June 2008 
Year 14    No.132
Global Minorities

A segregated state

Pakistan: The land of religious apartheid and jackboot justice. Excerpts from a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights

Legalisation of religious apartheid

The Pakistan government, in its policies, programmes and laws, only recognises the religious minorities but not the ethnic, linguistic or racial minorities living in the country.

The Constitution of Pakistan segregates its citizens on the basis of religion and provides preferential treatment to Muslims. While Article 2 of the Constitution declares Islam “the state religion of Pakistan” and the holy Koran and Sunnah to be “the supreme law and source of guidance for legislation to be administered through laws enacted by the Parliament and provincial assemblies and for policymaking by the government”, under Article 41(2) only a Muslim can become president. Further, Article 260 of the Constitution differentiates between “Muslim” and “Non-Muslim” thereby facilitating and encouraging discrimination on the basis of religion.

The Constitution is so glued to providing preferential treatment to the majority Muslims that even a Hindu judge has to take oath of office in the name of “Allah”. On March 24, 2007 Justice Rana Bhagwandas, a Hindu, while being sworn in as acting chief justice of Pakistan, being the seniormost judge after the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had to take oath with a Koranic prayer – “May Allah almighty help and guide me (A’meen)”.  

Provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), in particular, Section 295A, Section 295B, Section 295C, Section 298A and Section 298B, provide harsh punishment for alleged blasphemy. These blasphemy laws undermine some of the major provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan, such as the fundamental right to “profess, practise and propagate his religion” (Article 20), equality before the law and equal protection of law to all citizens (Article 25) and safeguarding the “legitimate rights and interests of minorities” (Article 36). The Apostasy Bill 2006 introduced by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal in the national assembly in May 2007 seeks, among other things, to provide the death sentence to any Muslim converting to other religions and imposes life imprisonment on women apostates.  

Teaching hatred in schools

Hindus and Hinduism have been allegedly maligned and hatred against them is propagated in textbooks approved by the national curriculum wing of the federal ministry of education. Among other things, Hindus have been stated as the “enemy of Islam” in the textbooks of Class V.  

Persecution under blasphemy laws

Since Ahmadis have been declared heretic, practising their faith in public can be described as blasphemous and therefore the dagger of blasphemy laws perennially hangs over their heads. Blasphemy laws have been widely abused and misused to target minorities and sometimes to settle personal vendettas even among Muslims. Between January 1 and June 1, 2007 at least 25 persons, of whom 16 were Christians, including nine women, were victimised under the blasphemy laws. In 2006, 90 cases of blasphemy were reported. Of these, only 48 were registered with the police, in which 27 accused were Muslims, 10 Christians and 11 Ahmadis. Considering that Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis constitute only slightly more than four per cent of the total population of Pakistan, they have been disproportionate victims of the blasphemy laws. On May 30, 2007 Younis Masih, a Christian, was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy by the sessions court in Lahore. He was charged on September 10, 2005 under Section 295C of the PPC.  

Even the anti-terror laws are invoked against those accused of blasphemy and often the judiciary sanctifies the charges. On June 8, 2007 Saeed Ahmad, an Ahmadi, was arrested under Section 298C of the PPC at Nakdar police station in Sargodha district (first information report, FIR No. 73/2007). Later, the police added Clause 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act to the charge sheet. Earlier, on November 25, 2006 an anti-terrorism court sentenced two Christians – James Masih (65) and Buta Masih (70) – to 10 years’ imprisonment in addition to a fine of Rs 25,000 for committing “blasphemy” against the Koran in October 2006 in Faisalabad district. 

