Washington: Pakistan's crackdown on Ahmadiyya community under the guise of anti-terrorist action has been denounced by the State Department and the Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). "We're obviously very concerned about the reports that Punjab counter-terrorism police have raided the international headquarters of Ahmadiyya -- Muslim community in Rabwah," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said here on Friday.
According to Toner, the country's laws that restrict peaceful religious expression, particularly by the Ahmadiyya community, "are inconsistent with Pakistan's international obligations". Pakistani laws do not recognise the Ahmadiyya community as Muslims and forbids them from calling themselves members of that religion. But Toner pointedly emphasised that Ahmadiyya is a "Muslim community". USCIRF was harsher in its criticism.
"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 Thomas J. Reese, a Catholic priest of the Jesuit order. "Pakistan's anti-terrorism laws should not be applied to the peaceful Ahmadiyya community simply because they are Ahmadis," he added.
The USCIRF noted in a statement that Pakistan's Punjab province, where the raid took place, "has a deeply troubling religious freedom record" with two-thirds of all blasphemy cases originating there.
On Monday the Counter-Terrorism Department raided an office of the Ahmadiyya community and arrested several people for publishing religious publications, Tehreek-e-Jadeed and Al-Fazal that the Punjab government had declared as "seditious and treasonable" in 2014. During this raid "police beat and arrested several Ahmadis who later were charged under provisions in Pakistan's penal code and Anti-Terrorism Act", USCIRF said.