Pakistan: Convictions of Ahmadis under Ordinance XX or the blasphemy laws and their prevalence; penalties handed out
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||26 November 2007|
|Citation / Document Symbol||PAK102653.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Pakistan: Convictions of Ahmadis under Ordinance XX or the blasphemy laws and their prevalence; penalties handed out, 26 November 2007, PAK102653.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d654712d.html [accessed 23 April 2014]|
Ordinance XX was proclaimed on 26 April 1984 and caused the Pakistan Penal Code to be amended, adding sections 298-B and 298-C (HRW 6 May 2007; PHRG Jan. 2007, 1; Pakistan 1997, Sec. 298-B and 298-C). Subsection B prevents Ahmadis from using certain Muslim epithets, descriptions and titles, while subsection C prevents Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims (ibid.). The blasphemy laws actually refer to the Pakistan Penal Code (PHRG Jan. 2007, 1; HRW 6 May 2007), more specifically sections 295 to 298 (PHRG Jan. 2007, 1) which are all general religious offences (Pakistan 1997, Sec. 295 – 298).
The following information was provided by the vice-president of the Ahmadiyya headquarters in London, United Kingdom (UK) in correspondence dated 2 November 2007 to the Research Directorate:
Ahmadi specific laws were promulgated in 1984. A conviction list for the last 23 years is not available with us. Some convictions announced by trial were later overturned or modified by higher courts. However, many long imprisonments (imprisonments for life and death sentences) in faith-related cases were announced by the courts. Even now, three Ahmadis in prison, handed death sentences, are awaiting a decision by the High Court on their appeals. Based on our information, an Ahmadi Muslim, awarded imprisonment for life on fabricated charge of blasphemy, now in the fourth year of his imprisonment, is also awaiting a hearing of his appeal. There have been cases where Ahmadis remained in prison for four years during trial because the Supreme Court neither released them or granted them bail. They were later found 'not guilty' by the trial court.
Freedom House reports that there has been an increase in recent years of low-ranking police officials filing false blasphemy charges against religious minorities, including Ahmadis (2007). This source also indicates that Ahmadi publications are "occasionally" confiscated or shut down and that journalists or printers involved in their production are harassed (Freedom House 2007). While appeal courts have overturned all blasphemy convictions, suspects are "generally forced to spend lengthy periods in prison, where they are subject to ill-treatment, and they continue to be targeted by religious extremists after they are released" (ibid.; see also US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 2.c).
Both the 2006 and 2007 Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports indicate that the number of blasphemy cases registered has been increasing and that the Ahmadi community is particularly targeted for arrests under blasphemy laws (HRW 18 Jan. 2006; ibid. 11 Jan. 2007). The 2007 report adds that "scores were arrested in 2006" (ibid.). HRW also indicates that in 2006, at least 25 Ahmadis were charged under the blasphemy law, which refers to Section 295-C of the Penal Code, and that many of them are still imprisoned (6 May 2007). Approximately 350 Ahmadis have been indicted in criminal cases, including blasphemy, since 2000 with several having received convictions (HRW 6 May 2007). The charges against Ahmadis include "wearing an Islamic slogan on a shirt, planning to build an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore, and distributing Ahmadi literature in a public square" (ibid.). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 states that 73 cases under blasphemy laws were ongoing at the end of 2006 (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 2.c). Even though it does not specify which of these cases involve Ahmadis, Country Reports 2006 indicates that Ahmadis are subject to prosecution under blasphemy laws and that such complaints are used as harassment against religious minorities or other Muslims in business or personal disputes (ibid.). An article in the Daily Times states that the Ahmadiyya community reports that "52 Ahmadis faced criminal charges under religious laws, four under blasphemy laws, 19 under Ahmadi-specific laws, and 27 under other laws in 2004" (14 Feb. 2005).
An article by Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) on blasphemy charges against religious minorities in Pakistan states that, according to statistics from the National Commission for Justice and Peace, 35 percent of people facing blasphemy charges since 1986 are Ahmadis (16 Oct. 2006).
The International Religious Freedom Report 2007 states that authorities use blasphemy laws to "target and harass" Ahmadis and to settle personal or business issues (US 14 Sept. 2007, Sec. II). This report, which covers the period between July 2006 and June 2007, gives the following examples of charges against and arrests of Ahmadis:
- 28 Ahmadis were charged in criminal cases including 4 under the blasphemy laws, 17 under laws specific to Ahmadis and 7 under other laws because of their religious affiliation;
- 25 Ahmadis were arrested on blasphemy charges. (ibid.)
This source goes on to add other more specific examples; however, it is not clear if these examples fall within the above-mentioned general statements concerning Ahmadis. The following are the specific examples given in the International Religious Freedom Report 2007:
- in April 2006, four Ahmadis were in prison on blasphemy charges;
- in June 2006, four Ahmadis were arrested for desecration of the Quran;
- in July 2006, four Ahmadis were arrested under anti-Ahmadi laws for preaching;
- in August 2006, the president of a local Ahmadi community was charged with preaching under anti-Ahmadi laws;
- in October 2006, an Ahmadi who allegedly tore off anti-Ahmadiyya stickers in a bus was arrested and charged under blasphemy laws (ibid.).
In September 2006, the "century old" Ahmadi newspaper Al Fazal (or Al Fazl) was banned and two of its employees were charged under various provisions including the blasphemy law (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 2.c; HRW 6 May 2007).
According to ThePersecution.org, a website dedicated to reporting ill-treatment of Ahmadis, there were a total of 30 cases based on religious grounds registered against Ahmadis during the year 2006 and a total of 3,465 cases against Ahmadis between April 1984 and December 2006 (5 Apr. 2007, Annex I and II).
Information regarding the penalties handed out to convicted Ahmadis could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK. 2 November 2007. Correspondence from the vice-president.
Daily Times [Lahore]. 14 February 2005. "Pakistan 'Grossly' Supports Religious Persecution: Ahmadiyya Report."
Freedom House. 2007. "Pakistan." Freedom in the World 2007.
Human Rights Watch (HRW). 6 May 2007. "Pakistan: Pandering to Extremists Fuels Persecution of Ahmadis – Government Must Repeal 'Blasphemy Law' and End Persecution of Religious Minority."
_____. 11 January 2007. "Pakistan." World Report 2007.
_____. 18 January 2006. "Pakistan." World Report 2006.
Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF). 16 October 2006. Peter Lamprecht. "Fear of the Holy."
Pakistan. 1997. The Pakistan Penal Code (XLV of 1860). Lahore: PLD Publishers.
Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG). January 2007. Rabwah: A Place for Martyrs? Report of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group Mission to Pakistan into Internal Flight for Ahmadis.
ThePersecution.org. 5 April 2007. "Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan during the Year 2006: A Summary."
United States (US). 14 September 2007. Department of State. "Pakistan." International Religious Freedom Report 2007.
_____. 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Pakistan." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006.
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Al Islam: The Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Amnesty International (AI), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Dawn [Karachi], Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Minority Rights Group International, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Kingdom Home Office Country Information, World News Connection (WNC).