Even children were not spared. On January 26, 2007 police reportedly registered cases against five Ahmadi children, identified as 11-year-old Nusrat Jahan, daughter of Hakim Muhammad Sadiq of Ahmadabad Janoobi; 8-year-old Umair Ahmad, son of Ghulam Ahmad of Ahmadabad Janoobi; Ashfaq Ahmad, son of Muhammad Mumtaz of Khai Kalan; Rafi Ahmad, son of Muhammad Yousaf of Omerabad Majoka; and Abdul Sattar, son of Ahmad Hasan of Thathi Omerabad, under Section 17 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance at Chora Kalan police station in Khushab district for subscribing to the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya’s monthly children’s magazine, Tasheezul Azhan.  

Those who faced blasphemy charges continued to live in fear even after acquittal by the courts. A Christian identified as Shahid Masih of Faisalabad had to go into hiding although he was released on bail on January 17, 2007 in a blasphemy case. Judge Muhammad Tanveer Akbar granted Shahid Masih bail on the ground that evidence against him was only “circumstantial”. Yet he faced threats from the fundamentalists and had to go into hiding.  

Denial of government jobs

Religious minorities have been denied proportional representation in government jobs. According to the 13th census of civil servants, 2006, an overwhelming majority (97.51 per cent) of federal civil servants are Muslims while only 250 civil servants (0.11 per cent) are Ahmadis, 499 civil servants (0.21 per cent) are Hindus, 23 civil servants are Buddhists, 4,731 (2.01 per cent) civil servants are Christians, 22 civil servants are of “other” religions and 0.14 per cent whose religions have not been disclosed. Minorities are often discriminated against in government jobs on the basis of religious belief. On May 15, 2007 Amjad Mahmud was fired from service in the Atomic Energy Commission while 40 of his colleagues, who were Muslims, were regularised in August 2006. He was allegedly fired for being an Ahmadi follower. Earlier, in April 2007 Mushtaq Masih, a Christian, who was employed as a sweeper by the municipal administration, was suspended from his job because of his arrest on suspicion of blasphemy.  

Denial of freedom of movement

 Since July 2003, Ahmadis travelling to Mecca for Haj must officially denounce in writing the founder of the Ahmadi faith, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a “cunning person and an impostor”. In March 2005 the Government of Pakistan restored the discriminatory practice of making it mandatory to include religious identity of individuals in all new passports. This requirement had earlier been withdrawn in November 2004. On February 12, 2007 the daily, Khabrain, reported that the government made it necessary for an applicant to certify his/her faith in the ‘End of Prophethood’ in the application form for a national identity card. The newly printed forms for the national identity card reportedly included the attestation concerning the ‘End of Prophethood’.  

Denial of freedom of expression

The Ahmadis in particular have been denied freedom of expression and assembly. Since 1983 the Ahmadis have been denied permission to hold their annual religious conference. On December 15, 1989 the authorities booked the entire Ahmadi population of Rabwah (the headquarters of Ahmadis in Pakistan) in FIR No. 367/89 under Section 298C of the PPC. The FIR remains active to date. Ahmadis are prohibited from holding any public conference or gathering.  

Ahmadi publications are banned from public sale. On January 22, 2007 the police raided the printing press of an Ahmadi proprietor, Tariq Mahmud Panipati, at Lower Mall in Lahore and sealed off the press. Earlier, on September 9, 2006 the police raided the office of the daily, Alfazl – published by the Ahmadiyya community – at Chenab Nagar (Rabwah) in Punjab. Sultan Ahmad Dogar of Alfazl was arrested under Sections 298B and 298C of the PPC, Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance and Clause 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Sultan Dogar was later released on bail.  

Violations of economic, social and cultural rights

Minorities have been systematically denied economic, social and cultural rights. Their lands and properties, including places of worship, have been forcibly grabbed. Since July 2006, Hindus have been forcibly evicted from the Panwal Das Compound area in Lyari in Karachi and Muslim butchers turned the Shiv Mandir (temple) of the Hindus into a slaughterhouse in connivance with the police. In another incident, following a notification from the Evacuee Trust Property Board of March 9, 2006, the Krishna temple in Lahore was demolished to pave the way for construction of a commercial complex. On June 18, 2006 the Lahore high court stayed the construction of the commercial complex following a writ petition challenging the demolition of the temple.  

