PAKISTAN: USCIRF “particularly concerned” about mistreatment of Hazaras and Ahmadis

A November 6 statement castigates the repatriation of Afghan members of religious minorities and the continued persecution of the Ahmadis.

by Marco Respinti

Bitter Winter (08.11.2023) – A statement severely criticizing Pakistan has been published on November 6 by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Its commissioners are appointed by the President and by Congressional leaders of both political parties.

Pakistan is criticized by USCIRF both for the repatriation of religious minority refugees from Afghanistan to a country where they will be persecuted and for its continued persecution of Ahmadi Muslims.

“Over the last several weeks, the statement notes, Pakistani officials have called for the repatriation of ‘illegal migrants,’ including 1.7 million Afghan refugees who lack documentation. Authorities have reportedly conducted raids and established deportation centers to hold individuals who do not voluntarily return to their country of origin. We are particularly concerned that the Pakistani government may forcibly return to Afghanistan religious minorities who fled persecution.”

USCIRF notes that, “Under Taliban rule, Christians, Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Sikhs cannot freely practice their religious beliefs in Afghanistan.” Many of the refugees Afghanistan threatens to deport belong to the Hazara Shi’a minority, which is also discriminated in Pakistan and against which the Afghan regime is perpetrating a genocide.

In Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims are accused of being infidels and heretics and of rejecting the Islamic doctrine that Muhammad was “the Seal of the Prophets,” meaning that no genuine prophet could appear after him. Ahmadis regard their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as “both a prophet and a follower of the Holy Prophet [Muhammad],” which is not good enough for conservative Muslims, who would not tolerate the use of the word “prophet” applied to any post-Muhammad spiritual master.

“Throughout 2023,” the USCIRF says, “incidents targeting the Ahmadiyya community have increased. Despite an August ruling by the Lahore High Court mandating that Ahmadiyya mosques built before 1984 cannot be destroyed or altered, government and nonstate actors continue to vandalize structures, prevent the construction of minarets, and erase the public display of Qur’anic verses. Members of the community continue to be detained on blasphemy charges and are denied equal voting rights in local, provincial, and national elections unless they renounce their faith.”

International institutions continue to condemn Pakistan for its egregious violations of the rights of religious minorities. These violations are increasing. It is time for words to be followed by sanctions.

Photo: Old Hazaras (credits). Pakistan is now returning them to their butchers.

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website