The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding officials from the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), Punjab, having raided the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Community, a minority religious group, declared non-Muslim by the Constitution. During the raid, the officers manhandled and tortured persons, made four arrests, registered cases against 9, and confiscated office material (laptops, computers, numerous cell phones, and a scanning machine, photocopier, and sealed printing press. One, severely injured during the torture, has now been admitted to hospital.
The raid was conducted a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif posthumously acknowledged the contribution of the first Pakistani Nobel laureate physicist, Dr. Abdul Salam, an Ahmadi by faith, by allowing his name to remain attached to the Physics Department of Quaid-e-Azam University. It is likely the Punjab provincial government is behind the raid, to appease Muslim fundamentalists agitating against the PM Sharif’s acknowledgment of Dr. Salam’s contribution. The raid exposes the failure of the National Action Plan, which is yet to protect minorities and counter terrorism and hate speech.
On 5 December 2016 at 12:30 p.m., 16 armed policemen and 12 police officials in civilian clothes entered the Ahmadi Headquarters campus by force. They arrived in three police vehicles. Those who were armed had covered their faces. They forced their entry through the main gate of the campus and straight away went upstairs to the publication office on the 1st floor. According to a press release issued by the Ahmadiyya, five or six policemen took positions around the building. They ordered whoever was around to lie down or sit down on the ground.
An anti-Ahmadiyya religious organization, Tahafuz Khatam-e-Nabuwat (Protectector of Finality of Prophet) claimed that the CDT conducted the raid on its complaint and recovered hate material and illegal weapons from the custody of the Ahmadis.
However, in the police report (FIR), nothing is mentioned about any recovery of weapons and hate material. Nevertheless, cases against nine persons of Ahmadiyya Jamat were registered at CTD Police Station of Faisalabad, 40 km from the Ahmadiyya Headquarters campus, under Sections 298 C and 298 B of Pakistan Penal Code, which relate to the Blasphemy law.
The raid was conducted a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif posthumously acknowledged the contribution of the first Pakistani Nobel laureate physicist, Dr. Abdul Salam, who was an Ahmadi by faith. The PM decided to allow Dr. Salam’s name to remain linked to the Quaid-e-Azam Physics Department. It is understood that the Punjab government is behind the raid, an attempt to appease the Muslim fundamentalists who have begun agitating against the PM’s acknowledgement of the Ahmadi contribution.
Different religious clerics have begun issuing statements against the Prime Minister demanding he withdraw the decision to re-name the Quaid-e-Azam University’s National Centre of Physics (NCP) after Dr. Salam.
The Ahmadiyya press release says that as the CTD officers entered the publication office, they ordered all the staff to remain still and stop moving. They then entered the office of Mirza Anas Ahmad, Director of the Department, and asked him to stand up and accompany them. Mirza Anas Ahmad asked them to show him the arrest warrant. They then took his laptop and two mobile phones. They then went around the department offices and picked up five computers, one laptop, one printer, and several books. They then arrested Malik Sabah ul Zaffar, a missionary, Amir Ahmad Fahim, another missionary, and Zahid Mahmood Majeed, a computer Typist. The police asked them for their identity cards and then handcuffed them and took them away.
After that some policemen went to the roof of the building and raided the control room where there is equipment to screen security cameras in the building. The policemen broke the locks of the door to the roof and severely assaulted the control room supervisor Rana Irfan Ahmad. He has been severely injured. They forced him to surrender the key to one of the cupboards in the room where there were three guns and a box of bullets. All the guns were properly licensed. The policemen took the guns and a box of bullets away without issuing any receipt. Rana Irfan Ahmed was so badly injured that he had to be rushed to Tahir Heart Institute Hospital where he remains under treatment. During their action, the police snipped the wires of several security cameras installed around the building.
Furthermore, they snatched phones from two employees who were in the corridors of the building and also snatched the electricity bill from one of them. They also checked the ID cards of several other employees and left the building at 1 o’clock.
After that they proceeded directly to the Zia-ul-Islam Press. They did not ring the bell but preferred to jump the wall to enter the premises. They told the press operators to stop the press; they also beat them up for no reason. They asked them to hand them over the monthly Tehrik Jadid and its plates. The pressmen told them that they had none at the moment, as they were busy printing the Ahmadiyya daily. The intruders asked them who was in-charge after Mr. Tahir Mahdi Imtiaz (the squeaky clean printer in prison for almost two years in a case fabricated jointly by the police and mullas). Mr. Idrees Ahmad told them that he was the foreman. They handcuffed him and beat him up. They also took possession 8 coloured plates, 4 black plates, and printed sheets of the daily, published by permission. This is despite, for years now, authorities having found nothing objectionable in its texts so far.
This part of the brutish raid lasted half an hour.
A police case has been registered against 9 Ahmadis; four of those have been arrested. It is learnt that anti-Ahmadi sections PPC 298-B and 298-C have been cited, as also some sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The way the CTD officers conducted the raid, it seemed well planned, and germinated over a long period of time; the prime movers behind this are arguably the self-serving leaders of politico-religious lobby in the Punjab Province.
And whither the National Action Plan (NAP)? The National Action Plan clearly mentions a complete ban on hate material. Yet, hatred is spewed throughout Pakistan against Ahmadis, both verbally and in writing. And, as such, rather than the NAP being implemented in letter and spirit, Ahmadis are being targeted by unlawful State actions.
Ahmadis have been declared a minority non-Muslim sect by the Pakistani Constitution in 1974. Ever since, different Muslim sects and Islamic political parties have persecuted them. The Ahmadis are not entitled to minority rights, nor do they have a right to vote in the general elections.
The province of Punjab is showcasing persecution of the Community. Ahmadis are being arrested under Blasphemy laws. Conferences are being held to incite hatred and instigate the common people of Pakistan to attack Ahmadis. The provincial government has already declared Ahmadis as Wajabi Qatl (liable to be murdered). In the month of February, the Punjab government released notorious murderers belonging to a banned religious group, the Sipahe Shaba Pakistan (SSP). The provincial government used them during the by-elections in two different electoral constituencies. They were the foot soldiers of the provincial Law Minister.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has once again been deprived their fundamental religious freedoms and universal civic rights. For local body elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made an addition to the guidelines, instructing registration officers and other staff to enter Ahmadi votes separately in the Initial Electoral List. Through instruction, the ECP has mandated that Ahmadi votes will be entered separately in the register under the notation ‘FOR AHMADIS’.
Ahmadis in Pakistan are thereby deprived their fundamental democratic right to vote. It is curious that Muslim, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians are included in one electoral roll and only Ahmadis have to register in a separate list. Ahmadis can only vote if they accept being non-Muslim and disassociate themselves from their beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The government always seeks to appease Islamic fundamentalists and extremists by taking unconstitutional action against the Ahmadiyya Community to show that the government is very much with the hardline Islamists.
Please write letters to the following authorities calling on them to stop the Punjab government acting against the peaceful and non-violent Ahmadiyya Community and restore the constitutional right of life and citizenship to Ahmadis. Please urge them to hold inquiry in the matter of Counter Terrorism Department’s raid, torture, harassment, illegal arrests, and confiscation of publications and printing machine. Action is required against the CTD for violating the sanctity of a religious place. Please also urge them to immediately withdraw these unjustified cases and release the individuals arrested, taking strict action against the perpetrators of this incident.
The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Freedom of Religion and Faith, and calling for his intervention into this matter”.