Christians’ lands were illegally transferred to Muslims in Chawk Munda in Muzaffargarh district. On November 1, 2006 four Christian farmers namely, Khurshid Mangta, Hadayat Masih, Gulzar and Nazir Pirandita, were forcibly evicted from their lands and their crops were destroyed. Each person lost 10 acres of cultivable land which was their only source of livelihood. The land was reportedly transferred through the revenue department by Haider Shah.  

The Ahmadis too have not been allowed to maintain their own graveyards. On April 22, 2007 the Lahore police bulldozed the boundary wall of a six-acre piece of land legally procured by the Ahmadi community to extend their graveyard. Hardliners opposed the extension.

 Denial of equal treatment before the organs administering justice

Minorities have been denied the right to equal treatment and protection by law enforcement personnel. Often the police refused to register cases filed by non-Muslims. In the case of the abduction and gang rape of a minor Christian girl identified as Cheena Bibi (12) on April 8, 2007 in Punjab, the police did not act despite details of one of the accused being provided to the police by the victim’s brother, Munir Masih. In cases where the police have arrested the Muslim accused, they are often let off without investigation.  

Denial of protection against bodily harm

Minorities are not provided security by the state against bodily harm and violation of the right to life. In March 2007 the Pakistan Hindu Council appealed to President Musharraf to direct the authorities to provide protection and take measures to recover kidnapped Hindus from Sakrand, Kashmore and Jacobabad. The Hindus reportedly have to pay “protection money” to local Muslim gangs or influential persons in order to avoid getting kidnapped for ransom. On February 6, 2007 kidnapped Hindu engineer, Garish Kumar, was found dead in the premises of a madrassa in the industrial area of Kotri in Sindh. The deceased’s father, Saspal Das alleged that Garish was killed for being a Hindu.

It is a crime for Hindus to have land and beautiful daughters. Kidnapping, rape and forcible marriage of Hindu girls is common practice in Pakistan. In case of arrest, the accused produce a certificate issued by any Muslim seminary stating that the kidnapped girls have voluntarily adopted Islam and the accused have married the girls. The courts generally do not consider the fact that most of the girls are minors and simply accept the certificate of conversion without any investigation. On December 31, 2006 a Hindu girl named Deepa (17) was abducted by her tuition teacher, Ashraf Khaskheli, a Muslim, in Madhwani Mohala in Tharparkar district, who forcibly married her and converted her to Islam. A certificate of marriage and conversion to Islam was reportedly issued by Ayube Jan Sarhandi, the head of a seminary, and the police allegedly refused to register the complaint filed by the girl’s parents.  

Many Christian families reportedly fled from their homes following a threatening letter received from Islamic militants at Charsadda in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on May 8, 2007, asking them to convert to Islam within 10 days or face dire consequences. In June 2007 Christians of Shantinagar village in Khanewal district in Punjab received similar threats that they should embrace Islam. The police often failed to provide adequate protection. 

Denial of the right to vote

Religious minorities have been systematically excluded from the voters’ list. On June 12, 2007 the Election Commission of Pakistan released a new voters’ list for the upcoming general elections. Instead of a joint voters’ list, the Ahmadis were placed on a separate voters’ list. The secretary of the Election Commission, Kunwar Dilshad Ahmed, reportedly justified the separate list for Ahmadis on the ground that a separate list for the community could help its members in checking names and information about their members.  

In July 2007 the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance claimed that 20 per cent of non-Muslim voters had been excluded from the new voters’ list. About 18 per cent of eligible voters belonging to minorities were struck off the new voters’ list in the NWFP. On July 26, 2007 the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure registration of all eligible voters in the new electoral rolls.  

