CHANAB NAGAR, PAKISTAN —
Her hands shook slightly — a sign of age — as she held her thin, long dupatta scarf in front of her face and turned slightly away. Years of covering her face in front of men had made her shy.
In her 53 years of marriage, this was the first time she was alone. Her 80-year-old spouse Abdul Shakoor had been convicted on charges of selling banned books and is serving a five-year jail term. The books, which Nayeema claims he removed from the shop after a government notice, were comprised of religious literature intended for their own sect.
Nayeema and Abdul Shakoor belong to Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community, one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the country according to human rights activists.
Shakoor’s small shop, which sold books and spectacles, was in the main bazaar of Chanab Nagar, a town of 60,000 — 95 percent of them Ahmadiyyas. The town, in the heartland of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province, is the de facto headquarters for the million or so Ahmadiyyas living across Pakistan.
Community representatives claim that while they have faced decades of government-sanctioned discrimination, it has recently increased under the country’s new National Action Plan (NAP), a comprehensive strategy introduced to counter years of religious terrorism and growing violence in the country.
The plan calls for banning all materials, books, CDs, DVDs, even pamphlets that could be labeled hate speech, or that were deemed to incite violence against any group.
Ahmadiyyas complain that the government of Punjab, the country’s most populous province, has used this as a pretext to ban most of their religious literature, including all the books written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a man they consider their messiah and the founder of their religious sect. The banned material also includes community newspapers and periodicals, including those catering to children.
Copies of legal notices provided to VOA… read more at http://www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-religious-minority-suffers-discrimination-for-fighting-extremism/3496946.html