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Assessment for Ahmadis in Pakistan

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Ahmadis in Pakistan, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Pakistan Facts
Area:    803,943 sq. km.
Capital:    Islamabad
Total Population:    159,196,336,000 (source: CIA World Factbook, 2004, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Ahmadis are not currently in open rebellion but they have been engaged in political protest, though to varying degrees, in recent years. While Ahmadis are not very politically organized, individual Ahmadis do lodge protests with government officials and Ahmadis, along with other minority groups, were successful at getting the separate electorate for non-Muslims abolished for all elections starting in 2002. The government views Ahmadis as non-Muslims while Ahmadi see themselves as Muslims. Despite exclusionary political discrimination, the chances of Ahmadi rebellion in the near future are close to zero. Ahmadis will likely continue to suffer discrimination by the government and persecution by other communal groups in Pakistan. The growing strength of Sunni fundamentalist groups and continuing military rule both militate against Ahmadi well-being. Furthermore, little international attention is given to the plight of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. Western governments are more likely to pay attention to limitations placed on the Christian minority or on women, while governments of Islamic countries share Pakistan's official stance on Ahmadis. Unless and until democratic institutions fully return and mature in Pakistan, and until Pakistan replaces religious unity with civic unity, their position remains precarious.

Analytic Summary

The Ahmadis (also known as Qadyanies) are followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (1839-1908) and have become separate from the main body of Islam due to major differences in their beliefs (RELIG=1; CULDIFX4=2). By accepting Ahmed as a prophet, the Ahmadis reject the finality of the prophesy of Mohammed. Further, by accepting Ahmed's teachings, they reject the concept of the "jihad" or holy war. The Ahmadis have also shown a resistance to the politicization of Islam and, therefore, to the concept of the Islamic state, which has been the symbol of national unity in Pakistan.

The Ahmadis, who are relatively well-educated as a group, have at times been well represented in both the pre- and post-independence administrations in Pakistan and have occupied many high posts. However, fundamentalist Islamic groups (both Sunni and Shi`a) have agitated against them consistently and targeted them for violence. Furthermore, from 1974 (when Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims) to 2001, Ahmadis could only vote for one Ahmadi at-large representative. As a result, Ahmadis were virtually disenfranchised (POLDIS03 = 4, ECDIS03 = 3). In 2002 Musharraf removed the system of a separate electorate for non-Muslims, but the government still maintains Ahmadis on separate voter lists, which the Ahmadis have continued to protest.

Anti-Ahmadi agitation first exploded in the spring of 1953 in Lahore and in several other urban centers in Punjab. Government actions to de-legitimize the provocations of the Islamic clergy resulted in a period of relative calm between the two factions, which lasted until 1970. In the 1970 elections, the Ahmadis allied with the Bhutto regime and returned to the provincial legislature in Punjab in significant numbers. As the country fell under increasing secessionist pressures, first from the Bengalis in the east and then from the Baluchs and Pushtuns, the demands for Islamic unity in the west resulted in renewed attacks on "non-Muslim" groups. Following riots in April and May 1974 in Punjab province, a constitutional amendment legally declared the Ahmadis as "non-Muslims".

Active persecution of the Ahmadiyya sect by the Pakistan government was instituted by a martial law decree on April 26, 1984. Under the decree, all Ahmadis were declared infidels. Under Section 298(c) in the Penal Code, Ahmadis are prohibited from calling themselves Muslim and use of Islamic words or phrases is punishable by up to 3 years in jail. In 2001, four Ahmadis were charged with violations of this law (REP0201=3). In addition, all manifestations of Ahmadi religious practices have become punishable by law. Several Ahmadi mosques remained closed in 2001 and violation of places of worship that are open is common. Ahmadis are prohibited from taking part in the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and are barred from burial in graveyards officially designated for Muslims. Since 1984 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding gatherings. Ahmadis have been singled out for discriminatory treatment within the government bureaucracy, and individual Ahmadis have been the targets of acts of violence, especially in rural areas (GCC100, 103 = 3, GCC101-102 = 4). Many of the more affluent Ahmadis have left Pakistan since the 1984 decree. Ahmadis face restrictions on their press. Ahmadis suffer from harassment and discrimination in public employment, and have limited chances for advancement into management levels in government service. In the past few years, even a rumor that an individual may practice the Ahmadi faith can limit opportunities for employment. For young Ahmadi adults, discrimination in admission to good universities has caused many to seek a college education abroad.

The Ahmadis suffer from poor political organization within Pakistan. Their only political organization, the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, has been marginalized in national politics, largely through the institution of separate electorates in place for so long - it remains to be seen how the 2002-established joint electorate affects the overall well being and status of the Ahmadis. Although they have a strong collective identity (COHESX9=5), and often live in communities together, that identity has not resulted in an equally strong political organization, most likely due to repression and violence. Ahmadis do file complaints with local police and government officials when attacked by other communal groups. Anti-Ahmadi demonstrations by Sunni extremists often end in violence. However, those responsible are rarely brought to justice, and many times the Ahmadi victims are arrested under the anti-blasphemy laws. During 2002, at least 10 Ahmadis were charged under various provisions of the Blasphemy Law for allegedly going against the principles of Islam ((REP0101=3). The testimony of one Muslim (excluding Ahmadis) is sufficient to prosecute a non-Muslim on blasphemy charges.

On October 13, 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharrif replaced the democratically elected government in a military coup. Initially, it seemed that Musharrif would better the situation of religious minorities. Shortly after taking power, he announced he would make changes in the anti-blasphemy laws, which have been used disproportionately against Ahmadis and Christians. However, he was quickly forced to back down from that statement under pressure from Sunni militant groups. Hence, the Ahmadis have seen no improvement in their situation. Ahmadis grievances include greater economic opportunities, protection from threats from other groups, promotion of group culture, equal civil rights, and greater participation and decision-making capacity in the central government.


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