The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has expressed concern about reports that members of a minority community in Pakistan are being required to renounce their religion in order to practise law.
The human-rights group described the demands being made of lawyers belonging to the Ahmadiyya community as “a flagrant violation of their right to freedom of religion or belief”.
The IBAHRI also noted news reports that Ahmadi Muslim lawyers had also faced physical attacks in court on account of their faith.
The Ahmadi community identify as Muslim, but it is a crime for them to do so under Pakistan’s constitution.
According to the IBAHRI, two regional bar associations in Pakistan have recently announced that any applicant must positively assert that they are Muslim, and denounce the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
The organisation said that this requirement was contrary to international legal standards, and specifically the right to freedom of religion or belief in articles 18 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
“Pakistan ratified the ICCPR in 2010 and, as such, is bound by its provisions,” the IBAHRI stated.
Mark Stephens (IBAHRI co-chair) said: “It is clear from the blatantly unfair treatment of the Ahmadiyya community that Pakistan is far from affirming and implementing international protections.
“The Ahmadis are being squeezed out of civic and public spaces by constant restrictions, and such treatment must be brought to a halt,” he added.
The IBAHRI said that members of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan were often subject to what it described as Pakistan’s “draconian” blasphemy laws.
It added that members of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan were also prevented from utilising several services, purely because of their religious identity.