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Selected rights violations against Ahmadis

March 2015

Lahore, Punjab
Nature of incident: Blasphemy accusation
Tahir Mahdi Imtiaz, a printer of the Ahmadiyya monthly magazine Ansarullah, was arrested by the police on 30 March 2015 on false charges of blasphemy and under the anti-Ahmadiyya law, which forbids Ahmadis to propagate their faith. When the case reached the Lahore High Court, the judge announced Imtiaz’s bail but subsequently refused to approve his decision: judges, too, are at risk of being targeted when deciding on such cases.

Later, when the case was heard again, the two-member bench of the High Court refused Imtiaz bail. At the time of writing, he remains in prison and is being prosecuted in an anti-terrorism court. In Pakistan, cases that do not pertain to terrorism are, at times, still sent to anti-terrorism courts because trials in these courts are faster.

November 2015

Jhelum, Punjab
Nature of incident: Blasphemy accusation
Qamar Ahmad, an owner of a factory in Jhelum, was charged under blasphemy legislation for the alleged desecration of the Qur’an. To prevent further tensions, police had cordoned off the Ahmadi mosque in the area, but a mob broke through and set it on fire. The homes of Ahmadis in the area were also attacked and valuables were stolen.

In many cases, blasphemy accusations are made against individuals to settle personal scores, grab land or loot valuables. A case was registered both against Ahmad for blasphemy and against the mob for setting the mosque ablaze. But while those who attacked the Ahmadiyya mosque have been granted bail, according to the latest reports, Ahmad remains in jail pending his trial.

December 2015

Rabwah, Punjab
Nature of incident: Blasphemy accusation
Punjab’s counterterrorism department raided 80-year-old Abul Shakoor’s bookshop on 2 December 2015 and arrested him and the bookshop manager, Mazhar Abbas. The two were charged with the crime of propagating the Ahmadiyya faith, in contravention of Article 298-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code that details many prohibitions against the community. After hasty legal proceedings, Shakoor was sentenced for five years under Penal Code Section 298C – part of Pakistan’s notorious anti-Ahmadi legislation – and for three years under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Meanwhile, Abbas was sentenced to five years for selling books on the Ahmaddiya sect.

For Shakoor, this was the latest in a series of discriminatory incidents targeting him for his faith, including the vandalization of his store by police earlier in the year, a three-year sentence imposed in 1990 for his wearing of a ring with a Qur’anic inscription and the looting of his home and optical store in 1974 during anti-Ahmadi protests.

February 2016

Faisalabad, Punjab
Nature of incident: Destruction of property
Ahmadis were allocated a plot for a graveyard in Faisalabad in 1992, where people of the community have been buried for the past 24 years. But in February 2016, a group of men tried to prevent the burial of an Ahmadi woman and arranged for the police to intervene, who arrived and told Ahmadis to seek permission from senior officers for the burial. The superintendent of police allowed the burial to be undertaken, but the next day unidentified men were found trespassing in the graveyard. Since then, while Ahmadis still have ownership of the graveyard, other groups have made several attempts to take over the land.

February 2016

Lahore, Punjab
Nature of incident: Intimidation
Threatening letters were dropped at the homes of Aqeel Ahmad and Irfan Masood (head of the local Ahmadi youth organisation) with the letterhead of Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious and political party with representatives in Parliament. The text of the letter is translated and produced below:

‘You belong to Qadiani Jamaat and have been elected head of its youth organisation. Accordingly, you are targeted. Abandon your house within two days and stop your on-going propaganda forthwith. You have no time after these two days. You were targeted last year as well, but this time we’ll act (God willing), President Jamaat e-Islami.’

Last year, a similar letter along with a coffin was left outside Masood’s house as well as at the area’s Ahmadi mosque. The police were reportedly informed both times, but the case was not adequately investigated.