Discrimination against the Balochis

There have been reports of indiscriminate use of firearms and bombs by the Pakistan army and Pakistan air force against civilians while confronting Baloch armed opposition groups. On the morning of March 30, 2007 thousands of Pakistani army soldiers entered and cordoned off the Baloch villages of Lanju and Sagari in the Sui area near Mazari goot on the Balochistan-Punjab border, from Punjab, while fighter jets and gunship helicopters bombarded the villages in turns for several hours. At least 18 women, children and elderly persons were reportedly killed in the military action. Earlier, on June 14, 2006 four members of a family, including two women and two children aged seven and three, reportedly died in bombings by Pakistan air force jet planes in the Gazital area, 20 km east of the Marri tribal capital, Kahan.  

On August 1, 2007 the Supreme Court issued suo motu notices to the chief secretary and provincial police officer of Balochistan on the rising number of disappearances. Hundreds of Balochis have been arrested and disappeared. While the Balochistan National Party-Mengal claimed that around 4,000 Baloch youth, mainly political activists, were still in the custody of Pakistani intelligence agencies, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated that of the 242 persons who were still missing as of December 10, 2006, 110 were from Balochistan, 70 from Sindh, 42 from Punjab and 20 from the NWFP.

 Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Balochistan have been living in inhospitable situations and the government created further obstacles. According to the United Nations agencies, there were 84,000 IDPs in Balochistan, of whom 26,000 were women and 33,000 were children as of December 2006. The government deliberately created the humanitarian crisis by not even recognising the presence of IDPs in the province.

When the government sought the intervention of the United Nations to avert the humanitarian crisis on December 21, 2006, it was too late. Due to a total blockade of the Marri and Bugti areas by the Pakistan army, about 8,000 to 10,000 allegedly died due to malnourishment, lack of shelter and disease. The makeshift camps had no access to potable water, food and other basic necessities. No medicine, medical facility, doctor, electricity or even fuel to run water pumps was provided to these areas. The government prevented journalists and aid groups from reaching the affected areas and therefore the extent of the man-made disaster could not be reported. Even the assistance from the UN was sought only for the three districts of Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and Quetta and not for the Sibi and Bolan districts. Besides, the UN was asked to carry out its relief operations under the supervision of local authorities.  

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas: The dark, dark region

The FATA remain the dark, dark region where there is no rule of law. This is not only because Taliban inspired armed groups seek to impose medieval practices here but effectively, Pakistan too practises similar medieval legal practices under the Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) of 1901. The entire region has been deprived of any semblance of legal reforms that took place elsewhere in Pakistan and these repressive measures have further strengthened the al-Qaeda type practices.

 The people of FATA live at the mercy of the president of Pakistan. Under Article 247(3) of the Constitution, no act of Parliament shall apply to the FATA or any part thereof unless the president so directs. As the FCR, which is antithetical to due process of law, governs the administration of justice, Pakistan has kept the region in legal darkness.  

First, the FCR provides for collective punishment of family members or blood relatives instead of punishing only the guilty.  

Second, under Section 21 of the FCR, political authorities like the political agents and assistant political agents of the government enjoy unbridled powers, including the powers of a) seizure, wherever they may be found, of all or any of the members of such tribe and of all or any property belonging to them or any of them; b) detention in safe custody of any person or property so seized; c) confiscation of any such property and, with like sanction, by public proclamation; d) debarring all or any member of the tribe from all access into the (country); and e) prohibiting all or any person within the limits of British India from all interaction or communication of any kind whatsoever, or of any specified kind or kinds, with such tribe or any section or members thereof.  

Third, the FCR does not provide any fair trial. People suspected of having committed a criminal offence are tried by the tribal jirga or council which submits its recommendations regarding conviction or acquittal to the political agent who makes a decision regarding conviction or acquittal but is not bound by the jirga’s recommendations. Moreover, the suspects are tried without legal representation. There is no provision of appeal against conviction or punishment order by the political agents, as Pakistan’s higher judiciary is barred under Article 247(7) of the Constitution from exercising its jurisdiction in the FATA.  

