Members of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community have accused Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan of exacerbating religious hatred against them during the nation’s 2018 election campaign.Khan, in the lead-up to the July election that brought him to power, backed anti-blasphemy laws
that include the death penalty as well as an oath for incoming politicians on the finality of the Prophet Mohammad.Both provisions have been used against Pakistan’s religious minorities, including about five million Ahmadis
.In 1984, specific laws were introduced targeting Ahmadis as “non-Muslims” and forbidding their places of worship being called mosques.Saleem-ud-Din
, the Ahmadiyya community’s spokesperson in Pakistan, says about 400 Ahmadis have been martyred since, including during mob attacks.Releasing a report detailing persecution of minorities in 2018, he said that as well as legal obstruction of Ahmadis preaching or talking about their faith, they face increasing difficulty in observing day to day religious obligations.Repression included prosecutions in which Ahmadis were “dragged into unnecessary cases” and imprisoned.”For many years now, the basic human rights of Ahmadis in Pakistan have been denied to them and this discrimination continued throughout 2018, indeed by various determining measures, it was worse than ever before,” Saleem-ud-Din said.The spokesman said that during the election campaign, candidates from all the major parties, including that of Imran Khan, fanned the flames of religious hatred against Ahmadis, who are placed on a separate voter list.According to the new report, Ahmadis also suffer as a result of biased media coverage, with more than 2,300 allegedly false reports and over 300 inflammatory opinion pieces published against the community in the Urdu language press.However, Saleem-ud-Din said no local media outlets had “reached out to us for an opinion or agreed to publish our point of view on these issues.””Changes have also been made to the national identity card application form with the introduction of column number 38 which forces minority groups to declare on oath that they are non-Muslim,” he said.”Not only is this column discriminatory, but also completely unnecessary given that in earlier parts of the form, there are already columns which determine the religious identity of the applicant.”The new column has been introduced specifically for Ahmadis, in order to force them to declare their own selves as being non-Muslim.”It is not just extremists who carry out hate campaigns against Ahmadis, but the political class also fan these flames.”
He cited the example of a conference held by the federal government last year called ‘The Finality of Prophethood and the Responsibility of Muslims’ during which incendiary proposals for action to be taken against the Ahmadi community were put forward.Saleem-ud-Din added that the laws enacted in 1984 spurred the murder of Ahmadis as well as desecration of their places of worship and burial sites and the seizing of Ahmadi property.The spokesman called for all anti-Ahmadi laws in Pakistan to be abolished and for Ahmadis to be given full rights as citizens of the country.”It is imperative for the government to end the discriminatory laws against the community, not only for the sake of re-establishing the religious rights of Ahmadis in Pakistan, but for the betterment of the country itself,” Saleem-ud-Din said.”And we appeal to all just-minded Pakistanis to join us in working towards this goal.”In 1889 a man named Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded the Amadiyya movement in what was then British-ruled India. Acceptance of him as what is portrayed as a so-called ‘subordinate prophet’ is viewed by many majority Sunni Muslims as breaching the tenet that the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger.In recent years there has been increased persecution in Pakistan of religious minorities including Shia Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs as well as Ahmadis.