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Religious persecution in Pakistan

May 3, 2012

Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, a Pakistani organization representing members of the religious group, who are called Ahmadis, has claimed in its annual report that religious persecution against the minority is on the rise.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Ahmadis have long been persecuted and discriminated against in the Islamic republic. Their representative body, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, released their annual report on Thursday in Islamabad, claiming that in 2011 some 6 Ahmadis were killed and 20 were targeted for assassination in Pakistan.

Ahmadis were constitutionally declared non-Muslims in Pakistan the 1970s; however, Ahmadis say they believe in Islam and Prophet Muhammad. In the 1980s, during the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq, who introduced strict Sharia laws in Pakistan, the Ahmadi community had to face more discrimination, and a large number of them had to flee to other countries. Many Ahmadis have taken refuge in European countries, including Germany, where they enjoy greater religious freedom.

Constitutional discrimination

Salimuddin, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya's spokesman, told the media in Islamabad that Ahmadis continued to face religious, political and cultural discrimination in Pakistan.

A Muslim woman in Germany
Ahmadis enjoy greater freedom in Europe than in AsiaImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"Unless you don't change the laws, discrimination against Ahmadis and other religious minorities won't end," Salimuddin told DW, adding "there should be equal laws and equal justice for all citizens. We are also Pakistanis, and if the state gave us our rights as Pakistanis, things would be better for us."

The Pakistani government and politicians, however, insist religious minorities enjoy equal rights in the country - a claim which is refuted by most independent observers and human rights organizations in Pakistan.

Riaz Fatiyana, a member of parliament belonging to the conservative Muslim League of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told DW that the main issue was not about discrimination but about the implementation of laws.

"Article 25 of the Pakistani constitution says all citizens are equal regardless of their religion and ethnicity. The constitution is very clear about it. The problem is that this is never implemented in its spirit," said Fatiyana.

The role of the press

Salimuddin also criticized the Pakistani media, particularly the Urdu press, for maligning Ahmadis. But Mubashir Zaidi of Dawn News, a private TV channel in Pakistan, told DW that the allegations were not true as the Pakistani media had improved.

Supporters of Pakistan's Islamic parties
Islamist extremists are gaining ground in PakistanImage: dapd

"Electronic media in Pakistan, which also include Urdu TV channels, highlights all kinds of issues, including discrimination against Ahmadis," said Zaidi.

Despite Zaidi's claim, many Pakistani observers are of the opinion that in the past decade discrimination against Ahmadis has increased manifold in Pakistan, as the country deals with Islamic extremism and religious fanaticism on many levels.

Author: Shakoor Rahim / shs
Editor: Sarah Berning