Government policies did not afford equal protection to members of majority and minority religious groups, and due to discriminatory legislation, minorities often were afraid to profess freely their religious beliefs. Media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported killings of religious minorities by police. Minorities also stated the judiciary was biased against religious minorities, especially in cases involving blasphemy.
The government’s general failure to investigate, arrest, or prosecute those responsible for societal abuses promoted an environment of impunity that fostered intolerance and acts of violence, according to domestic and international human rights organizations. In numerous cases during the year, authorities failed to protect victims of religiously motivated mob violence.
According to the press and human rights NGOs, on September 25, a police officer in Rawalpindi’s Adiala prison shot and injured a mentally ill British citizen, Mohammad Asghar, who was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Prison authorities arrested the constable and four other prison officials suspected of negligence. The initial investigation revealed that accomplices allowed the officer to carry a weapon inside the prison, identify Asghar, and then shoot him.
On November 6, in Lahore, a police officer used an axe to kill Tufail Haider, a member of the Shia community who was jailed for allegedly committing blasphemy.
During the year, individuals continued to accuse government officials and media figures of blasphemy, and authorities opened and pursued criminal cases based on these accusations. On October 28, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) politicians filed a blasphemy petition against the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Syed Khursheed. Khursheed was accused of making blasphemous statements during a visit to a mausoleum. A blasphemy case against Sherry Rehman, the country’s former information minister and former ambassador to the United States, continued. Rehman was accused of making blasphemous statements during a television interview in 2010. In November a Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) court sentenced actress Veena Malik and her husband, Asad Bashir Khan, to 26 years in prison for committing blasphemy on air. The court gave the same sentence to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the owner of the Jang-Geo network, which aired the show. On December 10, the Supreme Court issued an interim order suspending the implementation of the GB court’s judgment.
Ahmadiyya community leaders expressed continued concern over authorities’ targeting and harassment of Ahmadis for blasphemy, violations of “anti-Ahmadi laws,” or other crimes. The vague wording of the legal provision forbidding Ahmadis from directly or indirectly identifying themselves as Muslims enabled officials to bring charges against members of the community for using the standard Muslim greeting or for naming their children Muhammad. According to Ahmadiyya leaders, authorities charged 24 Ahmadis in eight separate cases, largely in connection with “anti-Ahmadi laws.” Police charged 13 Ahmadis for allegedly defiling the Quran in separate instances.
As blasphemy cases moved through the justice system, lower courts often failed to adhere to basic evidentiary standards, which led to some convicted persons spending years in jail before higher courts overturned their convictions and ordered them freed for lack of evidence. Lower courts conducted proceedings in an atmosphere of intimidation by violent extremists and generally refused to free defendants on bail or acquit them for fear of reprisal and vigilantism. In an effort to avoid confrontation with, or violence from, extremists, judges and magistrates often delayed and continued trials indefinitely. Religious organizations and human rights NGOs expressed concern over the failure to punish persons who made false blasphemy allegations. Religious minorities were disproportionately accused of blasphemy relative to their small population in Pakistan. Furthermore, police often did not charge, or courts acquitted, those persons who made false blasphemy accusations.
According to data provided by the HRCP, during the year, police registered 12 new cases under blasphemy laws during the year and the courts sentenced three individuals to death, six individuals to life imprisonment, and three individuals to two-years of imprisonment for blasphemy. HRCP notes that the courts acquitted one individual accused of blasphemy and granted bail to another individual who served five years in prison for blasphemy.
Observers noted individuals frequently initiated blasphemy complaints against neighbors, peers, or business associates to settle personal grievances or to intimidate vulnerable people. While the law required a senior police official to investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint was filed, police did not uniformly conduct this procedure.
According to news reports, on February 20, a judge dismissed the fourth bail petition of Liaquat Ali, who was accused of blasphemy in 2013. Ali and Ali’s religious instructor were accused of blasphemy for allegedly incorrectly reciting the Islamic testimony of faith. Ali said the accusation was a personal grudge related to a property dispute.
On March 28, a court sentenced Sawan Masih to death for blasphemy in an incident that had triggered a riot in Lahore. The court convicted Masih, a Christian, of committing blasphemy in a conversation with a Muslim friend in 2013. A mob of more than 3,000 persons burned some 100 Christian homes in Lahore’s Joseph Colony after the allegations against Masih emerged. Masih filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court, stating the charges were false and aimed at evicting Christians from the area.
