Status of religious freedom in Pakistan

From Academic Kids

Template:Message box

The Islamic nation of Pakistan gives Muslims special rights that non-Muslims do not have. Non-Muslims are persecuted if they say things which offend Muslim sensibilities.

When blasphemy and other religious cases are brought to court, Islamic extremists often pack the courtroom and make public threats about the consequences of an acquittal. As a result, low-level judges and magistrates, seeking to avoid a confrontation with, or violence from extremists, often continue trials indefinitely. As a result, those accused of blasphemy often face lengthy time in jail and are burdened with further legal costs and repeated court appearances.

The Pakistani government does not restrict religious publishing per se; however, the it restricts the right to freedom of speech with regard to religion. Speaking in opposition to Islam and publishing an attack on Islam or its prophets are prohibited.

Pakistan's Penal Code mandates the death sentence for anyone defiling the name of Muhammad, whom Muslims view as a prophet. This penal code mandates life imprisonment for desecrating the Qur'an, and up to 10 years' imprisonment for insulting another's religious beliefs with intent to outrage religious feelings. Although prosecutions for publishing appear to be few, the threat of the blasphemy law is ever present.

Ahmadis charge that they suffer from restrictions on their press. Christian scriptures and books are available in Karachi and in traveling bookmobiles. However, in recent years, the owner of a Christian bookshop in Karachi has reported frequent questioning by local Muslim religious leaders and occasional questioning by the police. Such questioning may lead to self-censorship among Christians. Hindu and Parsi scriptures are freely available. Foreign books and magazines may be imported freely, but are subject to censorship for objectionable religious content.

The Pakistan government does not ban formally the public practice of the Ahmadi religion, but the practice of the Ahmadi faith is restricted severely by law. A 1974 constitutional amendment declared Ahmadis to be a non-Muslim minority because, according to the Government, they do not accept Muhammad as the last Prophet of Islam. However, Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims and observe Islamic practices. In 1984 the Government added Section 298(c) into the Penal Code, prohibiting Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim or posing as Muslims; from referring to their faith as Islam; from preaching or propagating their faith; from inviting others to accept the Ahmadi faith; and from insulting the religious feelings of Muslims. This section of the Penal Code has caused problems for Ahmadis, particularly the provision that forbids them from "directly or indirectly" posing as Muslims. This vague wording has enabled mainstream Muslim religious leaders to bring charges against Ahmadis for using the standard Muslim greeting form and for naming their children Muhammad. The constitutionality of Section 286(c) was upheld in a split-decision Supreme Court case in 1996. The punishment for violation of this section is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine. This provision has been used extensively by the Government and anti-Ahmadi religious groups to target and harass Ahmadis. Ahmadis also are prohibited from holding any conferences or gatherings.

The Government distinguishes between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to political rights. In national and local elections, Muslims cast their votes for Muslim candidates for a specific geographic locality, while non-Muslims may cast their votes only for at-large non-Muslim candidates. Government officials state that the separate electorates system is a form of affirmative action designed to ensure adequate minority representation, and that efforts are underway to achieve a consensus among religious minorities on this issue.

Many Christian activists state that the separate electorates are the greatest obstacle to the attainment of Christian religious and civil liberties. Ahmadi leaders encourage Ahmadis not to register as non-Muslims; consequently, most Ahmadis are not represented. Since December 2000, the Government has held a number of local elections around the country. The elections were held on the basis of separate electorates, which entitle non-Muslims to vote only for minority candidates, while Muslims are entitled to vote for Muslim council members in addition to reserved seats for Muslim women and agricultural laborers. Government officials claim that this measure is designed to ensure minority representation. However, opponents of separate electorates, including the majority of religious minority leaders, state that the system partially disenfranchises them.

On June 28, 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that non-Muslims may vote for any candidate at the Union Council level for seats reserved for mayor, deputy mayor, laborers, farmers, and women; however, non-Muslims still are barred from voting for Muslim candidates who run for general seats. Three of the five rounds of elections already had occurred prior to this ruling. Few non-Muslims are active in the country's mainstream political parties due to limitations on their ability to run for elective office under the current system. Christian and Hindu leaders conducted a boycott to protest the system of separate electorates during the local elections. In October 2000, a coalition of Christian NGO's sent a petition to General Musharraf requesting a dialog between the Government and minority religious leaders on the controversy; the Government did not acknowledge receipt of this petition.

