There were reports of abuses of religious freedom, including religious prisoners and detainees. The government generally enforced existing legal and policy restrictions on religious freedom, particularly on Ahmadi Muslims. Government policies did not afford equal protection to members of majority and minority religious groups, and due to discriminatory legislation, minorities often were afraid to profess freely their religious beliefs.
During the year, media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported on allegations of killings by authorities. For example, media reported that on March 30, Ahmadi schoolteacher Abdul Quddoos was tortured in police custody in Chenab Nagar, Punjab and later died in a local hospital due to injuries. Police reportedly detained him as the suspect in a murder but released him after allegedly torturing him. Ahmadiyya community leaders said that the real reason for the teacher’s arrest was to undermine the reputation of the local Ahmadiyya administration of Chenab Nagar.
Police reportedly tortured and abused persons in custody on religious charges. According to the local NGO Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), in October, guards at the Central Jail in Mianwali allegedly tortured Younis Masih, who has been imprisoned since his 2005 death sentence for blasphemy. Masih claimed that prison authorities beat him, deprived him of proper food and medical attention, and subsequently charged him with inciting a riot in the prison. Masih’s appeal of his death sentence remained pending at year’s end.
Abuses under the blasphemy and other discriminatory laws, such as “the anti-Ahmadi laws,” continued. The government did not take adequate measures to prevent these incidents or undertake reform measures to prevent the widespread abuse of the laws. At least 17 people were awaiting execution for blasphemy and 20 others were serving life sentences. However, as of year’s end, the government had never carried out an execution for blasphemy.
On February 1, a district court in Punjab upheld the death sentence of Sufi Muhammed Ishaq for blasphemy. Ishaq, a longtime U.S. resident who returned to Pakistan to care for a Sufi shrine, was initially convicted by a court in Talagang in July 2009 after a video surfaced of Sufi devotees touching his feet, a common sign of respect. His accusers alleged that Ishaq had claimed to be a messenger from God. NGOs countered that the charges actually stemmed from a property dispute involving a Sufi shrine.
On November 14, a court in Chitral sentenced Hazrat Ali Shah, a 25-year-old Muslim from Barenis Village, to death for blasphemy. Shah was arrested in March 2011 for allegedly making sacrilegious remarks against the Prophet Mohammed during a physical altercation. In addition to the death sentence, Shah was fined and given a “rigorous” 10-year prison sentence.
Authorities continued to use the blasphemy laws against Muslims, Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and members of other groups. NGOs alleged that individuals frequently brought charges under these laws to settle personal grievances or to intimidate vulnerable individuals. Lower courts often did not adhere to basic evidentiary standards in blasphemy cases, which led to some accused and convicted persons spending years in jail before higher courts eventually overturned their convictions and ordered them freed. Trial courts usually denied bail in blasphemy cases, claiming that because defendants could face the death penalty, they were likely to flee. Judges and magistrates, seeking to avoid confrontation with or violence from extremists, often continued trials indefinitely. Lower courts conducted proceedings in an atmosphere of intimidation by violent extremists and refused bail due to fear of reprisal. While the law requires that a senior police official investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint is filed, this was not uniformly enforced.
According to data provided by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), between January and November, a total of 30 cases were registered under the blasphemy laws. Of these, 11 were against Christians, five against Ahmadis, and 14 against Muslims. The NCJP reported that authorities registered a total of 1,170 blasphemy cases between 1987 and 2012. According to Human Rights Watch, during 2012 dozens of people were charged with blasphemy and at least 17 people remained on death row for blasphemy, while another 20 served life sentences.
On May 17, the Lahore High Court overturned the blasphemy convictions of Munir Masih and Ruqqiya Bibi. In 2010, the district court in Kasur had sentenced the Christian couple to 25 years in prison for defiling a Quran after touching it with unwashed hands.
On August 17, police detained on blasphemy charges Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl who reportedly suffered from a mental disability, after a local Muslim cleric alleged that he observed the girl desecrate pages of the Quran. In the wake of the arrest, several hundred Christian families fled their homes fearing violence. The cleric was subsequently arrested on allegations that he placed the burnt pages of the Quran out for Masih to pick up; he remained in jail facing blasphemy charges at year’s end. Masih was released on bail in early September, and the Islamabad High Court dismissed her case on November 20.
Non-Muslim prisoners generally were accorded poorer facilities than Muslim inmates. According to an October 2011 study by the NGO Life for All, prisoners accused of violating the blasphemy laws often were treated differently than those accused of other crimes. Many of them were kept in solitary confinement due to threats from other inmates and, in some instances, prison guards.
On March 2, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) claimed that Faisalabad district jail superintendent Tariq Mehmood Khan burned two imambargahs (Shia holy places) and a church on the jail premises. The AHRC urged the government to immediately suspend and prosecute the superintendant, who was said to have links to a banned religious organization. Later, the government formed a six-member committee composed of district officials and religious leaders to probe the allegations, although they had taken no significant action on the case by year’s end.
Ahmadi Muslim leaders expressed continued concern over the government’s use of the penal code to harass and intimidate Ahmadis on the basis of their faith. They alleged that the government used the “anti-Ahmadi laws” to target and harass Ahmadis, frequently accusing converts to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community of blasphemy, violations of “anti-Ahmadi laws,” or other crimes. The vague wording of the provision that forbids Ahmadis from directly or indirectly identifying themselves as Muslims enabled officials to bring charges against Ahmadi Muslims for using the standard Muslim greeting and for naming their children Muhammad. According to Ahmadiyya leaders, between January and December, authorities charged 56 Ahmadis in 20 different cases. Most of these cases were filed in connection with “anti-Ahmadi laws.” At year’s end, no Ahmadis were in prison; however, during the year 26 Ahmadis were arrested for their faith and spent time in prison before being released on bail.
