Pakistan school expels 4 Ahmadi students for ‘their faith’

Four students belonging to the Ahmadi community were expelled from a school for “their faith” in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Friday, the latest incident of discrimination against members of the minority community.

Pakistan’s Parliament in 1974 declared the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims. A decade later, they were banned from calling themselves Muslims. They are banned from preaching and from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.

“Four students Huzaifa Nasir, Aneela Aqib, Abeer Ahmad Saifi and Nimra Qureshi of Grade III, VI, IX and X respectively have been expelled by the administration of the school (Educators) for their faith in Attock city (some 400 km from Lahore),” Jamaat-e-Ahmadiya Punjab spokesperson Amir Mahmood told PTI.

He said such incidents had taken place in the country in the past and it was unfortunate that the school in question told the parents of the children that “they have been expelled because of their faith”.

Mahmood said this was a “dangerous trend” set by the educational institutions. “Such a trend will hamper the studies of Ahmadi students in Pakistan,” he said.

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In the relieving letter, principal of the school Kulsoom Awan said: “The above students are being withdrawn from the school on the basis of Qadianiat (Ahmadi) religion.” The school administration said the expelled students were, otherwise, performing well in their studies.

According to an official, the school administration has taken the step on the complaints of some parents who said: “their children will not study in the class where Ahmadi students are present.” Minorities, especially Ahmadis, are very vulnerable in Pakistan and they are often targeted by religious extremists.

A 62-year-old man from the Ahmadi community was stabbed to death by a “religious fanatic” for refusing to praise a controversial cleric in Pakistan’s Punjab province last month.

Abdul Salam, a member of the Ahmadi community, was brutally stabbed to death apparently for his faith in May this year.

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Former military dictator Gen Zia-ul Haq had made it a punishable offence for Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslims or to refer to their faith as Islam.

In Pakistan, around 10 million out of the 220 million population are non-Muslims. According to the 2017 census, Hindus constitute the largest religious minority (5 million) in Pakistan.

Christians make up the second largest religious minority, with almost the same number (4.5 million) and their concentration is mostly in urban Sindh, Punjab and parts of Balochistan. The Ahmadis, Sikhs and Parsi are also among the notable religious minorities in Pakistan.

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