Children Charged for Blasphemy as the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan Escalates

    TORONTO, Feb. 3 /CNW/ - On January 28, 2009, in Kot Sultan, Pakistan, a
village in the Layyah District, local police arrested and charged one man and
four male children under Pakistan Penal Code Section 295-C (the Blasphemy
Law). The Blasphemy Law carries a sentence of life imprisonment or death, and
all charged under it are ineligible for bail.
    Charged are Mubashar Ahmad (50), Tahir Imran (16), Naseer Ahmad (14),
Muhammad Irfan (14), Tahir Mahmood (14). These five are alleged to have
inscribed the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him) on a wall in the washroom of the Jamia Gulzar-e-Medina Mosque, an
act which is considered disrespectful and thus blasphemous to the honour of
the Holy Prophet. The five accused, who do not reside near nor have any
connection with this mosque, all proclaim their innocence.
    The five accused are members of the persecuted Ahmadiyya Muslim
Community. The persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community has been condemned by
the United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights, the United States House of
Representatives and numerous non-governmental organizations including Human
Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Pakistan Human Rights Commission,
all of whom having noted that the persecution is instigated by and carried out
at the behest of extremist Islamic fundamentalist groups.
    In addition, the entire Ahmadi population in Kot Sultan is under siege.
Throughout the town, inflammatory posters are on display and religious
extremists have called for the social and economic boycott of Ahmadis.
Incidents of Ahmadis being accosted while returning to and from their
employment as well as being denied the ability to purchase food in the market
are reported. Religious extremists are also threatening arson and the
destruction of all Ahmadi homes in the town. In condemning the arrests as well
as the fact that the five accused are being held without access to visitors or
legal counsel, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued the following
statement, "Family members were told (by the arresting police officer) that
the police were under pressure from fundamentalists to act against the
children. If he did not arrest them, the group had threatened to close down
the whole city and attack the houses of Ahmadi sect members . . . . The AHRC
urges the government of President Asif Zardari to immediately release the
illegally detained prisoners."
    Ms. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious
Intolerance and Chair of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission described the
arrests as "heinous."
    According to the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace
and blessing of Allah be upon him) is revered as the final law-bearing prophet
and any show of disrespect towards him is inconceivable by any of its members.
In his writings, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad (1985-1908) (peace be upon him), stated, "The man who in his being, his
attributes and his actions, and through his spiritual and holy faculties set
an example of perfection and was called the 'Perfect Man' was Muhammad (peace
and blessings of Allah be upon him)."
    "These allegations (against the five Ahmadis charged) are completely
false and baseless. The police have no evidence whatsoever and have merely
succumbed to the pressure of those who spread religious hatred in the region,"
stated Mr. Salim-ud-Din, spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan.
    In a statement, Mr. Lal Khan Malik, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim
Community in Canada, stated, "Pakistan has ratified the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child and is thus, at a minimum, in breach of
Articles 14 and 37 therein. Pakistan has an unfortunate tendency to renege and
dishonour its international commitments and obligations. Pakistan states that
it protects religious minorities and upholds the fundamental human right of
freedom of religion, and yet it persists in allowing the persecution of a
peaceful and law-abiding community, including allowing its innocent children
to face the death penalty. It is high time for the Government of Pakistan to
fulfil its commitments to the world, especially to its own citizens."
    The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada calls for the immediate release
of the five Ahmadis charged in Pakistan as well as the protection of all
religious adherents from molestation and intimidation from religious
extremists, and urges the international community, human rights organizations
and media to take serious note of the latest developments in Pakistan.

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