HRCP mission finds upsurge in rights violations against religious minorities in Gujranwala, Pakistan

Hina Jilani, Chairperson, HRCP

Lahore, 15 February 2023. A fact-finding mission led by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has underscored an alarming uptick in the persecution of members of the Ahmadiyya community in Gujranwala and surrounding areas—specifically, the desecration of their graves, the destruction of minarets at Ahmadi sites of worship and first information reports (FIRs) filed against community members for carrying out ritual animal sacrifice on Eid.

The mission’s report, released earlier today, finds evidence to suggest that the civil administration in Gujranwala and Wazirabad were directly involved in destroying the minarets on Ahmadi sites of worship in December 2022 and January 2023, following objections raised by members of a local political-religious outfit. While the administration claims to have done so to circumvent the threat of mob violence, the way it has handled the matter has only fostered growing hostility towards the Ahmadiyya community and increased the vulnerability of Ahmadi residents in the area.

Of particular concern is the district administration’s perception that some legal and constitutional provisions provide room for persecution of this kind, although the report notes that, under Article 20(b) of the Constitution, this is not the case. ‘While the mission understands that the local bureaucracy, police and judiciary were successfully intimidated by a religious group, their response displays a pitiful inability to manage law and order while respecting the fundamental rights of the Ahmadiyya community,’ the report adds.

The mission recommends that the judgments of Supreme Court Justices Tasadduq Hussain Jilani and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah from 2014 and 2021 be implemented in letter and spirit, including the establishment of a special police force to guard religious minorities’ places of worship. Additionally, the police’s capacity to deal with the threat of mob violence in such situations must be augmented through proper infrastructure and training.

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