U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom condemns death sentence for Ahmadis

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has condemned a Pakistani court’s decision to award the death penalty to three Ahmadis accused of blasphemy. The Ahmadis who were arrested in 2014 after they were accused of committing blasphemy by tearing down posters against them.

Daniel Mark, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated that:

“Pakistan must repeal its blasphemy laws and immediately release all those imprisoned under those provisions. Blasphemy laws and the horrific acts they unleash are an assault on human rights and dignity.”

Pakistan’s constitution declares Ahmadis to be non-Muslims and the Penal Code makes it criminal for Ahmadis to refer to themselves as Muslims; preach, propagate, or disseminate materials on their faith; or refer to their houses of worship as mosques. He said:

“In short, Ahmadis are required to renounce their faith in order to avail themselves of important civil rights in Pakistan.”

Chairman Mark further added:

“This latest case reinforces that there is no excuse for the blasphemy provisions in Article 295 of the Pakistani Penal Code to even exist. USCIRF has consistently called on Pakistan to repeal such laws. They violate human rights standards and make the government the ultimate arbiter of religious doctrines or truths. This is quite simply wrong.”

Chairman Mark, along with USCIRF Commissioner Thomas J. Reese, S.J., visited Pakistan in May of this year and met with a variety of religious minorities, including representatives of the Ahmadi community.  As part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, Chairman Mark has chosen to advocate on behalf of imprisoned Ahmadi member Abdul Shakoor.  After a speedy trial in an anti-terrorism court, Shakoor was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment under the Penal Code for blasphemy and three years under the Anti-Terrorism Act.