Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) issued a joint statement on Thursday, calling on Pakistan to act upon a “surge in violent attacks” against the Ahmadiyya Muslim religious minority.
The statement called upon the Pakistani authorities to “urgently” investigate incidents of violence against the group.
The rights group pointed out that since July 2020, there have been at least five targeted killings of members of the Ahmadiyya community.
“Pakistani authorities have long downplayed, and at times even encouraged, violence against Ahmadis, whose rights to freedom of religion and belief are not respected under Pakistani law,” the statement said.
The joint statement from the rights groups came days after a 16-year-old assailant opened fire on a group of Ahmadis gathering in Pakistan, killing one and wounding three others.
Activists say it is the fourth targeted killing of members of the minority group in recent months and the teenage attacker was taken into custody.
“There are few communities in Pakistan who have suffered as much as the Ahmadis,” said Omar Waraich, South Asia chief at Amnesty International.
“The recent wave of killings tragically underscores not just the seriousness of the threats they face, but also the callous indifference of the authorities, who have failed to protect the community or punish the perpetrators.”
Though Muslim by religion, the Ahmadiyya community was ousted by the Pakistani government in 1974 and declared non-Muslim under the Ordinance XX.
Followers of the faith believe that the founder of the Ahmadiyya community, Mirza Ghulam, is a prophet after the Prophet Muhammad.
The community, which accounts for 0.22% of the population in Pakistan (about half a million people) says it has faced decades of persecution and restricted by law from identifying themselves as Muslims.
They are also forbidden from worshipping in the mosques used by mainstream Muslims.
The statement said that successive Pakistani governments have “failed protect the Ahmadis” despite being part of a consensus at the UN General Assembly which requires entities to protect rights of minority groups.
Minority groups in Pakistan can face persecution under strict blasphemy laws, which have resulted in a number of high profile cases in recent years. (Source: Independent UK)