Friday, January 03, 2014

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

Fri, Jan 3, 2014 at 2:09 PM
PAKISTAN: The religious hate campaign 
Prevented the burial of a one-and-a-half year-old child
                                                   Courtesy Photo
A one-and-a-half-year-old infant was buried four days after she died from pneumonia in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab province. The girl, who was from an Ahmadi family, died on December 19, and was taken for burial the following day. At the cemetery the local clerics gathered with approximately fifty men who were armed with sticks and batons. The girl belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, declared non Islamic through constitutional amendments. The men refused to let the Ahmadis bury the girl in the common graveyard and prevented them from digging the grave.
In Chak 312-JB Kathowali, Gojra, Toba Tek Singh, the Ahmadi and local Muslim population have lived together for six decades after the creation of Pakistan and the graveyard was used by both communities without dispute. However, from the last year the Muslim fundamentalist tried to introduce some families, particularly unmarried persons, who became busy instigating the people to agitate against the Ahmadis in order to dislodge them. Their campaign was not successful and the burial of the child gave them the reason they needed to punish the Ahmadis.
The family of the infant said that Muslim residents of the area had refused to let them bury their child in the neighbourhood graveyard because she was born to an Ahmadi family.
The child was finally buried on a piece of land donated by a non-Ahmadi Muslim resident of the village, some 300 metres away from the graveyard. The settlement was reached after the family of the deceased child staged a protest demonstration.
While persecution against Ahmadis is nothing new, it is appropriate to suggest that the increasing attacks against graves, graveyards and now the family of the dead child facing such inhuman treatment calls for serious concern from the civil society.
A woman was also denied the right to be buried
The prevention of the burial of Ahmadis in graveyards has become a campaign in Punjab province after the formation of the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as during the election campaign the ruling party made an electoral alliance with Muslim fundamentalists groups.
A woman who was married to a member of the Ahmadi community was also barred from burial in the city of Faisalabad, Punjab province. The wife of Iqbal Ranhja, a resident of Faisalabad district, died on December 27. When Ranhja and members of the Ahmadi community took the body for burial at the graveyard in Kathowali, a group of Muslims led by a local cleric intercepted them and asked them to bury the dead woman at some other place.
The situation became ugly but before the two groups entered into a brawl the police arrived and persuaded the Ahmadis to bury the lady elsewhere. The woman was buried far away from their home in order to avoid a sectarian riot.
The roll of the police in these cases is biased and they played into the hands of the religious fundamentalists. Instead of arresting the perpetrators and persons spreading religious hatred in society they sided with them, purportedly to preserve order. However, it was their sworn duty to ensure that the family members of every religious group enjoy their right to perform rituals.
The government of Punjab is fully aware that in the province a systematic campaign against the religious minorities, including Christians and Hindus, is about to boil over. The situation is not far from turning into full blown sectarian and communal violence. The behaviour of the government of Punjab is similar to that of the country in general, which is to turn a blind eye to religious intolerance and persecution in order to appease the fundamentalists. In doing so the government is denying the minority religious groups of their constitutional rights of equal citizenship (Article 25) and freedom to profess the religion of their choice and to manage religious institutions according to Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
A death in any family is a sad and traumatic affair and it is at such times when all sympathy and patience should be extended to the survivors. To use religious hatred to prevent the deceased's family from performing this basic act of reverence for their family members is unconscionable. By allowing the fundamentalists to take the law into their own hands the government is to failing in its duty to ensure that the society is balanced and that every citizen can have freedom according to their faith.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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