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PAKISTAN: Two persons murdered after an anchor person proposed the widespread lynching of Ahmadi sect followers

September 10, 2008

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-203-2008

10 September 2008
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PAKISTAN: Two persons murdered after an anchor person proposed the widespread lynching of Ahmadi sect followers

ISSUES: Murder; religious discrimination; freedom of religion; media
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that an anchor person working for a prominent television channel has incited Muslims in Pakistan to kill - to devastating effect. The targets are followers of the Muslim Ahmadi sect, a group which has been declared non-Islamic under the constitution of Pakistan. The first killing happened within 24 hours of the broadcast, and just under two days later a district chief of the Ahmadi was murdered. Followers of the religion are understandably frightened, and many have left their homes and are taking shelter at their central mosque, the Rabwa.

CASE DETAILS:

In a program aired on 7 September 2008 the anchor of the religious program 'Alam Online', Dr. Amir Liaquat Hussain--also former federal minister for religious affairs--declared the murder of Ahmadi sect members to be necessary (Wajib ul Qatal) according to Islamic teachings, because its followers don't believe in the last prophet, Mohammad, peace be upon him. Dr. Amir repeated his instruction several times, urging fundamentalists Muslims to kill without fear.

While on air the anchor person also pressured the other two Islamic scholars (from two different sects) on the program to support the statement. This resulted in a unanimous decision among the scholars, on air during a popular television show, to urge lynching with the intent to kill. This was not a one-off. On September 9, Mr. Hussain answered a query with the comment that blasphemers are liable to be put to death.

According to the information received, at 1:15pm on September 8, 18 hours after the broadcast, six persons entered the Fazle Umer Clinic, a two-story hospital at Mirpur Khas city and two of them went to the second floor and started pressuring 45 year-old Dr. Abdul Manan Siddiqui to come downstairs to attend to a patient in crisis. Dr. Manan left his office and descended into an ambush. He was shot 11 times and died on the spot. His private guard was also shot and is in a serious condition. A woman was also injured by firing. The killers remained at the hospital until the doctor was declared dead, then they walked out of the building's front entrance. Police registered the killers as unknown.

On September 9, 48 hours after the broadcast, Mr. Yousaf, a 75 year-old rice trader and district chief of the Ahmadi sect was killed on his way to prayer in Nawab Shah, Sindh province. Yousaf was fired on from people on motor bikes, and sustained three bullet wounds. He died on the way to the hospital. The assailants had taken a route past a police station. No one was arrested.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The Ahmadi sect was declared non-Islamic sect on September 7, 1974, through a constitutional amendment, and was labeled a minority sect. Since then, there has been open hatred of the sect by certain Islamic circles and fundamentalists across the Muslim world, and sect members suffer widespread discrimination. Ahmadi followers are not allowed to bury their dead in the ordinary grave yards of Muslims, and many of those buried before 1974 were shifted by fundamentalists.

Since 1984 (when statistics have been compiled) around 93 Ahmadis have been killed for their allegiance to their sect, with four killed so far this year, including Dr. Ghulam Sarwar on March 19 in Faisalabad, Punjab province and Mr. Basharat Mughal on February 24 in Karachi. The Dr. Siddiqui is the 15th medical doctor killed since 1984.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to following authorities and urge them to appropriate actions in order to stop the killings of Ahmadi followers and recognized religious freedom. Please also demand them to prevent any religious hatred or discrimination from broadcasting through the media.

Please be informed that the AHRC has also written separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPEL LETTER:

Dear _______,

PAKISTAN: Two persons murdered after an anchor person proposed the widespread lynching of Ahmadi sect followers

Details of victims:
1. Dr. Abdul Manan Siddiqui, 45 years old; shot dead in the Fazle Umer Clinic, a two-story hospital at Mirpur Khas city on September 8
2. Mr. Yousaf, 75 years old; rice trader and district chief of the Ahmadi sect; shot dead in Nawab Shah, Sindh province
Persons involved in broadcasting:
1. Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain, Anchor person of Alim Online, Geo Television, Karachi-Pakistan
2. The producer of Alim Online, Geo Telvision, Karachi-Pakistan

I am writing you to draw your attention to and request prompt action regarding the latest incident of Ahmadi lynchings, as urged on a popular and seemingly unregulated Pakistani television program. The Anchor person, also former federal minister for religious affairs suggested that the followers be killed as punishment for their religious views.

