Gunmen in northwestern Pakistan have shot dead a member of the Ahmadi religious minority, which critics describe as one of the most persecuted communities in the majority-Muslim nation.
Local police confirmed the Sunday morning fatal shooting in a rural part of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, saying an investigation was under way to arrest the assailants.
Officials identified the slain man as Mehboob Ahmed Khan, an 82-year-old retired government officer. No one immediately claimed responsibility.
“Khan was waiting for his bus to return to his home in Peshawar after visiting his daughter when this act of violence occurred,” Saleem-ud Din, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, told, VOA.
He denounced the attack, saying Khan was “killed because of his faith” and noted that four members of the Ahmadi community have been killed in Peshawar in as many months.
Last month, a professor from the Ahmadi sect was shot dead in the city a day after he allegedly had a heated discussion with a Muslim professor over a religious matter.
Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but believe that a prophet came after the Prophet Muhammad, who in Islam is revered as the last of God’s messengers.
Human rights groups say an estimated 4 million Ahmadis in Pakistan, a country of 220 million, have faced death, intimidation and a sustained hate campaign for decades.
The Pakistani parliament declared the community to be non-Muslim in 1974 and further amended its laws in 1984 to prohibit Ahmadis from “indirectly or directly posing as Muslims.” They are also barred from declaring or propagating their faith publicly and building worship places in Pakistan.
The restrictions, critics say, have since led to the killings of scores of Ahmadis across the country. The group blames radical Islamic leaders for often publicly denouncing Ahmadis and promising their killing earns the killer a place in heaven.
“We hope that the government will not abandon the peace-loving, patriotic, innocent, and law-abiding Ahmadis at the mercy of these terrorists and hate mongers,” spokesman Saleem-ud Din reiterated Sunday.
Human Rights Watch said in a recent statement that Pakistani authorities routinely arrest, jail and charge Ahmadis for blasphemy and other offenses because of their religious beliefs.
“In several instances, the police have been complicit in harassment and filing of false charges against Ahmadis or stood by in the face of anti-Ahmadi violence,” the global watchdog alleged.