The Bar Council is profoundly concerned by recent announcements in parts of Pakistan that Ahmadi Muslims lawyers must renounce their religion in order to practise at the Bar. Both the District Bar Association of Gujranwala and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council issued notices that anyone applying for admittance to the Bar must positively assert they are Muslim and denounce the teachings of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan enshrines the principles of religious freedom and equality before the law and it is difficult to see how the notices can be consistent with that principle.

Nick Vineall KC, Chair of the Bar of England and Wales, has written to the chair of the Pakistan Bar Council requesting that action be taken to remedy this discrimination against Ahmadi Muslims and non-Muslims.

According to news reports from The Friday Times, Ahmadi Muslims have also faced physical attacks in court. In a judgment from the High Court of Sindh Karachi, Omar Sial J. said: “Not only an attempt was made to intimidate the court and interfere in the smooth administration of justice, but a lawyer… was physically abusive towards… one of the learned counsel for the applicant. […] This was simply unacceptable behaviour and conduct and must necessarily be condemned by the Bar Associations and Councils.”

Commenting, Chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales Nick Vineall KC, said:

“There is understandably a huge amount of international political focus on Pakistan at the moment. Amid these wider concerns over democratic processes, we have been alerted to the specific concerns of Ahmadi Muslim lawyers who are facing discrimination in being denied the right to practise at the Bar because of their religion.

“The decisions taken in Gujranwala and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to exclude Ahmadi Muslims and non-Muslims from the Bar – and by extension, potentially excluding citizens from access to legal representation – are intentionally discriminatory and seem impossible to reconcile with Pakistan’s constitutional principles of religious freedom and equality before the law.

“We are urging the Bar Council of Pakistan, as the overarching body, to take action.”