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Pakistan TV channels accused of abusing Ahmadis

Community is already under threat after being declared non-Muslim and such shows aggravate their security woes

Pakistan TV channels accused of abusing Ahmadis

Pakistani civil rights activists protest the killings of Ahmadis outside the attacked community mosque in Lahore on May 30, 2010. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistan's electronic media watchdog has taken up a complaint against two news channels for airing "provocative" shows against the minority Ahmadiyah community, who hardliners regard as heretics. 

The complaint, filed by the Pakistan Ahmadiyah Community said satellite TV channels NEO TV and Channel-92 aired derogatory and threatening programs: Harf-e-Raz and Subha-e-Noor on Sept. 7. They sought out the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and asked they take punitive action.

Ahmadiyah Community spokesman Salim-ud-Din confirmed filing the complaint. "The participants of the shows badmouthed Ahmadis and our leader without giving us any chance to defend ourselves and gave the impression that the whole community was an enemy of Pakistan," Salim-ud-Din told ucanews.com.

"They declared that Ahmadis are blasphemers," he said. "We have lodged a formal complaint as per regulations which prohibit TV channels from inciting hatred or violence against any community."

"Our community is already under threat after being declared non-Muslim through a constitutional amendment and such shows will only aggravate our security woes," he said.

In a recent press statement, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority said it referred the grievance to the Council of Complaint for action.

In addition to a large number of complaints from the general public, the regulatory authority has received a complaint from the Pakistan Ahmadiyah Community against two satellite TV channels, NEO TV and Channel-92 for airing content in programs, Harf-e-Raz and Subha-e-Noor, which, according to the accusers, was provocative against the minority whose members are already threatened, harassed and have suffered a number of terrorist attacks in the past, the statement said.

"The accusers also mentioned that such programming serves no national interest and is rather an incitement to violence against minorities," the statement said.

This is not the first time that Pakistani channels have been accused of incitement to violence. In December 2014, the popular Geo TV aired a morning show Subh-e-Pakistan in which clerics accused the Ahmadiyah community of backing terrorism in the country. Five days after the show, an Ahmadi youth was shot dead. Ahmaids blamed the channel for inciting violence.

In 2010 nearly 90 Ahmadis were killed as militants stormed their mosques throwing grenades and taking hostages.

Pakistan is home to the largest population of Ahmadis worldwide: around 3-5 million live in the country.

In 1974, Pakistan adopted the Second Constitutional Amendment declaring Ahmadis as kafirs (infidels) because they believe their own founder — Mirza Ghulam Ahmad — was a prophet. The law states that the minority community cannot call themselves Muslim or "pose as Muslims," an act punishable by three years in prison. By law it is also a punishable offense for Ahmadis to refer to their call to prayer as azan or their places of worship as a mosque.

Ahmadis regard the amendment as legalized persecution. They have been arrested for reciting the Quran and holding religious gatherings. Their graves are desecrated if found to be inscribed with holy verses.

A recent report by the Pakistan Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace that analyzed human rights abuses against religious minorities in Muslim-majority country revealed that from 1984 to 2015, 248 Ahmadis were killed because of their faith in Pakistan. In addition, the report said 27 Ahmadi houses of worship were destroyed and 39 graves were desecrated.

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