NGOs and Foreign reports – 2010

2010

 

European Parliament’s resolution of 20th May 2010 on religious freedom in Pakistan

It will be of interest and value to many of our readers that the provisions relevant to Ahmadis are placed on record from the European Parialment’s resolution of 20th May 2010 on religious freedom in Pakistan here for reference and follow up. Excerpts:

The European Parliament,

….

 

  1. whereas Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan suffer frequent discrimination and persecution, underpinned by the anti-Ahmadiyya provisions in Section 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, a recent example being the murder of a retired Ahmadi professor by masked gunmen on 5 January 2010.
  • Expresses its particular concern at the ongoing discrimination against and persecution of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, and calls upon the Government of Pakistan to repeal Section 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code which severely restricts the daily lives of this group and to discourage inflammatory events such as the ‘End of Prophethood Conferences’ in Lahore.
  • Asks the Pakistani authorities to implement fully the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan whereby they are to ensure registration of all eligible voters in the new electoral rolls, including Ahmadiyya Muslims.
  • Calls on the Government of Pakistan to ratify fully and without reserves the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; considers that freedom of belief as enshrined in the UN Covenant provides the appropriate framework and reference to which all signatories should adhere providing protection for their citizens in order to enable them to exercise their faith freely.
  • Calls on the Government to guarantee the human rights of minorities laid down in the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights notably Article 18 thereof, which provides that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.
  • Supports all initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and mutual respect among communities: calls on political and religious authorities to promote tolerance and to take initiatives against hatred and violent extremism.
  • Invites the Council and the Commission to include the rights of minorities in Pakistan in the agenda for the forthcoming summit with a view to initiating early reform of discriminatory blasphemy legislation.
  • Calls on the Council to include the issue of religious tolerance in society in its counter-terrorism dialogue with Pakistan, this matter being of central importance to the long term fight against religious extremism;
  • Calls on the Council and the Commission to insist that the Government of Pakistan uphold the democracy and human rights clause enshrined in the Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; calls on the Commission to present a report on the implementation of the Cooperation Agreement and the democracy and human rights clause;
  • Calls on the Council to support the Government of Pakistan in the development of its Ministry for Human Rights and in establishing a meaningful, independent and authoritative National Human Rights Commission.
  • Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and Parliament of Pakistan.

Note:                The full text of the adopted Resolution can be reached at http://www.europa.eu

 

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission at the occasion of meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Geneva; March 19, 2010: The Asian Human Rights Commission took note of Ahmadis’ deprivation of political and human rights in Pakistan and issued an Immediate Release at the occasion of the meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva during the month of March 2010. The statement is reproduced below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-050-2010
March 19, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: The electoral process is self-contradictory and denies the Ahmadi minority its right to vote

Pakistan claims to provide a universal right to vote to all its citizens, which proves to be contradictory to the facts. Indeed, the members of the Ahmadi community have been denied this fundamental right. The shameful regulations implemented against Ahmadis are in violation of the 1973 Pakistani Constitution and the process of democracy itself.

Right before the elections, the Election Commission issued instructions based on the circular [No.F.1 (6)/2001-Cord] of 17th January, 2007 to maintain a separate electoral lists system, entitled “Preparation of Separate List of Draft Electoral Rolls for Ahmadis/Quadianis”. The eighth amendment to the 1973 Constitution, enacted in 1985, imposed this separated system. Since then, elections have been held in the country with separate electoral lists for different religious groups. This system is primarily aimed at Ahmadis, the most vulnerable and discriminated minority in Pakistan. In 2008, for being registered as voters, those who claimed to be Muslims had to sign a certificate of faith and deny the veracity of the holy founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Of course no Ahmadi would agree to do so; they were thus de facto denied their right to vote.

The marginalization of Ahmadis, leading to a discriminatory electoral system based on religious beliefs is in violation of national and international legislations, as well as the spirit of democracy itself. Under the Pakistani Constitution, every Pakistani citizen has the right to vote irrespective of their race, religion, creed or belief. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also states that “every citizen shall have the right and opportunity to vote and to be elected.” Articles 19 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantee the right to vote to every citizen. The right to vote is one of the most basic and fundamental rights that must be guaranteed to every citizen and without which a state cannot call itself a democracy.

The fact is that the Pakistani legislation is discriminatory against all religious minorities in general, and against Ahmadis in particular. It is not only about the right to vote, but all aspects of public and private life. In 1984, General Zia ul Haq promulgated anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX in which the Ahmadis were outlawed. The Penal Code explicitly discriminates the Ahmadi community in its section 298-C:

“any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), who directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”

It must be reminded that Article 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees each citizen’s freedom “to profess religion and to manage religious institutions”. Article 33 gives the state the responsibility to “discourage parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian and provincial prejudices among the citizens”. Moreover, Article 36 ensures that the state “shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services”.

