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Pakistan's Ahmadi Minority Decry Persecution

Pedestrians walks past the smoke-charred house of an Ahmadi family following an attack by an angry mob in Gujranwala in July 2014.
Pedestrians walks past the smoke-charred house of an Ahmadi family following an attack by an angry mob in Gujranwala in July 2014.

KARACHI, Members of Pakistan's minority Ahmadi sect have complained of being targeted in sectarian violence and frequent discrimination with impunity.

The Ahmadis, or Ahmadiyya community, consider themselves Muslim, but most mainstream Islamic sects reject that view. A Pakistani law adopted in 1974 declared them non-Muslims because of their belief in a prophet after Muhammad.

A report released this week said 11 Ahmadis were killed for their faith last year but the government has failed to nab any of the perpetrators.

Saleem ud Din, a spokesman for Jamaat-e Ahmadiyya, the community group that produced the report, told Radio Mashaal that his community faced most attacks in the eastern province of Punjab.

"The killings, boycott [of our businesses and community members] and growing anti-Ahmadi hate speech in conferences and media are common. Basically, anyone can say or do anything to harm Ahmadis here," he said. "Because of this impunity, attacks and discrimination against the Ahmadis are on the rise."

The reports said that compared with 2013 the number of Ahmadis killed in 2014 rose by seven. An Ahmadi woman and two girls were killed in Punjab's central city of Gujranwala in July after a mob torched an Ahmadi neighborhood.

The attack came after news spread that a 17-year-old Ahmadi boy allegedly posted a blasphemous picture on Facebook. He is in police custody now, but none of the attackers were ever brought to justice.

Earlier in May, an American heart surgeon, Mehdi Ali, was killed by unknown gunmen. Ali, an Ahmadi, was visiting his native town of Chenab Nagar in central Punjab.

Din says the rising attacks on Ahmadis are linked to inflammatory media coverage.

"The newspapers often print news about Ahmadis without any fact-checking. The Urdu-language newspapers are the worst in this regard," he said. "Their readers and audiences get baseless news about us, which in turn fans intolerance against us."

Din says that compared with other non-Muslim Pakistani minorities, the Ahmadis live under worse conditions. He says that even in Chenab Nagar, where a majority of residents are Ahmadis, they face discrimination when enrolling in public schools or applying for government jobs.

"There are discriminatory laws against us, and nobody is trying to repeal them," he said. "We feel the state is culpable in discriminating against us."

Lawmaker Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a Hindu leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz political party, says religious minorities including Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis continue to face violence and other challenges in Pakistan.

This, he says, continues despite a recent judgment by the Pakistani Supreme Court that called on the government to provide protection for religious minorities.

"We are trying to remove materials that fan religious hatred from the current curriculum," he said. "It will be a big help in improving the environment for religious minorities."

Jamaat-e Ahmadiyya says some 250 community members have been killed in 317 attacks since Islamabad adopted the 1974 law to declare them non-Muslims. During the past four decades, 25 Ahmadi places of worship have been vandalized and 31 more forced to close. Authorities have also banned the construction of 52 more Ahmadi religious sites, according to the report.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Zafar Karimi's reporting from Karachi, Pakistan.