Pakistan - Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief








Separation of Religion or Belief & State




Second Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (5-19 May, 2008)


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The Pakistan Universal Periodic Review was held by the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday 8 May 2008 from 2:30 pm. – 5:30 pm  The link below will access these reports in the Pakistan Universal Periodic Review: National Report; Compilation of UN Information; Summary of Stakeholders Information; Questions Submitted in Advance; Report of the Working Group; Related Web cast Archives.


The Pakistan Adopted Universal Periodic Review with reports is available by opening this link:


The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. UPR Introduction and News:


National Reports for the Universal Periodic Review seldom has enough information to assess progress on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –Everyone has the right to freedom of religion or belief, and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.


The Tandem Project focus is on Article 18 and 1981 UN Declaration. Recommendations based on The Tandem Project Follow-up are sent to civil society, non-governmental organizations and others many of whom have submitted stakeholder letters for a Universal Periodic Review.




(1) Develop a model local-national-international integrated approach to human rights and freedom of religion or belief, appropriate to legal systems and cultures of each country, as follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review. Example: 1 (2) Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief for inclusive and genuine dialogue and for protection against discrimination. 2 (3) Use the standards on freedom of religion or belief in education curricula and places of worship, “teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and that it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.” 3


1: Example: Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief


2: Standards: & (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4):


3: Piet de Klerk, Ambassador At-Large of the Netherlands on Human Rights, 25 year Anniversary of 1981 UN Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Prague, Czech Republic.



The government of Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council speaks for itself and at times for the 57 UN member states that belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), one of only two religious organizations (the other the Holy See) with permanent observer status with the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly. In 2007 Pakistan and the OIC while supportive of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, abstained on a vote by the Council (A/HRC/RES/6/37) extending the mandate by three years, because the resolution touched “concerns of fundamental importance to the members of the OIC,” urging states to guarantee the right to “change one’s religion or belief.” Portugal speaking before the vote said it had “no other option than bringing the draft to a vote, but pledged to take up negotiations again; hoping consensus on the issue could be re-established soon” (Attachment). 


The UN Human Rights Council must continue negotiations on this core religious-political issue to build consensus between international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief and fundamental concerns of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Pakistan following their Universal Periodic Review should increase dialogue with Pakistani civil society on issues in their constitution and legal penal codes, the blasphemy laws and apostasy, not in compliance with international law on freedom of religion or belief. Violence, intolerance and discrimination at the local level, especially in rural areas in Pakistan are reflected in the Stakeholder letters and the US State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom on Pakistan. These are sensitive and incendiary issues based on deeply-held religious beliefs and local customs requiring a long-term commitment to education by the Pakistan government to build awareness, understanding and acceptance at the national and local level with international standards on freedom of religion or belief. These issues set the tone for The Tandem Project Follow-up based on General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights available at:


Disclaimer: Information on government and non-governmental websites is for public distribution unless not permitted by copyright. Recommendations are opinions of The Tandem Project and are not endorsed by governments and non-governmental organizations to which they are addressed.


List: Stakeholder’s Submissions for Pakistan Universal Periodic Review.


National Commission for Justice and Peace: This is a joint Stakeholder submission prepared by civil society organizations working in Pakistan who, in the words of the submission, “believe in the destiny of the people of Pakistan as an honorable, peaceful and responsible nation.” The draft was prepared through a consultative process, meetings and feedback and jointly submitted by these civil society organizations: Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, Aurat Foundation, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Lok Sangat, National Commission for Justice and Peace, Democratic Commission for Human Development, Pakistan Forum for Social Democracy and Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO). Several Human Rights NGOs in Pakistan agreed with the substance of the submission but were not co-signers. Stakeholder Letter:  


  • Recommendation: Civil society and human rights organizations working in Pakistan for justice and peace do not need advice from outside NGOs on how to change national laws and local cultures to be in compliance with international law on freedom or religion or belief. The Tandem Project Follow-up encourages them in their own way to develop model national and local integrated approaches to dialogue and education on freedom of religion or belief. In Pakistan a first priority for minority religions, human rights workers and human rights defenders is safety as they work with the Pakistan government on follow-up to the Pakistan Universal Periodic Review. Safety is a threshold that must be met if reconciliation with international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief is to move forward.         

