Amnesty on Ahmadis

AMNESTY ON AHMADIS (Printed in the Asian Times dated 5th June 1990) Amnesty International, in its report issued in May 1990, highlighted its disquiet over the law allowing the imprisonment on grounds of religious conscience of Ahmadis •—- a religious group whose claim to be Muslim is punishable with imprisonment-and over the authorities’ failure-to investigate fully sectarian violence against the Ahmadis which has resulted in several deaths and recommended that all legislation providing for imprisonment on grounds of non- violent conscientiously held beliefs be repealed, including Ordinance XX which makes the peaceful practice of the Ahmadiyya faith an imprisonable offence. An amnesty International delegation visited Pakistan in the months of July and August last year to assess the situation regarding Human Rights’-violation in Pakistan. The delegation met Federal .Ministers,as well as Provincial authorities and showed its concern over the legislation introduced in 1984 which provides for the imprisonment of members of the Ahmadiyya Community for the practice of their faith. In April 1984, the late dictator General Zial-ul-Haq promulgated Ordinance XX. This Ordinance amended the Pakistan Penal Code, introducing section 29 S7 B and 298/C, which prohibit Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, using Muslim practices in worship ‘arid propagating their faith. The new offences became punishable with up to three years imprisonment and a fine. The report stated: Ahmadis have also been charged for the expression of their faith under section. 29 5f CPPC, introduced in 1966, which provides a maximum penalty of death for defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammad. Amnesty International is of the view that Ordinance XX provides for imprisonment on grounds of religious conscience, violating the right to freedom of religious expression contained in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and contrary to the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief. It further stated, In August 1985 the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discriminat- ion and Protection of Minorities passed a resolution expressing grave concern at the promulgation of Ordinance XX and calling for its repeal. Amnesty International, too, urges that the Ordinance XX be replaced immediately. REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 1 7 In practice, Ordinance XX facilitates serious harassment of Ahmadis. Cases are regularly filed against them under sections 29 WB and 29 & C PPCfor the free expression of their faith. Numerous criminal prosecutions, which can result in imprisonment, have been opened against the Ahmadis for wearing badges imprinted with a verse from the Quran for example, for using the greeting Assalamo Alaikum, the-most common greeting among Muslims. Beyond this, Amnesty International believes that Ordinance XX has contributed to a climate in which members of the Ahmadiyya Community become more vulnerable to other forms of attack or harassment, the report continued. A spokesperson of the Ahmadiyya Community, Rashid Ahmad Chaudhry commented: More than six years have passed since this brutal instrument of religious persecution was promulgated to satisfy the political ambition of a dictator. General Zia is gone, but as long as this legislation remains, Ahmadi Muslims will continue to suffer, in their own country’. It is therefore high time for every human rights organisation in the world, for politicians and statesmen, and,for the media to call for the. repeal of this inhuman Ordinance. ATTACKS. Amnesty International, in its report, also cited examples of the attack on the Ahmadiyya Community in Nankana and Chak Sikan’dar. It said that in April 1989 Ahmadis-residing at-Nankana in Punjab province were attacked by a group of fanatics who’ systematically burnt their houses and property.’ A similar attack followed, at, Chak Sikandar in Punjab province on 16 July 1989 which resulted in the deaths of three Ahmadis and one Nbn Ahmadi; and the /destruction of property belonging to Ahmadis,-Amnesty’International showed its the reports that police failed to take action, to .protect the lives.of those attacked. During their visit, the delegation urged, that a’full Independent inquiry, the results of which should be made public, be held into these killings. The report stated that no such inquiry had been held and that the Punjab provincial authorities had not taken steps -to ensure that the many Ahmadis who had fled from their homes at Chak Sikandar could return in safety. Furthermore, the report indicated-that murder -cases registered with the police by each side to .the conflict have been treated differently by the authorities. While seventeen Ahmadis were reportedly arrested in connection with the murder of their opponent, no arrest has been reported in connection with the case registered by the Ahmadis for the murder of three members of their Community. The Amnesty International lamented at the situation and stated: “In situations of ethnic or religious ‘conflict the authorities . have a 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS particular responsibility to safeguard the fundamental rights of minorities, including security of person. Failure to take effective steps to protect these rights may create the impression that the authorities acquiesce in crimes- committed against them”. PRISONERS. The report, indicated that thousands of prisoners have been amnestied, including many political prisoners convicted by special military courts under martial law; 2029.death sentences have been commuted; and compensation has been announced for certain categories-of martial’law prisoners. However it recommended that procedure conforming to internationally recognised standards for a fair hearing .be established to review the cases of remaining prisoners convicted by special military courts to establish beyond doubt that there are not political prisoners among them wrongly or unlawfully convicted of- criminal charges brought for political reasons. It.also’recommended the urgent review of ‘SahiwaT and Sukkur cases where the members of the Ahmadiyya Community were convicted of murder and related offenses by special military courts. TORTURE The report indicated that though torture in prisons has reduced yet it is still liable to recur as those.responsible for torture in the past have not been brought to trial. Fetters are still used on prisoners including in some prisons on children. Torture including .rape:, is particularly liable to occur in police stations, says the report. (from page 11) religion. The Western civilization does not permit itself to be called a Christian civilization. This rejection by its own illustrious sons has forced the Church to seek converts from the ignorant and uneducated masses of the third world to whom the legacies of the Pagan world, turned into Christian myths, could be sold of which, according to Mr. Durante, none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ.