Pain, misery unite religious minorities in Pakistan

Persecution of Ahmadis indicative of Pakistan's intolerance, report says
Pain, misery unite religious minorities in Pakistan

Christian protesters at a Catholic Church bombed by Taliban last year in Youhanabad, Pakistan. The Ahmadi minority Islamic sect also experiences high levels of persecution, according to a newly released report. (Photo by Kamran Chaudhry)

A report detailing human rights abuses against the Ahmadi minority Islamic sect in Pakistan is another example of harassment and discrimination of religious minorities, said Catholic human rights workers.

The report mirrors findings from a 2014 report by the Catholic Bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace that analyzed human rights abuses against religious minorities. That report noted 1,446 people were accused of blasphemy from 1987 to 2014, including 501 Ahmadis and 185 Christians.

The April 25 report released by the Ahmadia community revealed that from 1984 to 2015, 248 Ahmadis were killed because of their faith. In addition, the report said 27 Ahmadi houses of worship were destroyed and 39 graves were desecrated.

"Both reports deal with religious discrimination and persecution being faced by non-Muslim minorities. The Ahmadis' publication is more specific about their issues while the commission's speaks generally about all minorities as well as crimes against women," said Samson Salamat a former program coordinator from the commission.

Peter Jacob, a former commission executive secretary, said the Ahmadi report provides more evidence that religious minorities in Pakistan have been the target of intolerance, social hostility, extremism and terror attacks.

"Unfortunately it has become the responsibility of respective communities to collect data, explain their pain and write their miseries," said Jacob.

Saleem ud Din, an Ahmadi spokesman, said hate literature calling for a socio-economic boycott and for violence against the minority group has been distributed throughout the county, with heavy concentrations in Punjab and Sindh provinces. 

"Silence from the administration lends credence to the view that those who spread discord have official sanction to do so from the authorities," Saleem ud Din said.

"Sectarianism, murder and social or political discontent are at their peak," he said.

"Laws that promote prejudice should be abolished as they have tarnished Pakistan's image. There can be no stability in the country for as long as these laws remain in place."

The Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim through a constitutional amendment in 1974 because they believe their own founder — Mirza Ghulam Ahmad — was a prophet.

By law it is also punishable offense for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their call to prayer as azan or their places of worship as a mosque. The vast majority of Pakistan's Ahmadi population lives in Rabwah, Punjab.

Several church personnel who work on interreligious dialogue issues were contacted by, but declined to comment.

"Obviously there is a level of fear when speaking about this sect. It is even hard for civil society to speak out for Ahmadis' rights," said Cecil S. Chaudhry, executive director of the justice and peace commission.

"A lot needs to be done for improving the society but the first step would be strengthening rule of law and writ of the state. There are many deficiencies in the system," Chaudhry said.

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