May 31, 2023
By Xari Jalil
On 31 March 2023, four UN special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Pakistani government expressing concern on rising cases of atrocities, violence and discrimination against the Ahmadi religioys minority community in Pakistan.
The rapporteurs who wrote the letter included Fernand de Varennes, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and Nazila Ghanea Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
In the letter they highlighted their concerns over hate speech and incitement to violence against the Ahmadis, including attacks against places of worship, etc.
Acts of Violence
Based on received information, the letter said that hate speech, and intolerance against the Ahmadis had risen between 2022 and early 2023.
In 2022, a leader of the Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Muhammad Naeem Chattha Qadri, incited physical violence against Ahmadi pregnant women to “make sure that no new Ahmadis are born.”
During his speech in a location in Mandi Bahaudin, near Lahore, he also said that blasphemers should be decapitated. He was seconded by Syed Muhammad Sibtain Shah Naqvi, founder and principal of Markaz Imam Bukhari Sargodha, who said that if an Ahmadi’s house was on fire, “one should pour oil on it, rather than water.”
From December 2022, attacks and hate crimes against Ahmadis grew sharply.
On 24 December 2022, a ‘Khatme-Nabuwwat’ WhatsApp group was created, comprising hundreds of members. Similar calls for violence circulated via this WhatsApp Group, including a video calling upon Muslims to “cut the tongue”, “strike down the hand” of Quran desecraters, and to not rest until the last “Qadiani” [pejorative of Ahmadis] unalive.
A series of attacks against Ahmadi places of worship were reported, from December 2022 to date.
During the night between December 7 and 8, Gujranwala police itself destroyed the minarets of an Ahmadiyya place of worship in Baghanpura, Gujranwala.
Once again, on 10 January 2023, police knocked down the minarets of a century‑old Ahmadiyya place of worship in Moti Bazaar, Wazirabad.
These incidents took place after violent statements were made by anti Ahmadi activists.
On 18 January 2023, in yet another incident, perpetrators vandalized two minarets of Ahmadiyya worship place on Martin Road in Karachi. They climbed the minarets using a ladder and smashed to bits the upper part of a minaret by a sledgehammer.
On 22 January, perpetrators desecrated Ahmadiyya graves at 89 GB Ratan in Faisalabad.
On 2 February, a group of anti-Ahmadiyya people destroyed the minarets of the Ahmadiyya Hall built in 1950 in Saddar, Karachi. Around five to 10 miscreants climbed the wall and razed the minarets using a hammer, while shouting anti-Ahmadiyya slogans.
The following day, on 3 February, an Ahmadi place of worship was set on fire, in the Noor Nagar district of Umerkot. Perpetrators also damaged the minarets of the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Goth Chaudhary Javed Ahmed at Goth Ghazi Khan Mirani, in district Mirpurkhas.
Declaration as non-Muslims
On March 7, the District Bar Council of Gujranwala, Punjab issued a notice that lawyers who wish to be admitted to the Bar Council must provide an affidavit condemning Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani, founder of the Ahmadiyya community, as a liar and that his followers were not Muslims despite their self-identification as Muslims. The text read: “I am Muslim and have unconditional belief in Khatm e Nabuwat and finality of Prophethood of Holy Prophet (P B U H). I do not accept anyone who claims to be a Prophet after the Holy Prophet (P B U H) by amending the known definition of the word, Prophet. I do not accept such claimant of Prophecy as Prophet or Religious Preacher. I do not consider such person Muslim. I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani, liar (God forbid) and his Lahori and Qadiani followers, non-Muslims.”
The Special Rapporteurs have severely condemned this act, and have expressed concern over the obligation to provide an affidavit declaring oneself Muslim and not accepting other beliefs in order to be qualified to join the bar. They stated that this was a violation of the freedom of religion and the belief of those Ahmadis who sought this membership.
Moreover, it showed there was a lack of independence of lawyers when it came to practicing their profession without any interference from the state.
Jillani Judgement of 2014
The letter reminded the Pakistan government of the Supreme Court’s suo moto decision of 2014 where it had given eight directives concerning the protection of religious minorities in Pakistan. To this day the directives have not been fully implemented.
Expressing their alarm about the multiple incidents of vandalization of Ahmadi religious buildings, the special rapporteurs highlighted that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had issued a decision (PLD 2014 SC 699) guaranteeing the protection of all places of worship. In the decision it had requested the Government of Pakistan to establish a special task force for the protection of places of worship by minorities.
We express our serious concern on the lack of effective protection by authorities of such places of worship as well as the situation of risk and lack of protection of individuals belonging to the Ahmadi religious minority in Pakistan.
In this context, the rapporteurs have asked the government of Pakistan to provide information on steps taken to prevent incidents of vandalization of minority places of worship buildings, as well as actions taken to maintain a safe environment for the Ahmadi community. They have also asked for what efforts are being taken to implement the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgement which has instructed the police to protect places of worship and to form a special task force for the protection of minority places of worship.
Sixty days have been given for the Pakistan government’s reply before the case is made public at the UN.
The letter has highlighted several international conventions of which Pakistan is a signatory and is obligated to act under them.
These include International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was ratified on 23 June 2010; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified by Pakistan on 17 April 2008; the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), acceded by Pakistan on 12 November 1990; the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992); the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, adopted by consensus by the UNGA on 25 November 1981; and the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference on 2 November 2001.
They also mentioned previous outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review where Pakistan’s lack of protection of its religious minoirties was discussed and recommendations were given as well.