Tribal prisoners in the FATA regions have reportedly served two or more sentences for the same crime. While hearing a jail writ petition by Rahimullah, a division bench of the Peshawar high court, consisting of Chief Justice Tariq Pervez Khan and Justice Qaim Jan Khan, directed the FATA security secretary to check the “unbridled” powers of political authorities and the human rights violations carried out by them. The assistant political agent (APA) of Bara had sentenced Rahimullah under Section 40 of the FCR on December 15, 2003 but before the completion of Rahimullah’s first jail term, the APA passed another order on January 14, 2005 against him in the same crime. As if that were not enough, before the completion of Rahimullah’s second illegal jail term, the APA passed a third conviction order on May 25, 2006 for another three years for the same crime.  

In the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the tribals of FATA have become victims of indiscriminate attacks by Pakistan’s military. On October 30, 2006, 82 people, including at least 12 children, were reportedly killed in an air strike on a madrassa in Damadola in Bajaur agency (bordering Afghanistan) in the FATA. The locals claimed that all those killed were Islamic teachers and students. 


In the light of the concerns expressed above, the Asian Centre for Human Rights makes the following recommendations for consideration by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). 

The Pakistan government should be urged to:

Ø Submit its 15th to 20th periodic reports (to the committee) within one year and that it should provide comprehensive reports, including the concerns to be expressed by the CERD;

Ø Provide equal rights to the religious minorities in all spheres of life;

Ø Religious freedom of those serving with the organs of the state be ensured and necessary measures be taken to enable them to take oath of office in the name of their own belief or religion;

Ø Remove all propaganda of hatred, religious superiority and defamation of religion from the textbooks approved by the national curriculum wing of the federal ministry of education;

Ø Repeal all blasphemy laws, in particular, Section 295A, Section 295B, Section 295C, Section 298A and Section 298B of the Pakistan Penal Code, and that the state party be asked to provide information on the Apostasy Bill of 2006;

Ø Ensure that with regard to the alleged blasphemy cases against children, laws on juvenile justice prevail and children are not charged or tried under the laws applicable to adults;

Ø Take affirmative action and ensure proportional representation of the minorities in government jobs;

Ø Abolish the administrative measures which promote hatred, including reference to any particular faith in the passport or national identity card, and that Ahmadis be allowed to undertake religious pilgrimages to places of their choice;

Ø Ensure the right to freedom of expression of the religious minorities and withdraw the ban on Ahmadi publications;

Ø Ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of the religious minorities, including the right to land, and protect their places of worship from appropriation by private individuals or groups and/or forcible evictions;

Ø Launch special programmes to sensitise law enforcement personnel on the rights of the minorities to ensure that the minorities have access to equal treatment and protection of the organs administering justice;

Ø Develop technical cooperation programmes with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for capacity building of law enforcement personnel on the rights of the minorities;

Ø Take effective measures against the abduction and kidnapping of the minorities, in particular girls and women, and their forcible conversion to Islam;

Ø Fully implement the judgement of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to ensure registration of all eligible voters, in particular the minorities, in the new electoral rolls;

Ø Prohibit indiscriminate use of firearms and bombs against civilians while confronting armed opposition groups;

Ø Respond to the suo motu notice issued by the Supreme Court on August 1, 2007 on the rising number of disappearances in Balochistan, establish a judicial commission of inquiry into disappearances in Pakistan, headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, and establish accountability for disappearances;

Ø Invite the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit Pakistan;

Ø Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;

Ø Provide unrestricted access to the United Nations and humanitarian agencies to the internally displaced persons in Balochistan and elsewhere;

Ø Repeal the Frontier Crime Regulation of 1901 from the statute books; and

Ø Take effective measures to extend constitutional reforms to the FATA region. n

(Excerpted from ‘Pakistan: The Land of Religious Apartheid and Jackboot Justice’, ACHR Weekly Review, 179/07, August 6, 2007. The ACHR Weekly Review is the weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights on human rights and governance issues.)  


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