Who are the Pakistani Muslims

main menu

Pakistan was originally intended as a secular, liberal-democratic state by its state founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Since the adoption of its constitution in 1956, Pakistan has defined itself as "Islamic Republic"and has become Islamized over the decades since. Religious intolerance is widespread in Pakistan.

Islam is enshrined in the constitution as the state religion. The state and government are called upon to enable the country's Muslims to lead an Islamic way of life and to give them the opportunity to learn the fundamental values ​​of the Koran. The interpretation of this mandate has been different among different governments. The strict interpretation of Islamic values ​​and their forced implementation under General Zia-ul Haq (1977-88) shape the debate about the type and function of religious laws in Pakistani society to this day.

The sustainable development of a liberal democracy with an effective rule of law and protection of human rights is still hindered by religious extremism, corruption, the strong position of the military, the influence of feudal and tribal structures in politics and society, as well as a partially persistent caste system. Courts are overloaded, so that the judiciary is often unable to protect human rights effectively. In rural areas, poor wage laborers and farmers make up the majority of the population, some of whom live heavily dependent on large landowners.

The problem is the situation of religious minorities, who are affected by social and societal discrimination despite calls to the contrary from the government and the military, especially Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis classified as non-Muslim by the state are often underprivileged and exploited through forced labor and bonded labor and discriminated. A threat, albeit a declining one, comes from militant Sunni fundamentalist organizations, especially against Shiites, Ahmadis, Christians and Sikhs, but also against moderate Sunnis.


Demographic proportions of religious communities

96 percent of the population (207.8 million inhabitants, according to the 2017 census) are Muslim. The majority of them are Sunni (80-85 percent), another 15-20 percent are Shiite. The Ahmadis currently have around 500,000 members. In addition to around 3 million Hindus, an estimated 2.8 million Christians live in Pakistan, as well as a number of Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists and Bahá'ís that cannot be precisely quantified.


Legal situation

Pakistan ratified the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN Civil Covenant) on June 23, 2010, albeit with broad reservations with reference to Sharia law. Germany - in agreement with a large number of its Western partners - raised objections to these reservations. In relation to Germany, the provisions of the civil pact to which Pakistan's reservations relate do not apply to the extent provided therein.

In the preamble, the constitution guarantees, at least in principle, religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities. However, Article 20, for example, makes freedom of belief and religious practice subject to legal reservation. A number of laws and regulations are restrictive or discriminatory to varying degrees. Sharia law is one of the sources of law in Pakistan. According to the constitution, the president and the prime minister must be Muslim. The oath that members of the National Assembly, the Senate and the government have to take obliges them to protect the ideology of Islam.

The Ahmadiyya religious community is not recognized as Muslim by Muslim clergy in Pakistan. When the constitution was amended in 1974, this doctrine became a constitutional principle. The Ahmadis are granted the status of a religious minority by law, but at the same time they are expressly forbidden to describe themselves as Muslims or to behave as such. These The "excommunication" of the Ahmadis is unique in Islamic history and is viewed by many intellectuals as a dangerous precedent, especially in Pakistan. Ahmadis are the only religious minority to be listed on a separate electoral roll. But they are not represented in parliament because they see themselves as Muslim and therefore do not run for the list of the parties for non-Muslim minorities.

The Blasphemy Legislation of Pakistani criminal law is among the strictest in the world and enjoys great support from the overwhelming part of Pakistani society. It was originally introduced under British colonial rule to protect the various religions from one another, but since the reign of military dictator Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s, it has been systematically expanded and used ever more prominently under the influence of Arab Wahhabism. For example, Section 295c of the Pakistani Penal Code stipulates that denigrating the Prophet Mohammed - regardless of intent - is punishable by death. Insulting religious beliefs and desecrating the Koran are subject to life imprisonment. A change or abolition of the blasphemy legislation is not expected in the short or medium term.

"Apostasy" In contrast to other Islamic countries, it is legally permitted, even if it is frowned upon in Pakistani society, also because Sharia regards "apostasy" as a grave misconduct. People who turn away from Islam or change their respective Muslim faith generally do not represent this Conversely, social pressure or blackmail force members of religious minorities to convert to Islam (e.g. in the context of kidnapping underage girls who are members of religious minorities).

