Outcry in Pakistan as lawyers' group asks members to declare faith


A lawyers' association in Pakistan has triggered criticism by asking its Muslim members to submit a certificate of faith declaring belief in the finality of the prophet Muhammad.

The move by the Islamabad Bar Association (IBA) seeking declarations by the end of this month was condemned on social media, featured in TV talk shows and opposed by its members.

The purpose of the declarations is to "identify" the members of the Ahmadiyya community, considered non-Muslims by Pakistan's constitution, Malik Zafar Khokhar, president of the IBA told journalists on Monday.

Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a senator and member of the bar, said that the move had buried the nation's vision for a secular state "in heaps of paranoia, intolerance and bigotry." The senator also refused to submit the certificate.

"We are facing pressure but will not surrender," Malik Zafar Khokhar said. Membership of non-compliant members, more than 2,000 out of 3,000 total members will be suspended, he said.

"The bar has nothing to do with my religious beliefs," said Rizwan Khan, a lawyer from the capital.

The Ahmadiyya community call themselves Muslim, but were declared non-Muslims by Pakistan's constitution in 1974. Muslims consider the prophet Muhammad the last in a long line of prophets, but Ahmadiyya think there was one more after him, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed.

Not only the Ahmadiyya community, but people seen sympathising with them, also face threats, violence and mob attacks.

Pakistan's justice minister had to resign in 2017 after followers of a radical cleric accused him of blasphemy for changes in an electoral law in a way that they perceived as softening the official stance towards the Ahmadiyya.    (dpa)

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