Date: November 6, 2023
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is troubled by reports of increased detainment, violence, and intimidation against the Ahmadiyya and Afghan refugee communities in Pakistan. Over the last several weeks, Pakistani officials have called for the repatriation of “illegal migrants,” including 1.7 million Afghan refugees who lack documentation. Authorities have reportedly conducted raids and established deportation centers to hold individuals who do not voluntarily return to their country of origin.
“We are particularly concerned that the Pakistani government may forcibly return to Afghanistan religious minorities who fled persecution,” said USCIRF Commissioner David Curry. “Under Taliban rule, Christians, Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Sikhs cannot freely practice their religious beliefs in Afghanistan. The U.S. government must continue to engage with Pakistani officials to press them to reconsider this policy decision.”
Throughout 2023, incidents targeting the Ahmadiyya community have increased. Despite an August ruling by the Lahore High Court mandating that Ahmadiyya mosques built before 1984 cannot be destroyed or altered, government and nonstate actors continue to vandalize structures, prevent the construction of minarets, and erase the public display of Qur’anic verses. Members of the community continue to be detained on blasphemy charges and are denied equal voting rights in local, provincial, and national elections unless they renounce their faith.
“We are alarmed by the number of attacks on places of worship and arrests of Ahmadiyya Muslims and their leaders simply for practicing their faith. We call on the Pakistani government to ensure that the Lahore High Court’s ruling is observed,” said USCIRF Commissioner Susie Gelman. “All citizens should have equal access to vote regardless of whatever religion they profess to follow, particularly as the country prepares for the upcoming general elections.”
In its 2023 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. Department of State redesignate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a commissioner, please contact USCIRF at