Lahore: Pakistan`s human rights commission has claimed that government officials and clerics have refused to provide shelter to around 500 families of the minority Ahmedi sect, who were rendered homeless by the devastating floods that swept Punjab province.
The affected Ahmedi families belong to Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur districts, which are among the areas worst hit by the unprecedented floods.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said there were reports of relief goods not being provided to the Ahmedi families and expulsion of displaced members of the sect from a relief camp in a government school in Dera Ghazi Khan and rented lodgings elsewhere in southern Punjab following "pressure" from Muslim clerics.
The clerics issued edicts that flood-affected Ahmedis must not be provided help, the HRCP claimed.
"We demand distribution of relief goods and extension of other support to the affected people without any discrimination on the basis of faith or gender.”
"The fact that Ahmedis are a vulnerable community on account of their religious beliefs must lead to specific assistance and protection measures for them, including protection of lives and property," the HRCP said.
The rights body said it hoped that all available relief would be distributed "among those in need without discrimination on the basis of religious belief”.
It would be a "greater tragedy than the devastation caused by the floods if people cannot find enough humanity and compassion in their hearts to rise above personal biases to help fellow human beings," it said.
Over 1,700 people were killed and 20 million affected by the floods.
While Ahmedis consider themselves Muslim, they were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan in 1974, and in 1984 they were legally barred from proselytising or identifying themselves as Muslims.
Some 1.5 million Ahmedis live across Pakistan.