March 2016

Rabwah, Punjab
Nature of incident: Discrimination
An advertisement placed by the district government in a leading Urdu daily newspaper auctioned 25 commercial and residential plots across two low-income housing projects and categorically stated that Ahmadis would not be allowed to participate in the process. The advertisement read: ‘Anyone related to the Qadiani/Ahmadi/Lahori/Mirzai sects cannot participate in the Area Development Scheme Muslim Colony, Chenab Nagar (another name for Rabwah).’ The advertisement further read, ‘Every aspirant has to file a duly certified affidavit stating that he/she has no relation to Qadianis/Ahmadis/Lahoris.’

While ‘Lahori’ refers to a sect within the Ahmadiyya, ‘Qadiani’ and ‘Mirzai’ are derogatory terms used to address Ahmadis. The advertisement further stated that the plot allotment of anyone found to be related to an Ahmadi would be cancelled and any payment made by them confiscated.

March 2016

Sheikhupura, Punjab
Nature of incident: Targeted killing
An Ahmadi resident of Sheikhupura, Qamaruz Zia, was stabbed to death by another man named Muhammad Waqas in broad daylight on 1 March 2016. When Waqas was presented before the district police officer on March 29, he confessed to the murder. In his confession, Waqas said: ‘I was alone at the time of killing and I did it on my own. I raised slogans after the murder that I had killed a Mirzai. I am proud of my act, that I have killed a blasphemer.’

Such targeted killings are not rare in Pakistan, and are reinforced by the apparent impunity that many perpetrators have enjoyed.

April 2016

Kotli, Azad Jammu and Kashmir
Nature of incident: Hate speech
In a rally organized by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a mainstream political party that has been in power three times, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf engaged in hate speech against Ahmadis. Politicians have been responsible for inciting hate against Ahmadis to win votes with the majority. An excerpt from his speech has been translated and produced here:

‘If anyone served the cause of Islam, it was only the government of Martyr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (founder of the PPP and former Prime Minister who passed the 1974 Amendment). Bhutto took up a 90-year-old issue…the issue of Qadianis who had challenged the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him)…[The PPP government] shut them up, twisted their neck and buried this mischief (fitna) (forever).’

This speech was also aired on the ARY News TV channel, among the most popular channels in Pakistan. While this was an instance of the media airing a public event, there have been countless cases of hate speech against Ahmadis in the media, particularly in Urdu-language newspapers.

May 2016

Karachi, Sindh
Nature of incident: Targeted killing
Fifty-five-year-old Dawood Ahmad was shot dead in Karachi, allegedly targeted on the basis of his religious identity. Ahmad was waiting for a friend outside his house when two unidentified men came on a motorbike and shot him. While Ahmad died, his friend was injured but survived. The victim, who was an active member of the community, is survived by three sons.

Since 1984, according to the community’s own estimates, 30 Ahmadis have been killed in Karachi, yet not a single murderer has been brought to justice. In comparison to Punjab, however, there are much fewer attacks in Sindh because the number of Ahmadis in the province is much lower.

June 2016

Attock, Rawalpindi
Nature of incident: Targeted killing
A 65-year-old Ahmadi doctor, Hameed Ahmed, was killed in a drive-by shooting outside his home in Attock, Rawalpindi. The two unknown assailants were able to escape after carrying out their attack.

June 2016

Karachi, Sindh
Nature of incident: Targeted killing
A 50-year-old homeopathic doctor, Chaudry Abdul Khaleeq, was murdered at his clinic by armed assailants, in the same area of Karachi where Dawood Ahmed was attacked the month before.

July 2016

Sargodha, Punjab
Nature of incident: Destruction of property (place of worship)
The Punjab police destroyed copies of sacred writings, including the Kalima, the first article of faith in Islam, from an Ahmadi mosque in a village in Sargodha district. On 27 July, police came to the village and told Ahmadis to remove Islamic inscriptions from the building. Members of the local Ahmadi community refused to comply and told the police that they would not defile the sacred writings, which were inscribed on porcelain plates. The police then, reportedly on the orders of the district police officer, destroyed the plates with Islamic and Qur’anic verses.

