In a response to the Chair of the Bar of England and Wales, the Chair of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has signalled that there must be no restrictions on Ahmadi Muslims practising as lawyers in Pakistan.

The clarification that a bar on Ahmadi Muslims would be unconstitutional has been issued after Nick Vineall KC, the then Chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales, wrote to the PBC in May 2023 to raise serious concerns that Ahmadi Muslims were being asked to renounce their religion in order to practise at the Bar.

These concerns were raised after notices were issued by the District Bar Association of Gujranwala and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council stating 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.

Following the Chair of the Bar of England and Wales’ intervention, the PBC discussed the matter and received a response from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council.

In a letter to Sam Townend KC, Chair of the Bar of England and Wales, in January, Hassan Raza Pasha, then Chair of the PBC Executive Committee, explained that the Committee considered the matter in the light of the Constitution of Pakistan and: “It was decided that the Resolutions passed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council and the District Bar Association, Gujranwala, have no legal value which is against the spirit of the Constitution of Pakistan. Therefore, no one can impose restriction and seek such like declaration in future.”

Sam Townend KC has now written to the new PBC Chair Farooq Hamid Naek to ask for further clarification that Ahmadi Muslim lawyers cannot be required to denounce their faith in order to be called to the Bar, presently or in future.

Commenting on the developments, Sam Townend KC said: “It appears that the Pakistan Bar Council agrees with our interpretation that any measures that exclude Ahmadi Muslims and non-Muslims from the Bar would be impossible to reconcile with Pakistan’s constitutional principles of religious freedom and equality before the law.

“We welcome the clarification that the notices issued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gujranwala have no legal value. This is a positive sign.

“Given the specific concerns we initially raised, we are now seeking further written clarification that Ahmadi Muslims will not be required to denounce their faith or the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad anywhere in Pakistan, and that this has been communicated to all district Bars and associations.”

Download the Bar Council letter