The US has expressed concern over reports of a police raid at the Ahmadiyya community headquarters in Pakistan and urged the country’s government to protect the religious freedom and basic rights of minority communities.
“We are obviously very concerned about these reports and the Punjab Counter-terrorism Police have raided the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya...and arrested four individuals for publishing literature,” State Department Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said.
Citing concerns over Pakistani laws, he said, “We have regularly noted our concerns about these laws that restrict peaceful religious expression, in particular by the Ahmadiyya community in our international religious freedom report.”
“We believe such laws are inconsistent with Pakistan’s international obligations and we would urge the government of Pakistan to protect religious freedom and basic rights of all members of its population, including religious minorities,” Toner said.
According to media reports, Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) raided the community’s headquarters in Rabwa, Punjab Province, and arrested four of its members.
In a separate statement, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned the raid by Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) on the publications and audit offices of the Ahmadiyya community in Punjab province.
In the raid, which took place on December 5, police allegedly beat and arrested several Ahmadis who were later charged under provisions in Pakistan’s penal code and Anti-Terrorism Act.
“USCIRF condemns the brutal raid on the Ahmadiyya offices, the first such raid since Pakistan amended its constitution 42 years ago, declaring that Ahmadis are non-Muslims,” said USCIRF Chair Rev Thomas J Reese.
“These actions flow out of Pakistan’s constitution and penal code, both of which impede religious freedom as they prevent Ahmadis from exercising their faith and even calling themselves Muslim. Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law should not be applied to the peaceful Ahmadiyya community simply because they are Ahmadis,” he said.
Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims as part of Islamisation in 1974. In 1984, they were banned from calling themselves Muslim.