Treatment of Ahmadis Who Return


“We shall persevere, Insh’a Allah, in our efforts to root out the cancer of Quadianism [the Ahmadiyya movement]” (President Zia Ul-Haq at the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat International Conference in London, 1985; Gualtieri 1989, 36).

There are an estimated four million Ahmadis in Pakistan (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/09/91, 2; Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) 1990, 75). Some of the principles they uphold, in particular their refusal to acknowledge Muhammad as the last prophet, are heretical to Muslim fundamentalists. The latter’s hostility, exacerbated by the rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan during the 1970s and 1980s, led to the passing of legislation that discriminates against Ahmadis, in particular Ordinance XLIV (section 298(a) added to the Penal Code in 1980) and Ordinance XX (sections 298 b and c added to the Penal Code in April 1985).

On 2 August 1991, the Parliament of Pakistan voted an amendment to section 295(c) of the Penal Code making the death penalty the only sentence for anyone found guilty of blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad. This amendment reinforces the government of Pakistan’s discriminatory legislation against the Ahmadiyya minority. Although no death sentence has so far been passed under section 295(c), Ahmadis are often charged and imprisoned under sections 298(a), (b) and (c) and section 295(c) of the Pakistani Penal Code (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91; HRCP 15 Oct. 1991; Country Reports 1990 1991, 1591, 1597-1598; Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (AMI) 1 Dec. 1991).


Pakistan became an Islamic state upon independence in 1947. Over the first twenty years of its existence as a state, however, the civilian and military governments which succeeded one another attached varying degrees of importance to the promotion of Koranic traditions, in particular with regard to legislation. Not until the 1970s, under the rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and more forcefully under the military regime of General Zia Ul-Haq, did the Islamization of the Pakistani political system really begin (International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) 1987, 103-104; Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 2-5; Gualtieri 1989, 25-34, 35-72).

Twice, in April 1954 and May 1974, Muslim fundamentalist hostility toward Ahmadis led to violent riots. In 1974, the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, under pressure from opposition parties, passed an amendment to the Constitution placing Ahmadis in the category of non-Muslim minorities (ICJ 1987, 104; Gualtieri 1989, 40-50) (see Appendix A). While this amendment was the first move toward a policy of discrimination against Ahmadis, it in no way interfered, at least at that time, with the free practice of their religion (ICJ 1987, 104).

The division of the electorate into two distinct bodies in 1978, one Muslim and the other non-Muslim, had unfortunate consequences for the Ahmadiyya community’s participation in Pakistan’s political life, both nationally and provincially. As they considered themselves Muslims, Ahmadis refused to register their representatives on the list of non-Muslim candidates, thus renouncing the seats which had been reserved for them in the federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures. Since 1978, they have had no members at either level of government (Ibid., 105; Country Reports 1990 1991, 1601).

Discrimination against Ahmadis was reinforced by the passing of section 298(a) of the Penal Code (Ordinance XLIV) in 1980 (see Appendix B). Under this section, certain epithets, titles and descriptions are strictly reserved for Muslim saints, and anyone using these terms for other purposes is liable to a fine and a maximum penalty of three years in prison. Ahmadis use such terms to refer to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) in his role as a prophet and founder of the movement, and for his immediate entourage. The International Commission of Jurists established clearly that Ordinance XLIV was directed at Ahmadiyya ritual, not at any particular individual. The addition of this subsection to the Penal Code did not cause any major problems at the time (ICJ 1987, 105).

Not until 1984 did the Pakistani Government intervene directly in the religious activities of Ahmadis. Under sections 298(b) and (c) of the Penal Code (Ordinance XX), Ahmadis who call themselves Muslims or propagate their faith in the name of Islam are liable to a fine and a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Ordinance XX not only prohibits Ahmadis from using the terms traditionally applied to Islamic saints but also prohibits them from using the term “Azan” to denote their call to prayer and the term “Masjid” to denote their place of worship (mosque) (Ibid., 105-106; Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 3-4) (see Appendix B). In addition, the West Pakistan Press and Publications Ordinance of 1963 was amended to allow provincial governments to seize any document violating Ordinance XX (section 298(b)) and to lay charges against its publisher (Ibid., 4). A number of Ahmadis have been prosecuted for violating the provisions of Ordinance XX since it was passed in 1984 (Ibid., 4, 6; ICJ 1987, 106-107; HRCP 15 Oct. 1991, 75-78; Country Reports 1990 1991, 1597-1598). In 1986, the government of Pakistan tightened control over Ahmadi publications by promulgating National Assembly Bill 13, which provides a maximum of three years in prison for any non-Muslim convicted of having translated, interpreted or commented on an extract of the Koran in violation of the beliefs and traditions of traditional Islam (ICJ 1987, 114).

The same year, a new section of the Penal Code, section 295(c), prescribed capital punishment or life imprisonment for anyone convicted of blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad. In August 1991, section 295(c) was again amended, making capital punishment the only sentence for the crime of blasphemy (see Appendix C).