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm “protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. They are nonprofit, nonpartisan, and interfaith. The Becket Fund operates in three arenas: the courts of law (litigation), the court of public opinion (media), and in the academy (scholarship), at home and abroad (international).” The Becket Fund is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Stakeholder letter.

Institute on Religion and Public Policy: The Institute for Religion and Public Policy is an “international, inter-religious nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring freedom of religion as the foundation for security, stability and democracy. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Washington D.C., the Institute recognizes that religious freedom is more than just a church-state issue. As such, the Institute engages every segment of society to protect humankind’s most basic fundament right: freedom of religion or belief.” Stakeholder letter.

·         Recommendation: The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Institute on Religion and Public Policy submitted Stakeholder letters for Pakistan Universal Periodic Review. These two Washington D.C. NGO’s focus on religious liberty issues from legal and public policy perspectives. Based in the United States, they can play a unique education role for the Pakistan Universal Periodic Review follow-up encouraging the government of the United States of America, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, to support consensus building on everyone’s right to choose a religion or belief with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Pakistan government. The United States Universal Periodic Review will be held by the UN Human Rights Council in December 2010. To help prepare for this Review, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Institute on Religion and Public Policy may want to consider The Tandem Project Follow-up or their own integrated approaches at national and local levels to international law on the right to freedom of religion or belief in the United States. Example: Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief

Amnesty International:


Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Amnesty International recipient of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize has won many awards for human rights. Amnesty International Stakeholder letter:


  • Recommendation: the Amnesty International focus is on prisoners of conscience and a wide range of human rights issues. In the Stakeholder submission letter on Pakistan they take issue with “vaguely defined blasphemy laws that have been consistently misused to persecute members of religious minorities, including Ahmadis and Christians, and to prevent them from practicing or preaching their beliefs…The organization regards those charged, tried and convicted for blasphemy, when they sought to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression or religious belief, as prisoners of conscience.” Amnesty International USA is the U.S. Section of Amnesty International. Amnesty International and the U.S. section may want to consider a joint education effort with the Pakistan government to follow-up their Universal Periodic Review to amend national legislation to prevent misuse of blasphemy laws at national and local levels, and ways jointly to support and prepare the United States government for its own Universal Periodic Review in December 2010.    




Source: U.S. State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom Report; Pakistan

1. Pakistan - Religious Demography

The country has an area of 310,527 square miles and a population of 168 million. Official figures on religious demography, based on the most recent census, taken in 1998, showed that approximately 96 percent of the population was Muslim. Groups comprising 2 percent of the population or less include Hindus, Christians, and others including Ahmadis. The majority of Muslims in the country are Sunni, with a Shi'a minority ranging between 10 to 20 percent. Parsis (Zoroastrians), Sikhs, and Buddhists each had approximately 20,000 adherents, while the Baha'i claimed 30,000. Some tribes in Baluchistan and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) practiced traditional animist religions.

Less than 0.5 percent of the population was silent on religion or claimed not to adhere to a particular religious group. Social pressure was such that few persons would claim no religious affiliation.

2. Pakistan - Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion. It also declares that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely; however, in reality the Government imposes limits on freedom of religion, particularly on Ahmadis.

A 1974 constitutional amendment declares Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. Section 298(c), commonly referred to as the "anti-Ahmadi laws," prohibits Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, referring to their faith as Islam, preaching or propagating their faith, inviting others to accept the Ahmadi faith, or insulting the religious feelings of Muslims. The punishment for violation of the section is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine. Other religious communities were generally free to observe their religious obligations; however, religious minorities are legally restricted from public display of certain religious images and, due to discriminatory legislation and social pressure, are often afraid to profess their religion freely.

