According to our sources and media reports, Ahmadiyya Muslims are once again deprived of their voting rights, at all levels, as Pakistan prepares for nationwide parliamentary elections in February 2024. 
The right to vote is a basic human right in a democracy. Ahmadis are denied this right by devious and discriminatory laws and rules in Pakistan. 
Discriminatory provisions in Pakistan’s electoral law effectively exclude members of the Ahmadiyya community because of their religious beliefs. To register as voters, Ahmadis must either renounce their faith or agree to be placed in a separate electoral list that categorizes them as “non-Muslim.” Self-identification as Muslims, however, is a cornerstone of Ahmadiyya religious belief. Because of this, Ahmadis, who number more than 500,000 in Pakistan, have in practice, been denied the right to vote in local, provincial, and national elections. 
In 2002, Pakistan abolished an electoral system in which Muslims and Non-Muslims registered and voted in separate categories. The government also created a separate category for Ahmadis. Since then, all Pakistani citizens vote according to a single electoral list except the Ahmadis, who vote on a separate list. 
Pakistan’s most recent elections law, the Elections Act 2017, retained those provisions regarding the status of the Ahmadis. Under Pakistani law, if someone objects to any voter being identified as non-Muslim, the election commission can summon the person to declare they are not Ahmadi, otherwise they are added to the non-Muslim list. Rather than deny their beliefs, most Ahmadis end up not voting at all. 
According to the 2018 report of the EU Electoral Observer Mission: “Although steps were taken to ensure participation of minorities in the electoral process, the situation of the Ahmadi community remains unchanged. They are still registered on a separate electoral roll, contrary to constitutional provisions on the equality of citizens and against international law.” 
Pakistan’s upcoming elections cannot be considered free and fair if an entire community is effectively excluded from the electoral process. Religious disagreements do not justify denying people their right to vote. Pakistani authorities should allow the full and equal participation of members of the Ahmadiyya community in the general elections and beyond. 
Such human rights violations contravene Article 25 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which protects citizens’ right to vote. The ICCPR expressly prevents distinctions being made on the grounds of religion. Pakistan has signed and agreed to abide by the ICCPR and by putting in place legislation which effectively prevents Ahmadi Muslims from voting, Pakistan acts in direct contravention of international law. This disenfranchisement has been repeatedly criticised by major international organisations including the UN Human Rights Council, the European Union, the State Department of USA, the Parliamentary Human Rights Groups of UK, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France and the Asian Human Rights Commission. 
 Human rights groups have repeatedly expressed their deep concern over the lack of attention to the serious human rights violations perpetrated against the Ahmadiyya community around the world and called on the international community to step up efforts in bringing an end to the ongoing persecution of Ahmadis. 
On July 13, 2021, UN human rights experts expressed their deep concern over the lack of attention to the serious human rights violations perpetrated against the Ahmadiyya community around the world and called on the international community to step up efforts in bringing an end to the ongoing persecution of Ahmadis. 
 We once again urge the international community to pressure the Government of Pakistan to honor its responsibility to provide equal rights for Ahmadis as all its citizens, ensure freedom of religious practice to Ahmadis. The Government of Pakistan must bring its laws and practices in conformity with international standards as ordained by Article 2, 18 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 25, 26.
Nasim Malik
General Secretary IHRC.
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