The Ahmadiyya community continues to suffer from a policy of discrimination supported by the Islamabad government. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), discrimination against Ahmadis is practised unofficially but very effectively, in particular in the professions and in higher education (HRCP 15 Oct. 1991). The Commission states that because of pressure from fundamentalists to remove Ahmadis from key positions, it is difficult, if not impossible, for Ahmadis to attain a rank above major in the army or above section chief or assistant secretary in public administration. The same situation occurs in institutions of higher education, in particular in faculties which must apply strict admission quotas. The mere fact of being an Ahmadi is enough to exclude a candidate, except in cases where admission criteria (academic results) leave no latitude for discretionary decisions and where the integrity of the selection board is not influenced by fundamentalist pressure (Ibid.).

Other practices which discriminate against Ahmadis are entrenched in legislative texts, in particular Ordinance XX and sections 295(a) and (c) of the Penal Code. In fact, in a resolution passed in August 1985, the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities expressed

its grave concern at the promulgation of Ordinance XX, which prima facie constitutes a violation of the fundamental right to freedom and security of the person, the right to be protected from arbitrary arrest and detention, freedom of thought, expression, conscience and religion, the right of religious minorities to practise their own religion and the right to legal protection (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 2).

Since Ordinance XX was passed in 1984, thousands of Ahmadis have been prosecuted (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/09/91, 2; ICJ 1987, 106-107; Country Reports 1990 1991, 1597-1598). Some Ahmadis have been charged under section 295(c) of the Penal Code (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/09/91, 2; AMI 1 Dec. 1991). Although most Ahmadis accused of violating sections 298(a) and (b) and 295(a) and (c) have been released on bail, they must often wait several months, or even several years, before coming to trial (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 6). According to Amnesty International, delays in legal proceedings weigh heavy on Ahmadis who are charged with violating section 295(c) and subject to capital punishment (Ibid.).

The majority of cases documented by the International Commission of Jurists, the United States Department of State and Amnesty International in 1986, 1989 and 1990 were reported in the cities of Peshawar, Mardan and Abbotabad in the Northwest Province and the cities of Rawalpindi, Bhakkar, Jhang Sadar, Gujrat, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Nankana Sahib, Chak Sikander, Rabwah and Multan in the Province of Punjab (ICJ 1987, 104-115; Country Reports 1990 1991, 1598; Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 6-9). The two cases reported by Amnesty International in 1991 refer to two cities in the Punjab, Sambrial and Mandi Bahauddin (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 7).

The complaints laid against Ahmadis relate mainly to using the Koran and observing Koranic rites and traditions, praying in mosques, posting Islamic slogans or verses from the Koran within the enclosures of Ahmadi properties, printing such phrases on invitations and greeting cards and interpreting and translating verses from the Koran (ICJ 1987, 104-115; Country Reports 1990 1991, 1598; Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 6-9).

Most charges against Ahmadis are laid under Ordinance XX. Some Ahmadis have been prosecuted for violating section 295(c), but no death sentence has yet been passed under that section (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/09/91, 2; AMI 1 Dec. 1991; Jilani 6 Dec. 1991).

Other cases of harassment were reported in 1989 and 1990 in the cities of Karachi and Nawabshah in Sind and the city of Attock in the Northwest Province (Amnesty International, AI Index: ASA/33/15/91, 8-9; Country Reports 1990 1991, 1598).


According to Hina Jilani, a lawyer active in the defence of human rights in Pakistan, cases of violations of the Penal Code are normally brought before the lowest courts (magistrate courts), while cases of violations of the Hudood Ordinance (Shari’a) are heard by higher courts (session courts). The latter have jurisdiction to hear appeals from magistrate courts and superior courts. They may also investigate appeals from session courts, except for religious cases. Appeals regarding violations of Ordinance XX are heard by session courts. Violations of section 295(c) are appealed to superior courts or Federal Shari’a Courts (FSCs) (Jilani 6 Dec. 1991).

In theory, every Pakistani has legal recourse in case of harassment. However, there are very few non-Muslim judges and as a general rule, judges are not assigned on the basis of their religion or that of the accused (Ibid.). Furthermore, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, legal authorities tend to side with the “aggressors” when the damage has been inflicted in the name of the principles defended by religious fundamentalists (HRCP 15 Oct. 1991).

5.                EXIT FROM PAKISTAN

According to Hina Jilani, leaving Pakistan without a passport is a serious offence and there is no doubt that anyone violating this regulation is liable to severe penalties (6 Dec. 1991). These may be found in the Entry into Pakistan Act (1952), which the IRBDC does not have at the present time.

In order to obtain a passport, Pakistanis must declare their religious adherence on the passport application form (see Appendix D). If they declare themselves to be Muslim, they must sign the declaration for Muslims, included on the form, which states that Muhammad is the last of the prophets and that no one since Muhammad can claim to be a prophet; that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, is an imposter and that his disciples are not Muslims. According to representatives of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam in Toronto, Ahmadis refuse to sign such a statement, which constitutes an act of renunciation of their faith (1 Dec. 1991). The alternative would be to declare themselves Ahmadis, and thus members of a new religion, but that is an avenue they cannot contemplate because they believe strongly that they belong in Islam. In addition, an Ahmadi who declares that he is not a Muslim in order to obtain a passport must answer for his actions to the Ahmadiyya community (Ibid.). According to Hina Jilani, the Ahmadi community used to be more tolerant but today such a person would probably be ostracized (6 Dec. 1991). Ahmadis are thus constrained to break the law in order to leave the country.

