Published by Liberty South Asia on November 17, 2017

Pakistan Doubles Down on Persecution of Ahmadiyya

Ahmadis, an Islamic sect whose members follow the teachings of the 19th century religious leader  Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, have suffered incredible persecution in Pakistan. Despite their constituting a tiny minority of the country’s population, Pakistan took the extraordinary step of amending its constitution in 1974 to explicitly declare Ahmadis – and Ahmadis alone – as “non-Muslims,” stripping them of the rights and privileges afford other Muslims. In recent years, they have been attacked by violent mobs, their mosques have been demolished by police, and they have been denied humanitarian relief during natural disasters.

Now, Pakistan is doubling down on persecution of Ahmadi Muslims. Yesterday, the National Assembly passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017, which includes a particularly dangerous provision that requires the government to create an official list of Ahmadi voters.

Section 7B states that the status of Ahmedis remains as stated in the Constitution of Pakistan, while section 7C states that if an enrolled voter’s belief in the finality of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood is contended, they shall have to sign a declaration reaffirming their belief, failing which their “name shall be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslim.”

Hamid said that the new, amended bill will make the said sections more effective, adding that a separate voters list shall be created for Ahmadis as they will not be included in the list for Muslims.

The probable outcome of this legislation will be the disenfranchisement of Ahmadi voters in national elections scheduled for next year. Faced with the choice of legally denying that they are Muslims (Ahmadis profess the Islamic declaration of faith, or “Shahada”) or being catalogued as members of a threatened religious minority, many Ahmadi Muslims will likely abstain from voting altogether.

Unfortunately, this is not the only demand for a list of Ahmadis made this week. In response to a petition submitted by a member of Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, an anti-Ahmadi extremist group, Islamabad High Court Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui gave the government of Pakistan 14 days to submit a reply regarding the petitioner’s request for a database of government employees belonging to the Ahmadi faith.

While these decisions are being made by the state, anti-Ahmadi extremists are besieging the Pakistani capitol, demanding that Law Minister Zahid Hamid be fired and strict action be taken against anyone involved in drafting legislation that would have altered the wording of the profession of faith in the Election Law intended to disqualify Ahmadi Muslims. These events point to growing danger for Pakistan’s Ahmadi community as extremists become more and more emboldened and the state tries to appease, rather than confront them.