According to the information that I have received, Dr. Amir Liaquat Hussain declared the murder of Ahmadi sect members to be necessary (Wajib ul Qatal) according to Islamic teachings, in 'Alam Online', aired on September 7, 2008. Dr. Amir repeated his instruction several times, urging fundamentalists Muslims to kill without fear.

While on air the anchor person also pressured the other two Islamic scholars (from two different sects) on the program to support the statement. This resulted in a unanimous decision among the scholars, on air during a popular television show, to urge lynching with the intent to kill. This was not a one-off. On September 9 Mr Hussain answered a query with the comment that blasphemers are liable to be put to death.

The killings On September 8 at 1:15 pm, 18 hours after the broadcast, six persons entered the Fazle Umer Clinic, a two-storey hospital at Mirpur Khas city. Two of them went to the second floor and started pressuring 45 year-old Dr. Abdul Manan Siddiqui to come downstairs to attend to a patient in crisis. Dr. Manan left his office and descended into an ambush. He was shot 11 times and died on the spot. His private guard was also shot and is in a serious condition. A woman was also injured by firing. The killers remained at the hospital until the doctor was declared dead, then they walked out of the building's front entrance. Police registered the killers as unknown.

On September 9, 48 hours after the broadcast, Mr. Yousaf, a 75 years old rice trader and  district chief of the Ahmadi sect was killed on his way to prayers in Nawab Shah, Sindh province. Yousaf was fired on from people on motor bikes, and sustained three bullet wounds. He died on the way to the hospital. The assailants had taken a route past a police station. No one has been arrested.

It is the responsibility of a government to tackle religious hatred, yet in Pakistan it flourishes. That it can bloom so publicly and has results both bloody and unpunished, is an embarrassment to a country that hopes to be taken seriously outside of its borders. While religious persons can incite murder on mainstream television shows without restraint or legal consequence, a country cannot hope to be considered mature. Neither can its leaders.

In this context I demand that the government of Pakistan take immediate steps to stop further killings by other religious communities and to investigate the two cases reported above. Those responsible for the killings must be prosecuted and punished according to the law. Immediate measures to prohibit broadcasting and spreading religious hatred through the media.

I further urge you to investigate those responsible for instigating murders through media broadcast. I also demand for a genuine and humane effort to be made to reintegrate the Ahmadi community into the social fabric of Pakistan. Their civil, human and religious rights must be protected. The government must take the lead to create a space for dialogue between opposing religious communities in Pakistan there by bringing an end to religious and communal violence in the country. 

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
President's Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see: http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx

2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime minister of Pakistan
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: 92-51-9221596
Tel: +92-51-9206111
E-mail: webmaster@infopak.gov.pk 

3. Mr. Rehman Malik
Advisor for Ministry of Interior
Room No. 404, 4th Floor, R Block,
Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2624
Tel: +92 51 921 2026
E-mail: minister@interior.gov.pk 

4. Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan
Governor of Sindh province
Karachi, Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 920 5043
Tel: +92 21 920 1201
E-mail: governor@governorsindh.gov.pk

5. Syed Qaim Ali Shah
Chief Minister House
Karachi, Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 920 2000  
E-mail: pppsindh@yahoo.co

6. Chief Justice of Sindh High Court
High Court Building
Saddar, Karachi
Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 9213220
E-mail: info@sindhhighcourt.gov.pk

7. Ms. Nadia Gabol
Minister for Human Rights
Government of Sindh,
Pakistan secretariat, Barrack 92,
Karachi, Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 21 9207043
Fax: +92 21 9207044
E-mail: lukshmil@yahoo.com

8. Secretary
(Criminal Prosecution) SGA &CD Department
Government of Sindh
Sindh Secretariat,
Karachi, Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 21 9213327-6
Fax: +92 21 9213873
E-mail: secy.cpsd@sindh.gov.pk

9. Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Mirza
Minister for Home
Government of Sindh
Barrack 79, Pakistan Secretariate
Near MPA hostel
Karachi, Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 21 9204456
Tel: +92 21 9201920-1 
E-mail: secy.home@sindh.gov.pk

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-203-2008
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.