Prior to this incident, police officials had visited the mosque a number of times, intimidating the Ahmadi community to remove these articles, but other villagers had come forward and supported their Ahmadi neighbours, saying they had no objection to the writings. But later, a group of religious preachers allegedly complained to the district police about the Ahmadi mosque, threatening to destroy it themselves if the police did not.

August 2016

Islamabad
Nature of incident: Hate speech
An anti-Ahmadiyya conference was held on the outskirts of the federal capital, Islamabad. Among the people who attended were the heads of mainstream religious and political parties, federal ministers, the deputy chairman of the Senate of Pakistan as well as the deputy speaker of the National Assembly. A joint declaration was produced at this conference urging a ban on all Ahmadi activities and calling for them to be fired from any key posts. They also declared that it was forbidden to marry an Ahmadi and that all constitutional provisions against Ahmadis should be applied more strictly.

September 2016

Jhang, Punjab
Nature of incident: Intimidation
A cleric in a local mosque started an anti-Ahmadi campaign, targeting a particular individual in the area, Muhammad Firoz, in his weekly sermons. The cleric spoke venomously against the Ahmadiyya community – referring to them as kafir, a derogatory term to refer to non-Muslims – and took a pledge from his audience that they would buy nothing from Firoz’s store. He also demanded that the word ‘Muhammad’ in his name should be effaced from the signboard on Firoz’s shop.

This kind of hate speech has been previously seen in villages around Punjab, often employed to settle personal disputes or bring down a rival’s business. Ahmadis are the softest targets in such instances because discrimination against them is institutionally supported. This was also not the first time that Firoz was targeted: in 1974, a mob had set fire to his store. Jhang is particularly notorious in this respect because it is home to the sectarian terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

September 2016

Sheikhupura, Punjab
Nature of incident: Destruction of property
A factory owned by two Ahmadi brothers, Nasir and Zafarullah Mahmood, was set on fire while it was closed for Eid holidays in September. It is believed that the fire was started by someone motivated by religious hostility. The brothers manufactured plastic wares and by the time the fire services were able to extinguish the fire, two hours later, all the products, machinery and raw material had been destroyed. The brothers were treated as outcasts in their neighbourhood, with members of the local community allegedly boycotting their business.

September 2016

Sargodha, Punjab
Nature of incident: Hate speech
An Urdu daily newspaper called ‘Islam’ published an advertisement by the Khatam an Nabiyeen (‘Seal of Prophets’) Medical Heart Centre in Sargodha. The text of the advertisement vilified the Ahmadi community and offered to ‘save’ Muslims from the ‘poison of Qadianiat’. Instances such as this leveled against the Ahmandiyya community are not uncommon, despite the fact that hate speech is a criminal offence in Pakistan.

December 2016

Kasur, Punjab
Nature of incident: Discrimination
On 6 December, Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department launched a raid on the headquarters of Jamaat Ahmadiyya in Kasur Punjab, reportedly arresting four people on charges of printing ‘banned’ materials. The accused were charged with blasphemy and terrorism offences. While recent measures, notably the 2015 National Action Plan, have been passed with the stated intention to crack down on extremist and hate speech, in reality their impact on minorities – particularly Ahmadis – has been minimal and even counter productive. Ahmadis have been regularly prosecuted for the possession or production of religious materials deemed blasphemous or offensive by authorities.

December 2016

Chakwal, Punjab
Nature of incident: Violent attack, destruction of property (place of worship)
Thousands of armed protestors stormed an Ahmadi mosque in Chakwal, Punjab, following a sustained hate campaign against the community. Despite some police resistance, the crowd was able to force their way in, attacking worshippers and desecrating the mosque. One Ahmadi man reportedly died of cardiac arrest and several others were injured, while many other community members were reportedly displaced in the wake of the violence.