APPG presses for release of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan

The APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, has urgently tabled questions to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to press the Pakistani Government to immediately release three Ahmadi Muslims arrested without any warrant on Monday 5 December 2016.

Sixteen masked and armed counter-terror police targeted the publications department and office of an internal magazine, Terikh-Jadeed, distributed overseas at the Ahmadiyya community in Rabwah, without any warrants. During the 30-minute raid, three Ahmadis were arrested – Malik Sabah ul Zafar, Amir Ahmad Faheem and Zahid Mehmood Majeed – one of which was beaten so severely that he required hospital treatment.

Police seized laptops, computers, mobile phones, and several books. After raiding the Zia-ul_Islam press, seizing Tehrik-Jadeed magazine printing plates and assaulting the foreman, the police forced entry into the security office of the compound and disabled the CCTV equipment.

This raid comes as the latest incident in the ongoing persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan. The banning of Ahmadi literature continues to be used by hard-liners to target Ahmadis. The APPG is concerned about the potential use of anti-terror charges against the three men arrested, as precedented by the case of 81 year old Mr Abdul Shakoor who was sentenced under anti-terror laws to 8 years in January 2016 for possessing copies of the Holy Quran.

Fareed Ahmad, National Secretary External Affairs for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK said: “This is a baseless raid as there is no evidence of our community or any of its publications promoting hate, let alone terrorism. It reflects the Pakistan authorities’ relentless targeting of our community simply on grounds of our faith.”

The APPG urged the UK and Pakistani Governments to work together to end discriminatory laws and to take action against hate rallies and material, including overseas, which incites hate and violence against the Ahmadiyya community.

Jim Shannon MP, Chair of the APPG, has tabled these three written Parliamentary Questions:

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what information he holds on the raid of the publications office of the Ahmadi Muslim community headquarters in Rabwah, Pakistan on 5 December 2016.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with his counterpart in Pakistan on the detention of three Ahmadi Muslims arrested in Rabwah, Pakistan on 5 December 2016.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has raised the issue of freedom of religion for Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan with the Government of Pakistan and what assurances he has received on this matter.

There was a similar response from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF):

“USCIRF condemns the brutal raid on the Ahmadiyya offices, the first such raid since Pakistan amended its constitution 42 years ago, declaring that Ahmadis are ‘non-Muslims,’” said USCIRF Chair Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J. “These actions flow out of Pakistan’s constitution and penal code, both of which impede religious freedom as they prevent Ahmadis from exercising their faith and even calling themselves Muslim.  Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law should not be applied to the peaceful Ahmadiyya community simply because they are Ahmadis.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported

Four Ahmadis were arrested on 5 December on charges of “hate speech” related to the publication of their community magazine, while five were charged under anti-Ahmadi laws and anti-terrorism laws, after the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya community in Rabwah, near Lahore, was raided by the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department.

During the 30-minute raid, up to 16 armed policemen and 12 plain clothed officers forced their way through the main entrance of the Ahmadiyya headquarters and into the office of the Directorate of Literature and Publications. Staff were ordered to sit down or lie on the ground and a laptop belonging to the Director of Publications was seized along with two mobile phones, five computers, a printer, another laptop and some books, despite the police not having a warrant

Three employees were arrested; Mr Malik Sabah ul Zafar and Mr Amir Faheem, who are missionaries, and Mr Zahid Majeed, a computer operator. The police disabled the CCTV system and assaulted a worker called Mr Rana Irfan Ahmad, who was taken to hospital for treatment. At Zia-ul-Islam press offices, employee Mr Idrees Ahmad was assaulted and arrested, while paper, ink, film and other materials were seized. The offices were then sealed.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has learned that the Ahmadiyya monthly magazine, Tehrek-e-Jadid, which is only distributed among the Ahmadiyya community, was banned in December 2014. The Lahore High Court had granted a stay order on June 2015.

The Ahmadiyya community is one of the most widely persecuted religious minority groups in Pakistan. The Ahmadis were declared as non-Muslims by an amendment to the constitution in 1974. In 1984, Ordinance XX (20) was introduced to the Pakistan Penal Code, which criminalises Ahmadi Muslims for practicing Islam or ‘posing as a Muslim’.

On 5 December, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that the National Centre for Physics at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad would be renamed after an Ahmadi, Professor Abdus Salam, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1979, in a rare acknowledgement of the contribution of the Ahmadiyya community to the nation.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “This shocking, violent raid on the Ahmadiyya headquarters highlights the extent of harassment that the Ahmadiyya community is subjected to at the hands of state authorities. We note with concern that increasingly, anti-terrorism laws are being used in cases which have no links to terrorist activity. We urge the government of Pakistan to drop the charges against these men without condition or delay and we further call on for the repeal of anti-Ahmadiyya legislation and for Ahmadis to be granted their rights to fully practice and propagate their faith, as guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan.”