The Asian Human Rights Commission therefore strongly calls for significant governmental measures in order to tackle this issue and restore the democratic norms in their true spirit. The Pakistani government must repeal all discriminatory laws against religious minorities, for all Pakistani citizens must be equal before the law. The 1973 Constitution before the shameful anti-Ahmadi amendments must be restored. Moreover, all national and international texts that guarantee fundamental rights, such as the right to vote, must be literally implemented. The electoral system based on separated lists must be outlawed and all Pakistani citizens must be treated equally, irrespective of race, religion, creed or belief. It is only through these essential steps that justice and the rule of law can be restored and that Pakistan could finally call itself a democracy.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

 

EU Parliament takes notice again of the blasphemy laws and the Ahmadiyya situation in Pakistan

Strasbourg; May 20, 2010:     The following are excerpts from an AFP report released on May 20, 2010 to the media:

Pakistan blasphemy laws used to justify ‘murder’: EU parliament

STRASBOURG(AFP) – The EU parliament on Thursday called on Pakistan to guarantee minority rights, claiming that its blasphemy laws could be used to murder members of political, racial and religious minorities.

In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg, the assembled Euro MPs expressed “deep concern” at the Pakistani blasphemy laws, calling for a ‘thoroughgoing review’ of the legislation which is ‘open to misuse.’

The law can carry the death sentence and are ‘often used to justify censorship, criminalization, persecution and, in certain cases, the murder of members of political, racial and religious minorities.” The parliament said in a strongly-worded statement.

The texts in question ‘are misused by extremist groups and those wishing to settle personal scores,’ the EU deputies said.

They had also ‘led to an increase of violence against members of religious minorities, particularly Ahmadis, but also Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Shiites, Buddhists, Parsis, Bahais and critical citizens who dare to raise their voice against injustice,’ they added.

The parliament did recognize recent ‘measures taken in the interest of religious minorities’.

However such initiatives cannot mask the reports and surveys by independent agencies which ‘reveal that minorities in Pakistan are deprived of basic civil liberties and equal opportunities in jobs, education and political representation’ the parliament underlined.

The resolution also criticized the practice of including religious details on citizens’ passports, a practice which the MEPs argued could lead to ‘discriminatory practices’.

The report said there was particular discrimination against the Ahmadiyya community which Pakistan considers non-Muslim as adherents do not believe Muhammad was the last prophet.

The EU warning was more like a scriptural prophecy; it came true a week later in the form of massacre of Ahmadis in Lahore. But what they could foresee in Strasbourg, the government of Punjab could not in Lahore.

 

AHRC urges Pakistan to restore Ahmadis human rights including their right to vote

Hong Kong:     Asian Human Rights Commission issued a sharp statement urging the GOP to clean up all the disgraceful regulations after the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It pointedly referred to the continuation of deprivation of the right to vote to Ahmadis and called the matter ‘very alarming’. The text of the statement from the Internet is reproduced below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELESE

AHRC-STM-079-2010

May 20, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN:     The government of Pakistan should abolish its self-contradictory franchise system after the passage of the Eighteen Amendment in the constitution.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has strongly and repeatedly drawn the attention of the government of Pakistan to its self-contradicting franchise system which denies the Ahmadis, a Muslim minority sect, the fundamental right to vote. Pakistan takes great pride in claiming to be a democracy. But so far it has failed to ensure that all its subjects are awarded their basic civic rights without any discrimination regarding faith, belief or ethnic origin.

It was expected that the Eighteen Amendment in the constitution of Pakistan, which was unanimously passed by the parliament, would provide a great opportunity for the government of Pakistan. They could clean up all the disgraceful regulations included in the constitution of Pakistan and revive the 1973 Pakistan constitution to its pristine and pure form.

As reported earlier, even before the last general elections in the country, the Election Commission of Pakistan issued instructions to maintain a separate electorate list system entitled ‘Preparation of separate list of draft electoral rolls for Ahmadis/Qadianis.’ This was a follow-up on the Eighth Amendment of the 1973 constitution enacted in 1985 by the military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. Through his infamous Ordinance XX he intentionally deprived the Ahmadis of all their freedoms and civic rights. The tragedy is that a special, separate form to register as a voter was introduced. Every applicant had to sign a certificate of faith and deny the veracity of the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Of course, no Ahmadi would ever agree to do such a thing and therefore, they were de-facto denied their right to vote.

This is a matter that is very alarming. The government and the Election Commission of Pakistan have totally turned a blind eye to this gross defect in their electoral system. They did not grasp the significance that under the constitution of Pakistan every citizen has the right to vote irrespective of their race, religion, creed or belief. Moreover, Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that every citizen shall have the right and opportunity to vote and be elected. Similarly Articles 19 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteed the right to vote to every citizen. This is one of the most basic fundamental rights which must be guaranteed to every citizen and without which a state cannot call itself a democracy.

