Oppression of religious minorities in Pakistan

Ahmadiyya Muslims excluded from commission (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has accused Pakistan of arbitrary discrimination and persecution of religious minorities. According to the human rights organization, it is especially the Muslim Ahmadiyya minority that is suffering from exclusion and criminalization – but Christians, Hindu, and Sikhs are increasingly becoming victims of attacks as well. Further, the Ahmadiyya are not allowed to be represented in a "National Commission for Minorities", which was formed by the government last Tuesday. "It is an indictment of Pakistan's government that it has given in to Muslim extremist protests. Now, four million Ahmadiyya are deliberately marginalized," criticized Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Friday – emphasizing that the exclusion of the Ahmadiyya is against the purpose of the commission: all minorities should have a voice. "The commission, which is headed by a Hindu, is now under pressure to investigate and denounce human rights violations against minorities in order to prove its credibility," Delius added.

Originally, the Ministry of Religion had recommended that the Ahmadiyya be included in the commission, but had then given in to protests by radical Muslims. One of the sharpest critics in the cabinet was Ali Muhammad Khan, the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. He had accused the Ahmadiyya of not recognizing the Prophet Muhammad and of violating the constitution. In a Twitter message, he demanded that slandering of the prophet Muhammad should be punished by beheading. Religious sites of the Ahmadiyya are frequently vandalized, and members of the religious community are often accused of blasphemy or even murdered. Pakistan's criminal code prohibits members of the minority to call themselves Muslims, and a constitutional amendment passed in 1974 states that the reform movement is not to be officially recognized. As the Ahmadiyya follow the teachings of the reformer Mirza Ghalam Ahmad, who lived in northern India at the end of the 19th century, the Sunni majority considers them to be heretics.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has been calling for a better protection of religious minorities for years. In January 2020, the court formed a commission to investigate whether the government is doing enough to promote religious tolerance. In 2014, the Supreme Court issued a ruling calling for more initiatives to promote freedom of religion. "But the daily life of religious minorities in Pakistan is grim. Young Christian and Hindu women frequently become victims of abductions, forced conversion, and forced marriage," Delius explained. Despite laws to protect women's rights, young girls aged 12 to 14 are often abducted and forced to marry Sunnis. More than one hundred cases are registered every year, but the number of unreported cases is high.