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Abdul Shakoor (RELEASED)

Country: Pakistan 

Key Fact: 82-year-old Ahmadi manager of a bookshop and optician store 

Detained Since: December 2, 2015. Abdul Shakoor was released on March 18, 2019.

Charges: Propagating the Ahmadiyya faith and stirring up “religious hatred” and “sectarianism”

Sentence: Three years in prison under the Penal Code for blasphemy and five years under the Anti-Terrorism Act on January 2, 2016

Biography: Abdul Shakoor was born February 2, 1937 in Qadian, India.  He is married and the father of five daughters and two sons.  

Before his arrest, Mr. Shakoor was the manager of an optician’s store and bookshop in the main bazaar of Rabwah (also known as Chenab Nagar), Punjab province, Pakistan. The population of the Ahmadiyya community in Rabwah is about 70,000 about 95 percent of the city’s total population. Many view the city as the de facto headquarters of Pakistan’s Ahmadiyya community. 

On December 2, 2015, officials from the Counter Terrorism Department of the Punjab Police and Pakistan’s Elite Force raided the bookshop Mr. Shakoor managed. He was arrested along with the shop’s assistant, Mazhar Abbas – a Shia Muslim – accused of selling an Ahmadiyya commentary on the Qur’an, among other publications. The officials confiscated Ahmadiyya publications during that raid and a later raid that took place on December 9. After their arrest, the two men were held in unknown locations and were not permitted to contact their families.

Mr. Shakoor’s trial was held in the Anti-Terrorism Court in Faisalabad, Punjab province, with the officers who raided the bookstore as the only witnesses. The prosecution entered into evidence a letter that was ostensibly recovered during the December 9 raid from the Ahmadiyya Director of Public Affairs to Mr. Shakoor notifying him that the Punjab province government had banned some Ahmadiyya literature and that he should neither display nor sell the banned literature. Ahmadiyya leaders assert that the prosecution fabricated the letter to support their story, noting that none of the literature cited in the letter was banned until January 20, 2016, after the trial’s conclusion. Mr. Shakoor contended during the trial and maintains the position that he did not distribute any of the literature listed, although he admits to being in possession of some of them.  However, possession of Ahmadiyya literature is not a crime in Pakistan.  

On January 2, 2016, Mr. Shakoor was given a five-year prison sentence for violating article 11-W of the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) which involves “printing, publishing, or disseminating any material to incite hatred.” He also was given a three-year sentence for violating article 298-C of the Pakistani Penal Code, for a total of eight years. (Section 298 of Pakistan’s Penal Code criminalizes acts and speech that insult a religion or religious beliefs or defile the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, a place of worship, or religious symbols.) Mazhar Abbas, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for violating article 11-W of the ATA. Mr. Shakoor filed a writ petition for bail and appeal against the verdict with the Lahore High Court. On multiple occasions, the Lahore High Court listed Mr. Shakoor’s appeal on the daily docket, but each time the case was postponed. The last postponed hearing date was believed to be June 22, 2017.  

Mr. Shakoor remains in prison and is suffering from a hernia and back pain.

USCIRF Advocate: Commissioner Johnnie Moore  


Article: Catholic News Agency -- US leaders tell persecuted believers: 'You are not alone' (April 6, 2017)

Related Reports & Briefs

2018 Annual Report Chapter on Pakistan
2018 Annual Report Chapter on Pakistan (Urdu Translation)
August 2014 Factsheet: Pakistan: Violence Towards Religious Communities in Pakistan


Press Release: USCIRF Welcomes Release of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Abdul Shakoor (March 19, 2019)
Press Release: USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore Calls on Pakistan to Release Prisoner of Conscience Abdul Shakoor (February 26, 2019)
Press Release: At Gathering of 37,000 Ahmadi Muslims, USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore Vows to Make Religious Freedom in Pakistan a Priority (August 7, 2018)
Press Release: PAKISTAN: USCIRF Condemns Egregious Treatment of Ahmadis (December 9, 2016)
Op-ed: Philadelphia Inquirer -- Commentary: Release every religious prisoner of conscience (October 27, 2016)
Op-ed: Berkley Cornerstone -- Religious Freedom Abroad: A Road Map of Deterioration (May 2, 2016)
Press Release: Pakistan: USCIRF Calls for the Immediate Release of Abdul Shakoor and the Dropping of all Charges (February 1, 2016)
Press Release: Pakistan: USCIRF Condemns Attack on Ahmadis (November 30, 2015)

Advising Government

Testimony: USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J., testifies at a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on "Blasphemy Laws and Censorship by States and Non-State Actors: Examining Global Threats to Freedom of Expression." (July 15, 2016)

Other Resources

Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
State Department International Religious Freedom Report