Pakistan excludes Ahmadis from minority commission

Pakistani civil rights activists protest the killings of Ahmadis outside the attacked community mosque in Lahore on May 30, 2010. Over 80 people died as squads of militants burst into prayer halls May 27 firing guns, throwing grenades and taking hostages in the deadliest attack on the city of eight million, which has been increasingly hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence. AFP PHOTO/Arif ALI / AFP PHOTO / Arif Ali

Pakistan’s cabinet has refused to include Ahmadis, a persecuted religious sect, in a newly formed commission for minorities. This move was prompted by the conservative opposition in the political system of Pakistan.

A National Commission for Minorities (NCM) was convened by the Pakistani government to address the concerns of minorities in the Muslim-majority country. However, Ahmadis who are categorised as non-Muslim in the constitution were not included.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs said, “The Ahmadi community must not be included in the NCM, given the religious and historical sensitivity of the issue”. Yet Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims. The sect has up to 20 million followers worldwide with about half a million in Pakistan. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded the sect in British-ruled India in 1889.

A Hindu has been nominated as chairman of the commission which also has representatives of the Christian, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Kalash communities among other government officials. Earlier this month, The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan U.S. federal government body, which highlighted the anti-Muslim persecution in India, said in its report that Pakistan’s Ahmadis “continue to face severe persecution from authorities. And also societal harassment due to their beliefs, with both the authorities and mobs targeting their houses of worship”.

On the contrary, Minister of Information, Shibli Faraz defended the government’s handling of the commission for minorities and said the rights of all were fully respected. Many members of the community say that the constitutional non-inclusion of Ahmadis is used as an alibi to exclude them. However, some members of the community said, “We have never accepted being classified as non-Muslims, which would rule out joining the commission anyway”.

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