The Ahmadi community will not participate in Pakistan’s upcoming elections as a mark of protest against their poor treatment by the state.
At some 200,000-strong, Ahmadis are a sliver of the 86.1 million people registered to vote nationwide on May 11 for the national and provincial assemblies. The beleaguered community, which is attacked religiously for its faith, has boycotted elections since 1985.
“We have been boycotting the election process since 1985 when Ahmadi voters were put in the list of religious minorities,” said Saleemuddin, a spokesman for Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. He said the community wanted its voters to be included in the joint electorate system. “We will stay away from the elections and boycott them like in the past to register our protest.”
Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim by the Pakistani government in 1974 and now suffer discrimination and violent attacks. It is against the law for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims, their “places of worship” cannot be called mosques, but they still see themselves as Muslims and object to being treated as a religious minority at election time.
Election registration forms require voters to give their religion and address. Ahmadis refuse to complete them for fear of being attacked.
Their graveyards are often targeted. On Dec. 3, gunmen desecrated the graves of Ahmadis in Lahore. On May 28, 2010, two Ahmadi “places of worship” were brutally attacked resulting in at least 80 dead. The injured were then targeted at hospital. Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, the late Dr. Abdus Salam, was an Ahmadi, disowned by his countrymen because of his faith.