Religious minorities are afforded fewer legal protections than Muslim citizens. The judicial system encompasses several different court systems with overlapping and sometimes competing jurisdiction, which reflect differences in civil, criminal, and Islamic jurisprudence. The federal Shari'at court and the Shari'a bench of the Supreme Court serve as appellate courts for certain convictions in criminal court under the Hudood Ordinances, and judges and attorneys in these courts must be Muslims. The federal Shari'at court also may overturn any legislation judged to be inconsistent with the tenets of Islam.

The martial law era Hudood Ordinances criminalize nonmarital rape, extramarital sex, and various gambling, alcohol, and property offenses. The Hudood Ordinances reportedly are based on the Government's interpretation of Islamic principles and are applied to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Some Hudood Ordinance cases are subject to Hadd, or Koranic, punishment; others are subject to Tazir, or secular punishment.

Although both types of cases are tried in ordinary criminal courts, special rules of evidence apply in Hadd cases, which discriminate against non-Muslims. For example, a non-Muslim may testify only if the victim also is non-Muslim. Likewise, the testimony of women, Muslim or non-Muslim, is not admissible in cases involving Hadd punishments. Therefore, if a Muslim man rapes a Muslim woman in the presence of women or non-Muslim men, he cannot be convicted under the Hudood Ordinances.

For both Muslims and non-Muslims, all consensual extramarital sexual relations are considered a violation of the Hudood Ordinances; if a woman cannot prove the absence of consent in a rape case, there is a risk that she may be charged with a violation of the Hudood Ordinances for fornication or adultery. The maximum punishment for this offense is public flogging or stoning; however, there are no recorded instances of either type of punishment since the 1980s.

According to a police official, in a majority of rape cases, the victims are pressured to drop rape charges because of the threat of Hudood adultery charges being brought against them. A parliamentary commission of inquiry for women has criticized the Hudood Ordinances and recommended their repeal. It also has been charged that the laws on adultery and rape have been subject to widespread misuse, and that 95 percent of the women accused of adultery are found innocent in the court of first instance or on appeal. This commission found that the main victims of the Hudood Ordinances are poor women who are unable to defend themselves against slanderous charges. According to the commission, the laws also have been used by husbands and other male family members to punish their wives and female family members for reasons that have nothing to do with perceived sexual impropriety. Approximately one-third or more of the women in jails in Lahore, Peshawar, and Mardan in 1998 were awaiting trial for adultery under the Hudood Ordinances. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated that this ratio remained unchanged during the period covered by this report. However, no Hadd punishment has been imposed since the Hudood Ordinances went into effect. Human rights monitors and women's groups believe that a narrow interpretation of Shari'a has had a harmful effect on the rights of women and minorities, as it reinforces popular attitudes and perceptions and contributes to an atmosphere in which discriminatory treatment of women and non-Muslims is accepted more readily. Some Islamic scholars also stated privately that the Hudood Ordinances are a misapplication of Shari'a.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is entrusted with safeguarding religious freedom, has on its masthead a Koranic verse: "Islam is the only religion acceptable to God." The Ministry claims that it spends 30 percent of its annual budget to assist indigent minorities, to repair minority places of worship, to set up minority-run small development schemes, and to celebrate minority festivals. However, religious minorities question its expenditures, observing that localities and villages housing minority citizens go without basic civic amenities. The Bishops' Conference of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), using official budget figures for expenditures in 1998, calculated that the Government actually spent $17 (PRs 850) on each Muslim and only $3.20 (PRs 16) on each religious minority citizen per month.

(Source: International Religious Freedom Report. Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U. S. Department of State website.)

See also: Persecution of Christians, Apartheid

Template:SOreligiousfreedomATW

Navigation

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)

Information

  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Toolbox
Personal tools