Freedom of speech is subject to "reasonable" restrictions in the interests of the "glory of Islam." The consequences for contravening the country's blasphemy laws are death for defiling Islam or its prophets; life imprisonment for defiling, damaging, or desecrating the Qur'an; and 10 years' imprisonment for insulting another's religious feelings. These laws are often used to settle personal scores as well as to intimidate reform-minded Muslims, sectarian opponents, and religious minorities. Under the Anti-Terrorist Act, any action, including speech, intended to stir up religious hatred is punishable by up to 7 years of imprisonment. Under the act, bail is not to be granted if the judge has reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is guilty; however, the law is applied selectively.

In addition, any speech or conduct that injures another's religious feelings, including those of minority religious groups, is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment. However, in cases where the religious feelings of a minority religion were insulted, the blasphemy laws were rarely enforced and cases rarely brought to the legal system. A 2005 law requires that a senior police official investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint is filed.

The Penal Code ostensibly incorporates a number of Islamic law (Shari'a) provisions. The judicial system encompasses several different court systems with overlapping and sometimes competing jurisdictions that reflect differences in civil, criminal, and Islamic jurisprudence. The federal Shari'a court and the Shari'a bench of the Supreme Court serve as appellate courts for certain convictions in criminal court under the Hudood Ordinances; judges and attorneys in these courts must be Muslim. The federal Shari'a court may overturn any legislation judged to be inconsistent with the tenets of Islam. In March 2005, in a blow to the power of the Shariat appellate benches, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, issuing a stay in the Mukhtaran Mai rape case, ruled that the federal Shari'a court had no jurisdiction to review a decision by a provincial high court even if the federal Shari'a court should have had initial appellate jurisdiction.

3. Pakistan - Restrictions on Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Government used anti-Ahmadi laws to target and harass Ahmadis. The vague wording of the provision that forbids Ahmadis from directly or indirectly posing as Muslims enabled officials to bring charges against Ahmadis for using the standard Muslim greeting form and for naming their children Muhammad. The Ahmadi community claimed that during the period covered by this report, 28 Ahmadis faced criminal charges under religious laws or because of their faith: 4 under the blasphemy laws, 17 under Ahmadi-specific laws, and 7 under other laws but motivated by their Ahmadi faith.

At the end of April 2006, four Ahmadis were in prison on blasphemy charges; one was in prison and two more were out on bail facing murder charges that the Ahmadiyya community claimed were falsely brought due to their religious beliefs. Seven more criminal cases, ranging from murder to destruction of property, were filed against prominent members of the Ahmadi community during the reporting period. The cases remained unprosecuted and the accused were allowed to post bail.

Ahmadis continued to be arrested for preaching their faith. In July 2006 four Ahmadis were arrested in Sialkot District under the anti-Ahmadi laws for preaching.

In August 2006 Mian Mohammed Yar was charged under the anti-Ahmadi laws on the charge of preaching. He was the president of the local Ahmadi community.

Since 1983 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding public conferences or gatherings, they have been denied permission to hold their annual conference. Ahmadis were banned from preaching and were prohibited from traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or other religious pilgrimages. Ahmadi publications were banned from public sale, but they published religious literature in large quantities for a limited circulation.

While the Constitution guarantees the right to establish places of worship and train clergy, in practice Ahmadis suffered from restrictions on this right. According to press reports, authorities continued to conduct surveillance on Ahmadis and their institutions. Several Ahmadi mosques reportedly were closed; others reportedly were desecrated or had their construction stopped.

Public pressure routinely prevented courts from protecting minority rights. These same pressures forced justices to take strong action against any perceived offense to Sunni orthodoxy. Discrimination against religious minorities was rarely placed before the judiciary. Courts would be unlikely to act objectively in such cases. Resolving cases was very slow; there was generally a long period between filing the case and the first court appearance. Lower courts were frequently intimidated, delayed decisions, and refused bail for fear of reprisal from extremist elements. Bail in blasphemy cases was usually denied by original trial courts, arguing that since defendants faced the death penalty, they were likely to flee. Many defendants appealed the denial of bail, but bail was often not granted in advance of the trial.

