“Religious Persecution in Pakistan” Extracts from International Religious Freedom report 2019 released by US State Department

“Religious Persecution in Pakistan” Extracts from International Religious Freedom report 2019 released by US State Department

Blasphemy Laws

 

  • There were 84 individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges (including 10 newly registered cases), at least 29 of whom had received death sentences, as compared to 77 and 28, respectively, in 2018. The government has so far never executed anyone on account of blasphemy charges.

 

  • Courts issued two new death sentences and sentenced one individual to five years’ imprisonment. Moreover, the Supreme Court overturned conviction of one individual and a lower court acquitted another person charged with blasphemy during the year.  Other blasphemy cases continued without resolution.

 

  • Blasphemy laws disproportionately affected members of religious minority communities. Out of 84 imprisoned for blasphemy, 31 Christians, 16 Ahmadis, and 5 Hindus were accused of blasphemy.  Some of them were often simultaneously charged with terrorism offenses.

 

  • Junaid Hafeez was sentenced by Multan court for insulting the Prophet Muhammad after he had spent nearly seven years awaiting trial and verdict.

 

  • In 2018, the Federal Cabinet approved a bill with amendments to PECA to bring online blasphemy and pornographic material within its ambit. Further proposed amendments include life imprisonment for “desecrating the Quran through information systems” and the death sentence for blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad.  The bill remained in legislative process at year’s end.

 

  • The government continued its warnings against blasphemy on social media, through periodic print advertisements and text messages sent by the PTA.

 

Ahmadiyya community

 

  • Authorities continued to target Ahmadi Muslims for blasphemy, violations of anti-Ahmadi laws, and other crimes. Ahamids were affected by discriminatory and ambiguous legislation, anti-Ahmadi rhetoric in print and social media outlets, hate crimes and court judgments that denied them basic rights.

 

  • Ahmadis continued to report widespread societal harassment and discrimination, including physical attacks on Ahmadi individuals, hinderances in obtaining local documents, difficulties in registering their marriages, denial in getting requisite construction permits for construction of Ahmadiya places of worships, destruction of homes and personal property, discrimination in public schools, and threats intended to force Ahmadis to abandon their jobs or towns.

 

  • The government failed to restrict advertisements or speeches inciting anti-Ahmadi violence. Throughout the year, some government officials and politicians engaged in Anti-Ahmadi rhetoric and attended events that incited violence against Ahmadiya community.

 

  • POK Government amended its interim constitution declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

 

  • During the year, police closed down two Ahmadi prayer centers in Rawalpindi, and one in Lahore, citing law and order concerns.

 

  • The government continued to fund and facilitate Hajj travel for Muslims, but Ahmadis were unable to perform Hajj, because of passport application requirements to list religious affiliation and denounce the founder of the Ahmadiyya community.

 

 

Forced Conversions

 

  • NGOs expressed concern over increasing frequency of attempts to kidnap, forcibly convert, and forcibly marry young women from religious minority communities, especially minor Hindu and Christian girls.

 

  • A member of Sindh Assembly introduced a bill against forced conversions which was voted against after Islamist parties and religious leaders lobbied against it.

 

  • There were reported cases of government intervention and assistance from courts and law enforcement agencies in situations of attempted kidnapping and forced conversion, although enforcement action against alleged perpetrators was rare.

 

Other Minorities

 

  • Attacks on holy places, cemeteries, and religious symbols of Hindu, Christian, and Ahmadiyya minorities and religiously motivated target killings of Shias, Hazaras, and Ahmadis continued.

 

  • Perpetrators of societal violence and abuses against religious minorities often faced no legal consequences due to a lack of follow-through by law enforcement, bribes offered by the accused, and pressure on victims to drop cases.

 

  • Human rights activists reported numerous instances of societal violence related to allegations of blasphemy; of efforts by individuals to coerce religious minorities to convert to Islam; and of societal harassment, discrimination, and threats of violence directed at religious minorities.

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