Under section 6 of the Passports Act (1974), anyone who knowingly omits certain information or makes a false statement in any document in order to obtain a passport is liable to a maximum sentence of three years in prison, a fine or both (see Appendix E). Lastly, it is difficult, if not impossible, to leave Pakistan without passing through a border post because of border conflicts with Afghanistan and India. The Iranian border is heavily guarded as an extradition treaty exists between Pakistan and Iran (AMI 1 Dec. 1991; “Iran-Pakistan Agreement” 5 June 1991).

6.                RETURN TO PAKISTAN

Pakistani law does not provide sanctions for those who have requested asylum in another country during a stay outside Pakistan. However, according to Hina Jilani, seeking refugee status could be associated with the provisions of the Criminal Code on anti-government activities. Otherwise, Ahmadis are very likely to be subjected to political and religious harassment by Pakistani authorities (Jilani 6 Dec. 1991).

According to the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (AMI), seeking asylum in another country places Ahmadis at an impasse because they cannot avoid describing their religion at their hearing. If they declare themselves to be Muslims, they violate Ordinance XX; if they call themselves Ahmadis, they violate section 295(c) of the Penal Code. Furthermore, Ahmadis are liable to prosecution if they are sent back to Pakistan because under Pakistani law, accusing the State of Pakistan of persecution is an act of treason (AMI 1 Dec. 1991). The IRBDC cannot at present corroborate this information.

7.                SUMMARY

According to Amnesty International, AMI, and HRCP, Ahmadis were still being charged under Ordinance XX and section 295(c) of the Penal Code in 1991. Although most Ahmadis arrested under these provisions are released on bail, they sometimes have to wait several months or even years before being brought to trial. According to Amnesty International, these delays in legal proceedings weigh heavily on Ahmadis, for, having been charged with violating section 295(c), they are liable to capital punishment. To date, no death sentence has been pronounced under this section. Sources indicate that with regard to legal remedies, Pakistanis can appeal to the courts if they deem themselves to be injured, but in reality, legal authorities tend to dismiss remedies sought by Ahmadis because the injuries of which they complain have been committed in the name of Islamic fundamentalism.

Ahmadis who leave Pakistan legally must, in order to obtain a passport, declare that they are not Muslims on their passport application forms. If, on the other hand, they try to leave Pakistan without a passport, they are prosecuted under the provisions of the Entry into Pakistan Act. Furthermore, Ahmadis who return to Pakistan after having been refused asylum in another country are liable to be harassed by Pakistani authorities, at the very least.


Angam, Ahsan Sohail. 1984. The Pakistan Penal Code. Lahore: Mansoor Book House.

Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (AMI), Toronto. 6 December 1991. Telephone Interview with the President.

Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam (AMI), Toronto. 1 December 1991. Letter to the IRBDC in reply to an inquiry.

Amnesty International. September 1991. Legal Changes: The Death Penalty Made Mandatory for Defiling the Name of the Prophet Mohammad. (AI Index: ASA/33/09/91)

Amnesty International. September 1991. Violations of Human Rights of Ahmadis. (AI Index: ASA/33/15/91)

Gualtieri, Antonio R. 1989. Conscience and Coercion. Montreal: Guernica.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). 15 October 1991. Facimile sent to the IRBDC in reply to an inquiry.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). 1990. State of Human Rights in Pakistan. Lahore: HRCP.

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). 1987. Pakistan: Human Rights After Martial Law. Geneva: ICJ.

“Iran-Pakistan Agreement on the Extradition of Fugitives.” 5 June 1991. Translation of a press release by the Iranian Government.

Jilani, Hina, lawyer and human rights militant in Pakistan. 6 December 1991. Telephone Interview during her visit to the United States.

Jilani, Hina, lawyer and human rights militant in Pakistan. 23 December 1991. Letter to the IRBDC.

U.S. Department of State. 1991. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1990. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.



Source : Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, 1989. Persecution of Ahmadi Muslims and their Response.


1. Ordinance XLIV of 1980: section 298-A added to the Penal Code.

Source : Angam, Ahsan Sohail. The Pakistan Penal Code. Lahore: Mansoor Book House

2. Ordinance XX of 1984: sections 298-B and 298-C added to the Penal Code.

Source: Gualtieri, Antonio R. 1989. Conscience and Coercion. Montréal: Guernica.


Text of section 295-C of the Penal Code as adopted in 1986:

Text of section 295-C of the Penal Code as amended in April 1991:

Source : Jilani, Hina. 23 December 1991. Letter to the IRBDC.


1. Pakistani passport application form, including the declaration to be signed by Muslim applicants.

2. Declaration to be signed by Muslims only.

Source: Gualtieri, Antonio R. 1989. Conscience and Coercion. Montreal: Guernica.


Section 6 of Pakistan’s Passport Act (1974):

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