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Pakistan

In 1974 Prime Minister Bhutto enacted an amendment to the constitution declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. In the 1980s, measures brought in by Zia-ul-Haq to Islamicise Pakistan’s civil and criminal law affected all religious minorities but particularly Ahmadis.

Zia-ul-Haq’s 1984 Ordinance XX introduced explicit references to Ahmadis in sections 298b and 298c of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Section 298b significantly restricts Ahmadi freedom of religion and expression requiring ‘a term which may extend to three years’ and a fine for any Ahmadi.

THE LAW

Pakistan’s Anti-Ahmadi Laws

30 years ago the Government of Pakistan enacted a series of anti-Ahmadi laws (Ordinance XX) that made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims.

The law states that Ahmadi Muslims cannot:

  • Call themselves Muslims
  • Refer to their faith as Islam
  • Call their place of worship a ‘Mosque’;
  • Make the call for prayers (Adhan)  
  • Say the Islamic greeting ‘Assalamo alaikum’ (Peace be on you)
  • Preach or propagate their faith

 

Any of the above will be punishable by three years imprisonment and a fine.

If the offence is regarded as blasphemy then an Ahmadi could be sentenced to death.

This makes the Ahmadi Muslim community unique in Pakistan as being the only religious community in Pakistan to be targeted by the state simply on grounds of faith.

Background

In 1974 Prime Minister Bhutto amended the Pakistan Constitution to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim for the purposes of law. This emboldened extremists (primarily Jamaate Islami and Khatme Nabuwwat) that used this as a pre-text to harass, attack and kill Ahmadis in Pakistan.

The situation worsened when General Zia introduced Ordinance XX as part of his ‘Islamisation’ programme. This amended the Penal Code and made it acriminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves or ‘pose’ as Muslims. Any such crime would face 3 years imprisonment or if dealt with under the blasphemy laws it could result in death.

The Section 298C of the Penal Code states:
“Any person of the group …‘Ahmadis’ … who, directly or indirectly, poses himself as Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or in any manner whatsoever outrages the religious feelings of Muslims, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.”


The laws conflict with the constitutional right assuring Pakistani citizens of freedom of religion
 and conflict with the vision of the founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah stated in no uncertain terms that the country had no right to interfere in the religious beliefs of its citizens.

Pakistani passports state the religion of Ahmadis as ‘Ahmadi’ rather than Muslim – this means that no Pakistani Ahmadi citizen can go to Makkah to perform the Hajj – one of the 5 sacred pillars of Islam.

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