A human rights activist running for a provincial assembly seat in Pakistan’s July 25 elections says he has been harassed repeatedly over his religious beliefs regarding the minority Ahmadiyya sect.
Jibran Nasir, who is seeking votes in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi, said the harassment began almost two weeks ago, citing as many as 10 incidents. Campaign manager Talha Rehman said the trouble started when someone shared false accusations against Nasir in a television show last year.
Social media videos show people constantly questioning Nasir about his faith and whether he believed the minority Ahmadiyyas to be Muslims.
In one video, one man repeatedly pressed Nasir to declare Ahmadiyyas as kafir or infidels. He refused to do so, saying it was up to God, not humans, to make such a determination.
Ahmadiyyas self-identify as Muslims. But dominant Muslim sects reject the Ahmadiyyas’ claim that the founder of their sect, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet. The Ahmadiyyas are considered non-Muslims under Pakistan’s constitution.
Rights groups call the Ahmadiyyas one of the most persecuted communities in Pakistan. The Ahmadiyyas say they have decided to boycott the elections over what they allege is a practice of being singled out for discrimination.
“Though the elections are ostensibly being held under a joint electoral system, there is, however, a separate voter list for Ahmadis (Ahmadiyyas),” said Saleem Uddin, the spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, voters have to declare their religion on their voter registration documents. For those who declare themselves Muslims, there is a further oath stating that they do not belong to the Ahmadiyya community. So in order to vote, Ahmadiyyas have to register as non-Muslims. “Your right to vote should be based on your citizenship, not your religion,” Uddin said.
Half a million Ahmadiyyas live in Pakistan.
International rights groups have repeatedly called on Pakistan to repeal discriminatory laws.
“The elections in Pakistan can’t be ‘free and fair’ if an entire community is effectively excluded from the electoral process,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, adding, “Religious disagreements cannot justify denying people their right to vote.”
Spokespeople from the Election Commission of Pakistan were not available to comment.