The government generally enforced existing legal and policy restrictions on religious freedom, particularly against Ahmadis. 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. Minorities also complained the judiciary was biased against religious minorities, especially in cases involving blasphemy.
During the year media and NGOs reported killings and torture of religious minorities by government authorities. According to the local NGO Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), on June 10, police reportedly tortured to death an 18-year-old Christian, Adnan Masih, at Lahore’s Sharakpur Sharif police station. During the six days he spent in custody, CLAAS stated police cut parts of Masih’s body with a knife, beat him with an iron rod, broke his legs, and pulled out his fingernails and toenails, all in a attempt to force him to confess to taking part in the “abduction” of a local Muslim woman (who in fact had fled an abusive marriage). After holding him for six days, police reportedly broke Masih’s neck and subsequently hung the body in a bathroom to make it appear he had committed suicide. In July the Asian Human Rights Commission reported an internal police inquiry had cleared three officers of any responsibility for Masih’s death.
According to NGO reports, Zafar Bhatti, a Christian pastor and head of a humanitarian NGO, Jesus World Mission, was poisoned and beaten by guards in the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after his arrest on charges of blasphemy in November 2012. Bhatti remained in custody at year’s end as legal proceedings continued.
Abuses continued under the blasphemy and other discriminatory laws, such as “the anti-Ahmadi laws,” and the government did not take measures to prevent them. According to an analysis released by the daily newspaper Dawn in August, an estimated 1,274 people were charged with blasphemy between 1986 (when the constitution was amended to include the criminalization of blasphemy) and 2010, and an estimated 51 people were killed extrajudicially after being accused of blasphemy. Between 1860 and 1986, there were only 14 total blasphemy cases. Observers noted individuals frequently initiated blasphemy complaints against neighbors, peers, or business associates to settle personal grievances or to intimidate vulnerable people. While the law required a senior police official to investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint was filed, this was not uniformly enforced.
As blasphemy cases moved through the justice system, lower courts often failed to adhere to basic evidentiary standards, which led to some convicted persons spending years in jail before higher courts overturned their convictions and ordered them freed for lack of evidence. Lower courts conducted proceedings in an atmosphere of intimidation by violent extremists and generally refused to free defendants on bail or acquit them for fear of reprisal. In an effort to avoid confrontation with or violence from extremists, judges and magistrates often delayed and continued trials indefinitely.
According to data provided by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 34 new cases were registered under the blasphemy laws during the year. While at least one death sentence for blasphemy was overturned during the year, at least another 17 people were awaiting execution for blasphemy and at least 20 others were serving life sentences. Although the government has never carried out a death sentence for blasphemy, NGOs reported at least five persons accused of blasphemy had died in police custody in recent years.
In July a court in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, convicted Sajjad Masih of blasphemy and sentenced him to life in prison and a 200,000 rupee ($1,902) fine for allegedly sending text messages denigrating the Prophet Muhammad. Media reported local Islamic hardliners pressured the judge to convict Masih, even after prosecutors had failed to present substantial evidence against him. In October the court acquitted Masih of the charges.
On August 29, a court in Karachi sentenced a Muslim man named Naveed to life imprisonment for blasphemy. According to the prosecutor, a prayer leader reportedly caught Naveed desecrating a copy of the Quran at a mosque in Mauripur in August 2006. The suspect, who was booked on a complaint by his father, recorded a confessional statement and was sent to jail.
On September 4, media reported a secondary school principal named Salma had been arrested in Lahore after a local cleric accused her of distributing blasphemous materials. The accused denied the charges and stated the cleric had made false allegations to settle an ongoing personal feud. According to police, she received death threats and her house was ransacked by a mob of nearly 200 people. The woman remained in jail while police continued their investigation into her alleged blasphemy.
On August 30, police in Bhara Kahu, Islamabad, announced the arrest of a suspect in the 2011 assassination of Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and an outspoken opponent of the blasphemy laws. Suspected Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant Hammad Adil reportedly confessed to Bhatti’s assassination after his arrest. According to media reports, militants Muhammad Tanveer and Omar Abdullah also confessed to their involvement in the attack. Adil, Abdullah, and Tanveer remained in police custody at year’s end.
On April 4, the Lahore High Court overturned the death sentence of Younis Masih, a Christian man who had been imprisoned since 2005 for blasphemy. The court found there was no credible evidence against Masih and ordered his immediate release. Masih had previously stated he had been beaten and deprived of food and medical attention by prison guards in October 2012. On November 28, Masih was finally released from prison.
Religious organizations and human rights NGOs expressed their concern over the failure to punish persons who made false blasphemy allegations. Although members of religious minorities comprised a disproportionate percentage of defendants in blasphemy cases, persons who made false blasphemy accusations were often not charged or were acquitted of such charges.
On August 17, a court dismissed all charges against Muslim Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti stemming from his false blasphemy allegations against Rimsha Masih in August 2012. Chishti had alleged the mentally disabled 13-year-old Masih, a Christian, had desecrated pages of the Quran. Witnesses subsequently came forward to report Chishti had planted the desecrated pages on the child as part of an effort to create animosity against members of the local Christian community in order to seize their property. Masih spent over a month in jail before being released on bail, and she and her family ultimately fled the country. In dismissing the charges against Chishti, the judge cited the lack of a formal indictment and the retraction of witness statements against him.
