New Rights Body Should be Inclusive, Independent, Empowered
(New York) – Pakistan’s government has excluded the long-persecuted Ahmadiyya community from a new government commission aimed at safeguarding the rights of the country’s minorities, Human Rights Watch said today.
“The Ahmadis are among the most persecuted communities in Pakistan and to exclude them from a minority rights commission is absurd,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Keeping Ahmadis off the commission shows the extent to which the community faces discrimination every day.”
The government should immediately reverse its decision to exclude Ahmadiyya community members from the NCM, Human Rights Watch said. It should ensure that the new commission is independent and empowered to make policy recommendations, investigate human rights violations, and propose remedies.
The persecution of the Ahmadiyya community is embedded in Pakistani law and encouraged by the Pakistan government. In September 1974, the Pakistani parliament declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. In 1984, Pakistan amended its penal code, giving legal status to five ordinances that explicitly targeted religious minorities and two laws specifically restricting the activities of Ahmadis, including prohibiting them from “indirectly or directly posing as a Muslim.” Ahmadis are prohibited from declaring or propagating their faith publicly, building mosques (or even referring to them as such), or making the call for Muslim prayer.
Pakistan’s electoral law effectively excludes Ahmadis. To register to vote, Ahmadis must either renounce their faith or agree to be on a separate electoral list and accept their status as non-Muslim.
Pakistani laws against the Ahmadiyya community violate Pakistan’s international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including the rights to freedom of conscience, religion, expression, and association, to profess and practice their own religion, and to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections. Pakistan ratified the ICCPR in 2010.
“Pakistan needs an independent and inclusive national human rights institution, and not an exclusionary government-controlled one,” Adams said. “Excluding Ahmadis from the NCM is just the latest sign of its deeply discriminatory policies towards this persecuted group.”