Groups say country has seen a surge in targeted killings of minority
International human rights groups on Thursday issued a joint call for Pakistan to act upon a “surge in violent attacks” on the Ahmadiyya Muslim religious minority, requesting the authorities “urgently” investigate such incidents.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) issued a joint statement pointing out that since July 2020, there have been at least five targeted killings of members of the Ahmadiyya community.
“Pakistani authorities have long downplayed, and at times even encouraged, violence against Ahmadis, whose rights to freedom of religion and belief are not respected under Pakistani law,” it added.
Though Muslim by religion, the Ahmadiyya community was ousted by the Pakistani government in 1974 and declared non-Muslim under the Ordinance XX. The community, which accounts for 0.22 per cent of the population in Pakistan (about half a million people) says it has faced decades of persecution.
Followers of the faith believe that the founder of the Ahmadiyya community, Mirza Ghulam, is a prophet after the Prophet Muhammad. Ahmadiyyas are restricted by law from identifying themselves as Muslims in Pakistan and from worshipping in the mosques used by mainstream Muslims.
The joint statement from the rights groups came days after a 16-year-old assailant opened fire on a group of Ahmadis gathering in Pakistan. Activists say it is the fourth targeted killing of members of the minority group in recent months.
One was killed and three others were wounded in the attack and the teenager was taken into custody.
“There are few communities in Pakistan who have suffered as much as the Ahmadis,” said Omar Waraich, South Asia chief at Amnesty International. “The recent wave of killings tragically underscores not just the seriousness of the threats they face, but also the callous indifference of the authorities, who have failed to protect the community or punish the perpetrators.”
The statement said that successive Pakistani governments have “failed protect the Ahmadis” despite being part of a consensus at the UN General Assembly which requires entities to protect rights of minority groups.
Minority groups in Pakistan can face persecution under strict blasphemy laws, which have resulted in a number of high profile cases in recent years.