4. Pakistan - Societal Abuse and Discrimination

Relations between the country's religious communities remained tense. Violence against religious minorities and between Muslim sects continued. Most believed that a small minority were responsible for attacks; however, discriminatory laws and the teaching of religious intolerance created a permissive environment for attacks. Police often refused to prevent violence and harassment or refused to charge persons who commit such offenses.

Mobs occasionally attacked individuals accused of blasphemy, their family, or their religious community prior to their arrest. When blasphemy and other religious cases were brought to court, extremists often packed the courtroom and made public threats against an acquittal. Religious extremists continued to threaten to kill those acquitted of blasphemy charges. High-profile accused persons often went into hiding or emigrated after acquittal.

On April 8, 2007, local extremists tortured and killed Chaudhry Habibullah Sial, an 82-year old Ahmadi man who was using his home as a prayer center for Ahmadis.

On March 1, 2007, a former police officer killed Mohammed Ashraf, an Ahmadi, because Ashraf changed his religion from Sunni to Ahmadi. The killer claimed to have done nothing wrong and that he followed Islamic law, since apostasy is punishable by death.

In November 2006 two Ahmadi men in Bagar Sargana were attacked by a mob on their way home after Friday prayers.

In October 2006 an Ahmadi imam at a mosque in Chawinda was attacked in his apartment in the mosque complex.

In September 2006 Professor Abdul Basit, an Ahmadi, was attacked in his home in Dera Ghazi Khan.

On August 22, 2006, Munawwar Ahmad Sahib, an Ahmadi, was killed by two gunmen in his home in Gujrat.

In August 2006 an Ahmadi youth, Etzaz Ahmad, was attacked in the shop where he worked as an apprentice. The attacker said he was trying to kill an infidel.

Ahmadi individuals and institutions long have been victims of religious violence, much of which organized religious extremists instigated. Ahmadi leaders charged that in previous years militant Sunni mullahs and their followers staged sometimes violent anti-Ahmadi marches through the streets of Rabwah, a predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center in central Punjab. Backed by crowds of between 100 and 200 persons, the mullahs reportedly denounced Ahmadis and their founder, a situation that sometimes led to violence. The Ahmadis claimed that police generally were present during these marches but did not intervene to prevent violence. In contrast with the previous report, there were no such reports during this reporting period.

Violence against and harassment of Christians continued during the period covered by this report. Many Christians, descended from low-cast Hindu ancestors, faced discrimination more for ethnic and social reasons than religious.

Source: U.S. State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom Report; Pakistan

Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.


Documents Attached:


Pakistan - Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief

UN Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief Adopted Without Consensus



United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.”


Genuine dialogue on human rights and freedom of religion or belief calls for respectful discourse, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive dialogue includes people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The warning signs are clear, unless there is genuine dialogue ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism; conflicts in the future will probably be even more deadly.


In 1968 the UN deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance because of its complexity and sensitivity. Violence, suffering and discrimination based on religion or belief in many parts of the world is greater than ever. It is time for a UN Working Group to draft what they deferred in 1968, a comprehensive core international human rights treaty-a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. United Nations History – Freedom of Religion or Belief


The challenge to religions or beliefs at all levels is awareness, understanding and acceptance of international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief. Leaders, teachers and followers of all religions or beliefs, with governments, are keys to test the viability of inclusive and genuine dialogue in response to the UN Secretary General’s urgent call for constructive and committed dialogue.  


The Tandem Project title, Separation of Religion or Belief and State (SOROBAS), reflects the far-reaching scope of UN General Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4). The General Comment on Article 18 is a guide to international human rights law for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts:


Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.


The Tandem Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.


The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the

Economic and Social Council of the United Nations