ISLAMABAD: Eleven Pakistani members of the Ahmadi religious minority were murdered for their faith in 2014 and authorities failed to apprehend any of the killers, a report said Monday, highlighting growing intolerance toward the sect.
The figure represents a rise on seven killings the year before, with the report blaming growing hate speech in conferences and the media.
Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani government in 1974 because of their belief in a prophet after Muhammad. They are frequent victims of discrimination and violent assaults, but it is rare for militants to be convicted for attacks against them.
In the worst case of violence last year, an angry mob torched an Ahmadi neighbourhood in the eastern city of Gujranwala, killing a woman and two girls after a 17-year-old Ahmadi boy allegedly posted a blasphemous picture on Facebook.
The boy remains in custody over the incident, the report said, though none of the attackers were ever brought to justice.
In May, gunmen shot dead an American heart surgeon, Mehdi Ali, who was visiting Pakistan on a charity mission in Sindh.
The report, drawn up by the main Ahmadi community group, claimed a link between inflammatory media coverage and violence.
It noted an episode of a religious show by broadcaster Aamir Liaquat Hussain on the popular Geo News channel which blamed “Ahmadis, Jews and the US “for a Taliban massacre at a school in Peshawar. Five days after it was aired, another Ahmadi was murdered.
Rabia Mehmood, a researcher on minorities at the Jinnah Institute think tank, said that rising anti-Ahmadi sentiments were linked to the overall rising levels of religious extremism in the country, which has been experiencing a homegrown Islamist insurgency for more than a decade.
“There has been a sharp rise in the number of hate conferences organised against Ahmadis, which have helped normalise hatred and bigotry among the general population,” she said.
In 2010, Taliban gunmen stormed two Ahmadi mosques, killing more than 90 people in the worst ever attack on the community.
Since that time, many Ahmadis have taken to hiding their identity in public or have fled the country, said Mustafa Qadri, a researcher for Amnesty International.
“No group faces more persecution, more discrimination, and is more at risk than Ahmadis, in law and in practice,” he said.