On April 3, a trial court in Toba Tek Singh, Punjab, handed a death sentence to Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, a Christian couple accused of texting blasphemous messages to local Muslims in Gojra, Punjab. Police first registered the case in June 2013.
On July 11, Islamabad’s Anti-terrorism Court ordered the continued detention of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants Hammad Adil and Muhammad Tanveer. The men allegedly confessed, after their arrests in August 2013, to the 2011 assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, the former federal minister of minority affairs and an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws. Adil and Tanveer were the main suspects accused in the murder. Their trial was ongoing at year’s end.
On October 16, the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row since 2010, when a district court found her guilty of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed during an argument. On November 24, her lawyers submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court.
According to Ahmadiyya community members, between 1984 (when the “anti-Ahmadi laws” were promulgated) and 2014, authorities sealed 33 Ahmadiyya mosques and barred construction of 52 mosques, while assailants demolished or damaged 31 Ahmadiyya mosques, set 14 mosques on fire, and forcibly occupied 19 mosques.
Members of religious minority communities said the federal Ministry of Law, Justice, and Human Rights, and its provincial counterparts, had failed to safeguard minority rights. Observers noted the inconsistent application of laws and enforcement of protections of religious minorities at both the federal and provincial levels remained serious problems.
On June 19, the Supreme Court ordered the government to compensate fully the families of the victims of the September 2013 bombing of Peshawar’s All Saints Church that killed at least 83 and injured more than 146. The court noted that the government had delayed financial compensation to the families. The church reported families had yet to receive full compensation by the end of the year.
Discrimination against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Ahmadis in admission to higher education institutions persisted. Minority leaders reported their communities faced restrictions in securing admissions into colleges and universities. Sikh leaders said that in some instances, Sikh students were required to obtain a certificate of permission from the Evacuee Trust Property Board, which they said was a lengthy process that discouraged Sikhs from pursuing higher education.
Most religious minority groups complained of discrimination in government hiring. While there was a 5 percent quota for hiring religious minorities at the federal and provincial levels, employers did not consistently enforce this requirement.
Promotions for all minority groups appeared limited within the civil service. Many minorities contended a “glass ceiling” prevented their promotion to senior positions. Although there were no official obstacles to advancement of minority religious group members in the military service, in practice non-Muslims rarely rose above the rank of colonel and were often not assigned to politically sensitive positions.
According to reports from the Jinnah Institute and other organizations, public school curricula included derogatory statements in textbooks about minority religious groups, particularly Ahmadis, Hindus, Jews, and Christians and the teaching of religious intolerance was widespread. According to a 2013 report by the human rights NGO National Commission for Justice and Peace, hate material in school curricula was the main reason for discrimination towards minority groups. Examining textbooks for the 2012-13 academic years in Punjab and Sindh for grades 1 to10, the report found the curricula included discriminatory and inflammatory material against Hindus, Christians, and other religious minorities.
All waqafs continued to mandate the elimination of teachings promoting religious or sectarian intolerance and of terrorist or extremist recruitment at madrassahs. Inspectors from the education boards mandated affiliated madrassahs with full-time students to supplement religious studies with secular subjects.
Generally, sacred books for religious minorities, except Ahmadis, were imported freely.
The government funded and facilitated Hajj travel for Muslims, but had no similar program for pilgrimages by religious minorities. Due to the passport requirements to list religious affiliation and denounce the Ahmadiyya prophet, Ahmadis were unable to participate in the Hajj.
The government does not recognize Israel, and citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, were not officially permitted to travel to Israel. This especially affected Bahais, since the Bahai World Center – the spiritual and administrative center of the community – is located in Israel.
The Supreme Court announced a detailed judgment regarding minorities’ rights on June 20, following its February 23 action on the case of Hindus in Tando Adam, Sindh, who were allegedly denied access to a temple. The court directed the federal government to establish a task force to ensure the safety and protection of minorities in the country, develop a strategy for promoting religious tolerance, and evaluate school curricula to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance. The court also directed the federal government to take steps to discourage hate speech in social media and bring accused violators to justice under the law. The order also called on the government to create a national council for minorities’ rights. On July 14, the government announced it would create a National Commission for Minorities with Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh representatives. According to news outlets, the government followed through, and commission members held their first meeting November 13.