In May 2020, Mr Rohan Ahmad, an Ahmadi Muslim missionary, visited his family home in Lahore to celebrate Eid. The home was raided by the police on the grounds that he allegedly possessed Ahmadiyya Muslim literature. He was arrested and charged under:
• s11 Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 (that targets hate speech in literature).
• 295-B of Pakistan’s Penal Code (PPC) for allegedly ‘defiling the Holy Quran’ (that carries life imprisonment); and
• 298-C (of Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi laws) for ‘calling himself a Muslim’.
Rohan Ahmad remains behind bars and has been refused bail.
The First Instance Report (FIR) used by the police also named several high-ranking senior Ahmadi Muslim officials as his alleged accomplices. Two of those named, Malik Usman and Hafiz Tariq Shehzad, arranged a meeting with the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) on 29 September 2020 to discuss and plead their case. Rather than hearing their pleas, the pair were arrested together with their guarantors (Imran Ahmad Virk and Mudassir Ahmad) and another Ahmadi (Zaheer Ahmad) who had attended the hearing in support of those accused. While the two guarantors have been released and are on bail pending a court hearing, the other three remain imprisoned at the Cybercrime Jail in Gulberg, Lahore.
As there were no grounds of arrest for Zaheer Ahmad, clerics present at the FIA obtained his mobile phone, unlocked the handset and uploaded a translation of the Holy Quran together with text of the writings of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community; and presented this to officials as evidence for his arrest. On the basis of this fabricated evidence Zaheer Ahmad was charged for abetment under 109 PPC and has also been charged with 295-B and 298-C PPC and s11 of PECA.
On 1 October 2020, three Ahmadi officials including the father of Hafiz Tariq Shehzad attended the Cybercrime Jail on a prison visit where they were informed that the prisoners including his son had been subjected to horrific physical torture and had sustained significant injuries. The torture had been staged by prison officials to allow hard-line opponents of the community including Mullah Hassan Muavia and several other clerics to attend and watch the barbaric torture for their own gratification.
Malik Usman, Hafiz Tariq Shehzad and Zaheer Ahmad are being denied basic and fundamental human rights such as access to a bed or any food and water. These provisions are currently provided by the local Ahmadiyya community who are risking their own lives by visiting the prison to provide this basic support.
We are deeply concerned about the welfare and safety of those who have been wrongfully arrested and tortured at the hands of clerics who have significant control and influence over Pakistani authorities including the prison and judicial system.
This is part of a wider pattern of escalating state-sponsored persecution of Ahmadi Muslims across Pakistan.