Ahmadiyya community leaders expressed continued concern over authorities’ targeting and harassing Ahmadis, and frequently accusing Ahmadis of blasphemy, violations of “anti-Ahmadi laws,” or other crimes. The vague wording of the provision forbidding Ahmadis from directly or indirectly identifying themselves as Muslims enabled officials to bring charges against members of the community for using the standard Muslim greeting and for naming their children Muhammad. According to Ahmadiyya leaders, between January and September authorities charged 26 Ahmadis in seven separate cases. Most of these cases were filed in connection with “anti-Ahmadi laws.” Ten Ahmadis were charged with blasphemy for allegedly defiling the Quran. Two others were charged under a terrorism clause. During the year 18 Ahmadis were arrested in matters relating to their faith and spent time in prison before being released on bail. In November police arrested physician Masood Ahmad for “posing as a Muslim” after he was videotaped reading a verse from the Quran. Ahmad remained in custody awaiting trial at year’s end.
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 Ahmadis. District-level authorities consistently refused to grant permission to construct places of worship for religious minorities, especially for the Ahmadiyya and Bahai communities, citing the need to maintain public order. Ahmadis reported their mosques and community lands were routinely confiscated by local authorities and given to the majority Muslim community. Ahmadis also reported incidents in which authorities tried to block construction or renovation of their places of worship. The law prohibits Ahmadis from reciting or relating to the kalima (Islamic testimony of faith), and authorities forcibly removed the kalima from Ahmadiyya places of worship. District governments often refused to grant Ahmadis permission to hold public events. According to the Ahmadiyya community, between 1984 (when the “anti-Ahmadi laws” were promulgated) and 2013, the authorities sealed 30 Ahmadi mosques and barred construction of 46 mosques, while 28 Ahmadi mosques were demolished or damaged, 13 mosques were set on fire, and 16 mosques were forcibly occupied.
During the registration process for the general elections in May, the Election Commission of Pakistan required members of the Ahmadiyya community to disavow the founder of their faith or, alternatively, “admit” they were not Muslims. As a result, nearly all of the country’s Ahmadis were unable to vote in the elections.
Members of religious minorities were highly critical of the government’s decision to fold the Ministry of National Harmony into the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Minorities also said the Ministry of Law, Justice, and Human Rights, and its provincial counterparts, had failed to safeguard their rights. Observers noted the inconsistent application of laws and enforcement of protections of religious minorities at both the federal and provincial levels remained serious problems.
Hindus, Sikhs, and other religious minorities stated the government 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 said the government was complicit in seizures of their property by Muslims, and the policy of dismantling illegal slum settlements disproportionately targeted minority communities.
Officials sometimes used bureaucratic demands and requested or took bribes to delay attempts by minority religious groups to build houses of worship or obtain land. In contrast, Sunni 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 their alleged links to terrorist organizations.
Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding conferences or gatherings since 1983. They have also been banned from preaching. Although the government has banned Ahmadiyya publications from public sale, the umbrella Ahmadiyya organization published religious literature that circulated only within Ahmadiyya communities. On August 12, local media reported Ahmadis had been prevented from offering Eid prayers at an Ahmadiyya mosque in Rawalpindi for a second year in a row. According to a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya community, the Rawalpindi City Commission’s refusal to grant worshippers access to the mosque violated the constitutional protection of freedom to worship for every citizen of Pakistan.
Foreign books must pass the government’s censors before being reprinted. Books and magazines were imported freely but were subject to censorship for sexual or religious content considered objectionable by the government. Generally, sacred books for religious minorities, except Ahmadis, were imported freely, although Hindus faced some difficulty in importing books from India.
The government funded and facilitated Hajj travel for Muslims, but had no similar program for pilgrimages by religious minorities. Due to the passport requirements to list religious affiliation and denounce the Ahmadiyya prophet, Ahmadis were unable to participate in the Hajj because they were prohibited from declaring themselves Muslims.
The government does not recognize Israel, and citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, were not permitted to travel to Israel. This especially affected Bahais, since the Bahai World Center – the spiritual and administrative heart of the community – is located in 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. They indicated each Sikh student was 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 government hiring. While there was a 5 percent quota for hiring religious minorities at the federal and provincial levels, it was not consistently enforced.
Promotions for all minority groups appeared limited within the civil service. These problems were particularly acute for Ahmadis, who contended a “glass ceiling” prevented their promotion to senior positions, and certain government departments refused to hire or retain qualified Ahmadis. The government also discriminated against some groups, such as Ahl-e-Hadith, a Sunni reformist movement to which four percent of the country’s Muslims adhere, in hiring clergy for government mosques and the military, and faculty members for Islamic studies positions in government colleges.
Although there were no official obstacles to advancement of minority religious group members in the military service, 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 Ahmadis, Hindus, and Jews. The teaching of religious intolerance was widespread. According to a 2013 report by the human rights NGO National Commission for Justice and Peace, hate material in school curricula was the main reason behind discrimination towards minority groups. The study examined textbooks for academic year 2012-13 in Punjab and Sindh for grades 1-10. It said 55 chapters contained hate material against Hindus and Christians, and insulting remarks against religious minority groups. Some provinces reversed efforts to revise curricula to eliminate intolerant teachings. In August the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party-led provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reinserted Quranic verses related to jihad in the textbooks of Islamic studies for grades 9 and 10. The material had been removed earlier under a curriculum reform process initiated in 2006 in the province by the outgoing Awami National Party government.