May 2, 2023
On April 27, the Karachi police lodged an FIR against an Ahmadi lawyer, Ali Ahmad Tariq, for adding the title of ‘Syed’ before his name on the vakalat nama (legal papers). The FIR was lodged under Section 298-B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The complainant Mohammad Azhar Khan was the lawyer who was appearing against the Ahmadi lawyer in a case. The Ahmadi lawyer was arrested by the police and sent to jail on judicial remand.
The case is a reminder of how the Ahmadi community has been treated throughout history. In fact, since the past five years, 325 Ahmadis have been booked on similar charges.
The Ahmadis were first officially sidelined in 1984, when former military dictator General Zia ul Haq promulgated a Presidential Ordinance known as the Anti-Islamic Activities of Qadiani Group, Lahore Group and Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance 1984, through which a few clauses were added to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) barring members of the Ahmadiyya community from the usage of epithets, descriptions, and titles reserved for certain holy persons.
Sections 298 B & C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) prohibits them from calling or referring to their faith as ‘Islam’, or preaching or propagating their faith. Violating these sections is an offense punishable with a fine and imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to three years. (This is despite the fact that the according to the Constitution of Pakistan, Section 20 ‘Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions’, every citizen has the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion, and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.)
The Jamaat-e-Ahamdiyya Pakistan itself states that 491 Ahmadis have been booked for ‘posing as Muslims’ since 1984 and 765 FIRs were lodged against Ahmadis for displaying Quranic verses and Kalma.
“At least 1,273 people have been booked or arrested on religious grounds since the promulgation of this 1984 ordinance,” said the spokesperson for the Ahmadi community. “But since 2018, there has been a spike in the registration of cases against the community,” he said.
According to statistics compiled and provided by Jamat Ahmadiyya, 325 people were booked and over 200 arrested in a total of 75 FIRs registered against the Ahmadiyya community under blasphemy charges and the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) since 2018.
“The inclusion of the PECA sections in FIRs is a new phenomenon and a tool of intimidation against the community,” said the spokesperson. “Our top leadership in Pakistan is also booked under PECA laws alleging that they have used Islamic phrases in a TV show in 2013. The PECA law came into force in 2016 but the FIA registered against our leadership on the content of a TV show which was aired in 2013. The authorities used the PECA law retrospectively to target our leaders,” he added.
He said that every stringent law including Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) is used against Ahmadis to put them behind bars for a longer time.
In 2018, there were 62 people belonging to the Ahmadi faith who were booked under the Blasphemy laws while in 2021 there was a steep increase of 44 percent in the registration of cases. A total of 110 people were named in 15 FIRs.
In 2022, 105 people were booked in 25 FIRs registered under blasphemy laws.
The Ahmadiyya community spokesman said that since the start of 2023, there has been an increase in incidents of violence in the Ahmadiyya places of worship. In the first four months of 2023, at least 10 incidents of violence were reported against the Ahmadiyya community, including vandalizing the places of worship as well as the desecration of Ahmadi graves – under the supervision of the police.
Since 1984, 31 places of worship were demolished by mobs while 44 were sealed by the authorities; 39 bodies of Ahmadis were exhumed after burial.
At least 279 Ahmadis were killed since 1984 due to their faith.
The spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya community has expressed deep concern about the safety of their places of worship and their lives. He demands that the government must take immediate action to ensure that the Ahmadiyya community is protected and their religious freedom is respected.