Since the adoption of the Eighteen Amendment, the media of Pakistan has opened its channels to extremist and fundamentalist mullahs, the Muslim clerics. Even though they are spilling venom against the Ahmadis, it has resulted in the deterioration of the persecution of the Ahmadis in various cities and towns of Pakistan.

Most recently innocent members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan were brutally murdered in cold blood in Faisalabad, Punjab Province, and elsewhere in Pakistan.

At present the fundamentalist mullahs are meeting in Pakistan to create a forum to ensure the government of Pakistan retains all the clauses, rules and regulations which target Ahmadis and cripples them religiously, economically and educationally.

The Asian Human Rights Commission once again strongly draws the attention of the authorities in Pakistan to respect democracy in its true spirit and fulfill the fundamental basic rights of its citizens. Particularly the rights of Ahmadis in Pakistan who have been denied every right of freedom and dignity assured by International Conventions and Practices.

*****

About AHRC:  The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

 

Repeal Blasphemy Law – demands Human Rights Watch

New York; November 23, 2010: The Pakistan government should immediately introduce legislation to repeal the country’s blasphemy law and other discriminatory legislation, Human Rights Watch said today. A few extracts from the statement are quoted below:

 

“Pakistan’s “Blasphemy Law,” as section 295-C of the penal code is known, makes the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy. In 2009, authorities charged scores of people under the law, including at least 50 members of the Ahmadiyya community, a heterodox sect that claims to be Muslim but has been declared non-Muslim under Pakistani law. Many of these individuals remain in prison.”

 

“Legal discrimination against religious minorities and the failure of Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments to address religious persecution by Islamist groups effectively enables atrocities against these groups and others who are vulnerable. The government seldom brings charges against those responsible for such violence and discrimination. Research by Human Rights Watch indicates that the police have not apprehended anyone implicated in such activity in the last several years.”

“Social persecution and legal discrimination against religious minorities has become particularly widespread in Punjab province. Human Rights Watch urged the provincial government, controlled by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, to investigate and prosecute as appropriate campaigns of intimidation, threats, and violence against Christians, Ahmadis, and other vulnerable groups.”

 

“On November 18, armed assailants opened fire at an Ahmadiyya mosque in Lahore, the Punjab capital. The mosque had no police protection despite a May 28 attack on two Ahmadiyya mosques in the city that killed 94 people and injured well over a hundred. Those attacks were believed to have been carried out by groups affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban.”

“The November 18 attack did not result in further loss of life only because of private security provided by the mosque management. Local residents told Human Rights Watch that the police initially sought to portray the attack falsely as a consequence of a dispute within the Ahmadiyya community and only made arrests when the mosque authorities provided security camera footage identifying the attackers.”

 

“The Punjab provincial government is either in denial about threats to minorities or is following a policy of willful discrimination,” Hasan said. “Provincial law enforcement authorities need to put aside their prejudices and protect religious minorities who are clearly in serious danger from both the Taliban and sectarian militant groups historically supported by the state.”

Since the Pakistani military government of General Zia-ul-Haq unleashed a wave of persecution in the 1980s, violence against religious minorities has never really ceased. Attackers kill and wound Christians and Ahmadis, in particular, and burn down their homes and businesses. The authorities arrest, jail, and charge members of minority communities, heterodox Muslims and others, with blasphemy and related offenses because of their religious beliefs, as a means of transacting vendettas and settling scores. In several instances, the police have been complicit in harassing and framing false charges against members of these groups or stood by as they were attacked.”

“Human Rights Watch urged concerned governments and intergovernmental bodies to press the Pakistani government to repeal sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which includes the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadiyya laws. They should also urge the government to prosecute those responsible for planning and executing attacks against religious minorities.”

 

“Continued use of the blasphemy law is abominable,” Hasan said. “As long as such laws remain on the books, Pakistan will remain plagued by abuse in the name of religion.”

 

A Human Rights Watch report on Lahore High Court

December 6, 2010: Washington based NGO Human Rights Watch issued a statement which is reproduced below without comment:

 

“The Pakistan Lahore High Court’s today’s December 6 interim order barring amendments to the blasphemy law or any move to discuss or table any such amendment in parliament is in contravention of the country’s constitution and amounts to unwarranted and illegal intrusion into the legislative domain. Earlier, on November 29, the same court had barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. The earlier action was also illegal and amounted to unconstitutional intervention in the executive domain. It is bewildering that the Lahore High Court is repeatedly disgracing itself and bringing Pakistan’s independent judiciary into disrepute by its unconstitutional actions. That it is doing so, in defense of an abusive and discriminatory law, and thereby exacerbating the misery of those unjustly convicted under it, is both appalling and mind-boggling.”

 

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