A member of Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi community was stabbed to death in central Punjab province Friday after refusing to chant slogans in praise of a far-right Islamic party.
Police identified the victim as 62-year-old Naseer Ahmad, saying they immediately took the assailant into custody. The fatal attack happened in Rabwah, home to the country’s long-persecuted minority community.
The chief spokesman for the minority group said the victim was waiting at the city’s main bus stop to travel to a graveyard to pay his respects, a ritual for many Ahmadis.
Saleem ud Din said a “religious fanatic” approached and asked Ahmad to raise slogans of a radical Islamic party. He repeatedly attacked Ahmad “with a dagger and killed him for not chanting the slogans,” he added.
The deceased was an active community member, the spokesman added, confirming the assailant had been arrested. Police officials said they had launched an investigation into the fatal stabbing incident.
Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim, but the Pakistani parliament declared them to be non-Muslim in 1974 and further amended its laws in 1984 to prohibit community members from “indirectly or directly posing as Muslims.” The minority sect is also barred from declaring or propagating its faith publicly and building places of worship in Pakistan.
The restrictions, critics say, have fomented both social and legal persecution of the community, leading to the killing of scores of Ahmadis across Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country of about 220 million.
The minority group blames radical Islamic leaders for often publicly denouncing Ahmadis and promising that their killing will earn a place in heaven.
Local and international rights groups have regularly expressed concern about the persecution of Ahmadis and criticized successive Pakistani governments for not doing enough to protect them.
“These repressive laws and policies largely contribute to the systemic and societal discrimination against Ahmadiyya [Ahmadi] Muslims in Pakistan — discrimination that government officials often publicly support and enflame,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said last week.
The independent bipartisan U.S. government entity, which monitors and reports on threats to religious freedom, said that Pakistani hardline clerics, religious groups, politicians and political parties often use anti-Ahmadi laws as a rallying point.
“Officials’ use of fiery language incites violence and harassment of Ahmadis, including targeted killings, desecration of graves, demolition of Ahmadiyya mosques, unofficial boycotts of businesses, hate speech including from government officials, and online harassment,” it said.
Pakistan is often under fire for crimes against members of its religious minorities, including Christians, Ahmadi and Shi’ite Muslims, and Hindus.