwilling to let them have any rights, let alone the freedom to practice their religion.
Pakistan, in fact, has the most oppressive laws when it comes to Ahmadis and the suspicion runs so deep that even the non-Ahmadis – if and when they want to run in an election or when they apply for their identity papers – have to submit affidavits that they are not Ahmadis and that they firmly believe in the finality of the Prophethood of Mohammad (pbuh). No such laws exist anywhere else in the world. …
A law prohibits them (Ahmadis) from calling themselves Muslims or pretending, portraying and presenting themselves as Muslims. They are forbidden from reciting the Kalima, they are not allowed to read the Holy Quran and they cannot call their places of worship mosques. They cannot even use certain names for themselves that may allow them to be regarded as Muslims. This is the most extreme form of discrimination which exists nowhere else. …
But the worst example of such discrimination shows up in the way those accused of blasphemy are treated. Many of them are murdered by the policemen who are supposed to protect them as undertrial prisoners. Others face openly hostile religious fanatics during their trials. Apparently, the courts cannot check aggressive gesturing and abusive language against the accused because the fanatics intimidate the courts through show of strength. The authorities never have the courage to control, contain or arrest such aggressive, extremist and religious militants.”
The monthly Herald, August 2009
The full text of the interview is here.