Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch issue joint statement
Three human rights organizations—the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists—on Thursday called on the Government of Pakistan to probe a recent surge in attacks on Ahmadis and to take prompt action to protect their rights.
In a joint statement, the three groups noted that in the past five months, at least five members of the Ahmadiyya community were killed in seemingly targeted attacks. Noting that only two of these cases have resulted in arrests, the statement warned that “Pakistani authorities have long downplayed, and at times even encouraged, violence against Ahmadis, whose rights to freedom of religion and belief are not respected under Pakistani law.”
Summarizing the recent surge, the statement noted that on Nov. 20, a teenager shot dead a 31-year-old Ahmadi doctor in Nankana Sahib; on Nov. 9, a man was fatally shot dead while waiting at a bus station in Peshawar; on Oct. 6, two men on a motorcycle shot dead Dr. Naeemuddin Khattak, 57, also in Peshawar; on Aug. 12, another Peshawar resident, Meraj Ahmed, 61, was fatally shot outside his shop; on July 29, an assailant shot dead a U.S. national facing blasphemy accusations inside a high-security courtroom.
“There are few communities in Pakistan who have suffered as much as the Ahmadis,” said Omar Waraich, head of South Asia at Amnesty International. “The recent wave of killings tragically underscores not just the seriousness of the threats they face, but also the callous indifference of the authorities, who have failed to protect the community or punish the perpetrators,” he added.
The statement stressed that successive Pakistani governments had failed to protect the Ahmadiyya community, noting the penal code explicitly discriminates against religious minorities and targets Ahmadis by making it illegal for them to “indirectly or directly pose as a Muslim.”
“The authorities arbitrarily arrest, detain, and charge Ahmadis for blasphemy and other offenses because of their religious beliefs,” read the statement, alleging that police were often complicit in this harassment and that the government’s failure to address this religious persecution had facilitated violence the name of religion.
“Pakistan was part of the consensus at the U.N. General Assembly that required that states take active measures to ensure that persons belonging to religious minorities may exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law,” said Ian Seiderman, legal and policy director at the ICJ. “The Pakistani government has completely failed to do so in the case of the Ahmadis,” he said.
“Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments should take immediate legal and policy measures to eliminate widespread and rampant discrimination and social exclusion faced by the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should repeal the blasphemy law and all anti-Ahmadiyya provisions,” she urged.
The joint statement of HRW, ICJ and Amnesty all accused the Pakistani government of promoting discriminatory practices against Ahmadis, including by requiring all Pakistani Muslim citizens to sign a statement explicitly stating they consider Ahmadis “non-Muslim” when they apply for passports.
“Pakistani laws against the Ahmadiyya community violate Pakistan’s international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, including the rights to freedom of conscience, religion, expression, and association, and to profess and practice one’s own religion,” read the statement, adding that numerous international bodies, including the U.N. had previously expressed concern over the ongoing persecution of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan.
The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government maintains that it is acting in accordance with law—though critics maintain it is not doing enough. Following the killing of an Ahmadi doctor in Nakana Sahib, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said it was condemnable. “Condemn targeted attacks and killings of members of minority Ahmadi community in different parts of Pakistan,” she posted on Twitter. “But as government, it’s our responsibility to act. We have. Perpetrator of latest attack in police custody and being proceeded against in accordance with law. Government’s duty to protect all our citizens,” she added.