Violence against the
Ahmadi Community Continues Unabated in Pakistan
Mourning is increasing among
Ahmadis in Pakistan with growing
violence and discrimination directed at them. Between Oct. 4 and
Oct. 23, at least four members of the Ahmadi community were
murdered in the country.
With its re-election to the United Nations Human
Rights Council, Pakistan must now show the world that it is serious
about fulfilling its international obligations. One area that needs
urgent attention is the violence committed against religious minorities,
in particular the harassment and violence perpetrated against the
Ahmadis, which often occurs with the cooperation of the police.
On Oct. 19, Saad Farooq was returning home after attending
congregational prayers with his family. Farooq, an Ahmadi, was riding
his motorcycle while his family travelled in a car. Unknown men, also on
a motorcycle, approached him from behind and shot him in the head.
Farooq died on the spot. The assailants then turned their attention to
the car in which Farooq’s father, brother, father-in-law and others were
seated and opened fire. Three of them were injured and taken to a
hospital. Farooq was an active member of the Karachi Ahmadi community.
Recently married, he leaves behind a grieving widow. He was 26 years
A few weeks earlier on Oct. 4 Khawaja Zahur Ahmad, 64, was shot dead
near his home in Satellite Town. The bullet struck him below the right
ear. Friends and neighbors rushed him to the hospital, but he died en
route. A few months prior to Ahmad’s assassination religious extremists
had gathered outside his home shouting slogans. Ahmad was a peaceful and
respectable citizen and had no dispute with anyone. He was killed only
for his faith.
Riaz Ahmad Basra was shot dead in Ghatialian in Sialkot District on Oct.
18. Raja Abdul Hamid Khan and Bashir Ahmad were killed in Baldia Town
four days later on Oct. 23, and the list goes on and on and on. These
were all targeted killings of Ahmadis.
On Aug. 20 in Ghatialian, the police registered a case against four
Ahmadis after they received the complaint of a mulla, Qari Afzal.
The reason behind the complaint was that they had hurt his feelings and
intimidated him. Those named in the case were Naeem Ahmad, Gulfam Naeem,
Ahsan Ramzan and Shahid Abdullah. Interestingly, three of the accused
men were not even present at the time of the alleged incident, which
would appear to indicate that it was a fabricated charge. At the initial
hearing, temporary bail was obtained for them. However, on Oct. 15, the
additional sessions judge of Pasroor changed the applied penal code in
the case with PPC 298-C, an anti-Ahmadiyyah clause, and rejected the
temporary bail. The police arrested all the accused men and sent them to
jail until a new bail application was moved in the Magistrate’s Court,
which was granted on Oct. 23. The accused men still face trial.
Anti-Ahmadiyyah activities are nothing new, but incidents have risen
steeply in Hafizabad District with the desecration of an Ahmadiyyah
graveyard by the police. This deed was done on the instructions of a
group of mullas. The police officials urged the Ahmadis to commit the
desecration themselves; and when they refused, a group of men went to
the cemetery and erased Islamic inscriptions from the gravestones.
The problems for the Ahmadis began with the amendment to the
Constitution in 1973 during the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that
declared them as “non-Muslims.” However, it was during the regime of
Gen. Zia-ul-Haq that they were truly disenfranchised, for Ahmadis were
denied the right to declare themselves as Muslims. They were also not
allowed to build mosques similar to those of Muslims. Furthermore, they
could not write or inscribe Qur’anic verses on the walls of their
mosques, and, as mentioned earlier, even inscribing Qur’anic verses on
their gravestones left them open to attack by religious zealots.
Sadly, the sectarian prejudice against Ahmadis even extends to their
right to education—another area in which the government has failed
miserably to live up to its responsibilities.
Afshan Malik was a student in the Government Degree College for Women in
Gulshan-e-Ravi in Lahore. Malik participated in the Natiya—poems in
honor of the Holy Prophet (SAAW)—competition at the Punjab Youth
Festival. The chief minister of Punjab Province, who was present at the
event, liked her recital so much that he asked her to recite another
Naat while the results were being compiled. She did so and was loudly
applauded by the audience. She was awarded the first prize and a trophy.
After a few days, her rivals came to learn that the two Naats she
recited were written by Ahmadi elders, and they started to harass her in
the college. They even tried to get a police case registered against
her; and when the situation became serious, she had to discontinue her
studies. Later, for their safety, the entire family had to move to
Once again, the question begs to be asked: Where is the religious
freedom that Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s foreign minister, spoke of in
her address to the United Nations during the country’s universal
periodic review, or UPR? Now that Pakistan has been re-elected to the
U.N. Human Rights Council this must be the time for the government of
President Asif Ali Zardari to live up, not only to the pledges it made
to the United Nations four years ago, but, more importantly, to the
wording in the country’s Constitution which guarantees freedom of
religion for all.
* Stewart Sloan is an editorial assistant at the Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC), a regional human rights organization based in Hong
Kong. He may be contacted at email@example.com and welcomes feedback
and suggestions for future articles on religious minorities in Pakistan.