NCHR Expresses Concerns Over Violating Rights Of Ahmadiyya Community

National rights commission urges the government to take strict action against those extremist elements who are involved in sponsoring hate speech against Ahmadis

NCHR Expresses Concerns Over Violating Rights Of Ahmadiyya Community

The National Commission For Human Rights (NCHR) has expressed concerns regarding the violation of the basic human rights of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan, noting that not only have they demanded the federal and the provincial governments take immediate steps to protect the lives and properties of Ahmadis.

This was contained in a situation report by the NCHR that was released on Monday. The report, titled "Monitoring the Plight of the Ahmadiyya Community," covered a two-day fact-finding mission by the Commission to Rabwah (Chenab Nagar) from September 17 to September 18, 2023. The mission included interacting with community elders at the Saddar Ahmadiyya Anjuman Pakistan Office in Rabwah, as the commission attempted to prepare a policy brief to comprehensively understand and monitor the challenges faced by the community.

During the visit, the spectrum of issues faced by the community was reviewed. These included the maintenance of a separate electoral list, discrimination faced by students across various educational institutions nationwide, uncooperative behaviour exhibited by the police, employment and workplace discrimination, and the desecration of graveyards and worship places. The commission also heard about the threats received by the Ahmadiyya community, especially the situation developing in Daska, where the community was openly threatened with the demolishing of minarets atop historic places of worship that belonged to the Ahmadiyya community.

While pointing out the desecration of the Ahmadiyya graves, ever-increasing attacks on Ahmadiyya Worship Places, the discrimination faced by Ahmadis socially, and the discriminatory behaviour being carried out against the Ahmadiyya Community on the State level, the commission said that steps need to be taken by the federal and the provincial governments on an immediate basis.

The commission noted that despite a recent order issued by the Lahore High Court (LHC) restraining the demolition of minarets and arches at Ahmadiyya community worship places constructed before 1984, several worship places older than 1984 had been either demolished or vandalised. 

The community also pointed towards the hate speech prevalent against the community on social media. They further claimed that hate speech and religious incitement aimed at teenagers is being propagated against the community.

The community said they feel persecuted for celebrating the rituals of Eidul Adha.

Such attitudes, attacking and targeting the community, have compelled community members to migrate from rural areas and towns to cities and even the country, community representatives told NCHR.

Data provided to NCHR by the Ahmadi Community showed that from 1984 to September 2023, some 280 Ahmadis lost their lives due to targeted violence, and an additional 415 faced assaults because of their faith. 

Moreover, Ahmadis faced an astonishing number of legal charges, including 765 cases for displaying the Kalima, 47 cases for calling the Azan (the call to prayer), 861 cases for preaching, and various others. Even celebrations of events, such as the Ahmadiyya Centenary in 1989 or the 100-year anniversary of the eclipses in 1894, are met with legal repercussions, exemplifying the extent of restrictions on their religious freedoms. Some 334 Ahmadis were facing criminal charges under the blasphemy law of Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). In one instance, the former Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Community living in London was charged in absentia in 16 cases, while the present Supreme Head faces charges in two cases. The entire population of Rabwah, the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Community, and the Ahmadis in Kotli have faced collective legal actions, reflecting the systemic discrimination embedded in the legal system.

Moreover, at least 51 Ahmadiyya worship places were demolished, while the authorities sealed another 46. Furthermore, another 39 worship places have been set on fire or damaged, and 18 were forcibly occupied.

The authorities have also obstructed the construction of 62 Ahmadiyya worship places. The sanctity of the deceased has also not been spared. The bodies of 39 Ahmadis were exhumed after burial, and burial was denied in a common cemetery for 96 individuals. Moreover, 99 Ahmadi graves have been desecrated and damaged in the current year alone.

The commission concluded that the Constitution and the law expressly grant legal entitlements, including the right to profess religion, to every citizen. However, having merely a legal entitlement is not enough until it is fully realised in reality for a citizen. It is the paramount duty of the government to take all necessary measures to realise the wide array of human rights of religious minorities.

"The religious discrimination and physical threat to life and property of Ahmadiyya community is a matter of urgency which demands swift action from the government," the commission said.

The commission said that it has written to the Ministry of Human Rights, local and district administration, as well as the police on concerns voiced by the community and for strict action against perpetrators of religious persecution and violence.

The NCHR advocated that the federal and provincial governments take urgent and strong action for the protection of the Ahmadiyya community. 

It recommended the implementation of Article 20 of its Constitution, guaranteeing complete freedom to propagate and practice faith.

The government was urged to take all possible steps to ensure that all minorities, including the Ahmadiyya community, are guaranteed the same fundamental rights as other citizens of Pakistan and to establish a dedicated oversight mechanism to work with relevant government bodies and law enforcement agencies.

NCHR recommended ending the separate electoral lists for Ahmadis, noting that rather than enfranchising them, it was putting them at risk of being targeted.

The government was urged to provide equal employment opportunities to all minorities.

The government was urged to take strict action against those extremist elements who are involved in sponsoring hate speech against Ahmadis and establish and enforce a robust regulatory framework preventing the dissemination of hatred and extremism in educational institutions.

To prevent the young generation from becoming radicalised, the NCHR recommended the government initiate comprehensive educational reforms in Pakistan and integrate educational initiatives promoting tolerance into school curricula.

To ensure swift and impartial prosecution of individuals involved in attacks or threats against the Ahmadiyya community, the NCHR further recommended. It said timely administrative and legal action is crucial in deterring potential perpetrators and reinforcing the rule of law.

"Government should take serious actions against those involved in the activities of desecration of Ahmadis worship places and graveyards."

Regarding the police, the commission recommended the government build the capacity of [olice in dealing with matters relating to minority communities. Moreover, the government should establish a specialised police task force with professional training to protect places of worship of minorities as specified in the Supreme Court Order of Justice Jillani dated June 19, 2014. 

"These task forces must work under notified SOPs to specifically address and prevent attacks on Ahmadiyya persons and worship places. These task forces should receive targeted training on religious tolerance, cultural sensitivity, and the unique challenges faced by minority communities."

Finally, the commission recommended the government launch nationwide public awareness campaigns to foster a culture of tolerance and respect for religious diversity.