Missionary activity is generally not forbidden as long as there is no preaching against Islam and the missionaries make it clear that they are not Muslim. According to Section 298c of the Criminal Code, Ahmadis' missionary activity is expressly prohibited and can be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years.


Restrictions on freedom of religion and belief by state actors

Religious minorities are still disadvantaged in education, business and professional life: 80 percent of the Pakistani minority population live below the poverty line. The influence of feudal structures and caste systems forces many members of minorities into forced labor and debt bondage, sometimes with slave-like conditions.

The Blasphemy Act is often misused for personal gain. This often involves disputes between neighbors or business people and, above all, disputes over property. This often affects Muslims as well, although religious minorities are more often than not. The government and Islamist hardliners used the blasphemy laws to intimidate and restrict public discourse. However, the state continues to refrain from executing persons sentenced to death for blasphemy. The Pakistani Supreme Court counted 62 cases of lynching on blasphemy allegations since 1990 in October 2018. The acquittal of Christian farm worker Asia Bibi, convicted of blasphemy in 2010, on October 31, 2018, led to protests across the country. The security forces quickly took care of these. The acquittal for Asia Bibi also shows the advocacy of the highest judiciary against the abuse of blasphemy allegations. Asia Bibi was able to leave the country in May 2019.


Social conflicts with a religious component

A number of important ones social conflict is connected with a religious component: Already when Pakistan was founded 70 years ago and then also when East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) split off from West Pakistan (now Pakistan) in 1971, it became one in the "population exchange" going into the millions, to the flight and expulsion of Hindus and Muslims came.

Since the 1950s there have been repeated riots against members of the Pakistan Ahmadiyya-Religious community that was fueled by radical Islamist groups. The latest example: In May 2018, a mob led by radical Islamic clergy destroyed an Ahmadi mosque in Sialkot. In addition to the Christians, Ahmadis are more often victims of Pakistani blasphemy legislation and radical Sunni terrorism. In April 2018, the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami confessed to the murder of Ashfaq Ahmad, a professor emeritus at Lahore University and a member of the Ahmadiyya religious community.

Violence committed in the name of religion continues to lead to numerous deaths, even if the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has been falling significantly for years. In quantitative terms, most of the victims are Shiite and Sunni Muslims who are attacked by radical Sunni organizations or terrorist Islamists. The Taliban and other groups continue to carry out terrorist attacks, particularly in the provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The attacks are primarily aimed at military and police facilities. But victims are also political opponents of the Taliban, media representatives, religious minorities, Shiites and Muslims who do not follow the Taliban's strictly conservative interpretation of Islam, such as the Sufis. They regularly confess to attacks on Shiites radical Sunni, anti-Shiite terrorist organizationn Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has recently been significantly decimated by Pakistani security forces. The Pakistani think tank Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) counted 38 deaths from religious-intra-denominational violence in 2019, compared with 51 (2018) and 74 (2017) in previous years.

The Christian minority is discriminated less by state laws than by the behavior of the majority society and is also a victim of religiously motivated violence. Discrimination in business, education and the labor market is widespread. There is almost no Christian middle class, but a broad lower class that makes do with casual work. In the country, the majority of people of Christian faith are simple tenants in a relationship of dependency on large landowners, which features of Forced labor and bondage and sometimes slave-like employment. While the majority of Pakistani Christians cannot get out of poverty, the small Christian upper class often leaves the country.

Much like the vast majority of Christians belong the Hindus mostly economically particularly underprivileged groups. Most Hindus live in the feudal southern province of Sindh in exploitative working relationships with their respective large landowners. They receive little attention from official bodies and are under general suspicion of spying and "fifth column of India" to be. About 80 percent of Hindu women do not have an identity card and are therefore de facto excluded from the right to vote. Quite a few Hindu or Christian young women are victims of kidnappings and subsequent forced conversion to Islam. One positive development is the Hindu Marriage Act 2017, which came into force in 2018. The law codifies marriage law and the registration of marriages among Hindus.

Human rights organizations as well as Hindus and Christians alike welcome these legislative changes.