The constitution provides for the right to establish places of worship and train clergy, but in practice the government restricted this right for religious minorities, especially Ahmadi Muslims. District-level authorities consistently refused to grant permission to construct non-Muslim places of worship, especially for the Ahmadiyya and Bahai communities, citing the need to maintain public order. Minority religious groups accused the government of inaction in cases where extremist groups attacked their places of worship. Ahmadis reported that their mosques and community lands were routinely confiscated by local authorities and given to the mainstream Muslim community. Ahmadis also reported incidents in which authorities tried to block construction or renovation of their places of worship. Because the law prohibits Ahmadi Muslims from reciting or relating to the kalima (Islamic testimony of faith), authorities forcibly removed the kalima from Ahmadi places of worship in some instances. District governments often refused to grant Ahmadi Muslims permission to hold public events; they instead held meetings in members’ homes. According to Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya-- between 1984 when the “anti-Ahmadi laws” were promulgated and 2012-- the authorities sealed 28 Ahmadi mosques and barred construction of 46 mosques, while 24 mosques were demolished, 13 mosques were set on fire, and 16 mosques were forcibly occupied in different incidents.
Hindus, Sikhs, and other religious minorities stated that the government failed to protect religious properties and did not spend adequate funds on the protection and upkeep of minority religious properties that were abandoned during the 1947 partition of British India before independence. They also claimed that the government was complicit in seizures of their property by Muslims, and that the policy of dismantling illegal slum settlements disproportionately targeted minority communities. For example, according to the Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR), military authorities demolished a Hindu temple on December 1 in Karachi, allegedly after being bribed by a private developer seeking to confiscate the land.
Officials sometimes used bureaucratic demands and requested or took bribes to delay minority religious groups attempting to build houses of worship or obtain land. On the other hand, Sunni Muslim groups sometimes built mosques and shrines without government permission, at times in violation of zoning ordinances and on government-owned lands, without repercussions.
The government monitored the activities of various Islamist parties and affiliated clergy due to alleged links to terrorist organizations.
Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, Ahmadi Muslims have been prohibited from holding conferences or gatherings since 1983. They are also banned from preaching. The government has banned Ahmadiyya publications from public sale, but the umbrella Ahmadiyya organization published religious literature that circulated only within Ahmadi communities. On August 22, the English-language daily Dawn reported that Ahmadis were restricted from offering Eid prayers at an Ahmadiyya mosque in Rawalpindi. The newspaper quoted a community spokesman as saying that nine months before, a hate campaign against the community enticed residents of the area to restrict their activities.
Foreign books must pass government censors before being reprinted. Books and magazines were imported freely but were subject to censorship for sexual or religious content considered objectionable. Generally, sacred books for religious minorities, except Ahmadi Muslims, were imported freely. Hindus also faced some difficulty in importing books from India.
The government funded and facilitated Hajj travel, but had no similar program for pilgrimages by religious minorities. Due to the passport requirements to list religious affiliation and denounce the Ahmadiyya Muslim prophet, Ahmadi Muslims were restricted from going on the Hajj because they were prohibited from declaring themselves Muslims. Because the government does not recognize Israel, religious believers regardless of religious affiliation were unable to travel to Israel. This especially affected Bahais, since the Bahai World Center--the spiritual and administrative heart of the community--is located in northern Israel.
Discrimination against Hindus, Sikhs, and Ahmadis in admission to higher education institutions persisted. Sikh leaders reported they faced restrictions in securing admissions into colleges and universities, as they were required to obtain a certificate of permission from the Evacuee Trust Property Board, which they said was a lengthy process that discouraged Sikhs from pursuing higher education. There were no reports of discrimination against Christians when they applied for entry to universities and medical schools.
Most religious minority groups, with the exception of Shia, complained of discrimination in hiring. While there is a 5 percent quota for hiring religious minorities at the federal and provincial levels, it had not been fully implemented by year’s end.
Promotions for all minority groups appeared limited within the civil service. These problems were particularly acute for Ahmadi Muslims, who contended that a “glass ceiling” prevented their promotion to senior positions, and certain government departments refused to hire or retain qualified Ahmadi Muslims. The government discriminated against some groups, such as Ahl-e-Hadith, a Sunni Muslim reformist movement to which 4 percent of the country’s Muslims adhere, in hiring clergy for government mosques and military and faculty members for Islamic studies positions in government colleges.
Members of minority religious groups volunteered for military service in small numbers, and there were no official obstacles to their advancement; however, in practice non-Muslims rarely rose above the rank of colonel and were not assigned to politically sensitive positions. A chaplaincy corps provided services for Muslim soldiers, but no similar services were available for religious minorities.
According to reports from the Jinnah Institute and other organizations, public school curricula included derogatory statements in textbooks about minority religious groups, particularly Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, and the teaching of religious intolerance was widespread. Some provinces continued efforts to revise curricula to eliminate such teachings.
The Hindu and Sikh communities, as well as the Scheduled Caste Rights Movement, continued to demand official registration of their marriages. The minorities’ representatives asserted that in the absence of Hindu and Sikh marriage registration, women faced difficulties inheriting their parents’ and husbands’ property, accessing health services, voting, obtaining a passport, and buying or selling property.