Muslim-majority Pakistan has set up a National Commission for Minorities, but Ahmadis (or Ahmadiyyas) - who are categorized as non-Muslim in its constitution - are not included.
Pakistan's cabinet has declined to include a Ahmadis that rights group says suffers widespread persecution in a newly formed commission for minorities, after opposition from conservatives in the government, officials said on Thursday.
The cabinet set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on Tuesday to oversee their concerns in Muslim-majority Pakistan, but Ahmadis, who are categorised as non-Muslim in the constitution, were not included.
The federal government withdrew its decision of including Ahmadis in the National Commission for Minorities.
According to sources, following recommendations from Ministry of Religious Affairs, the government withdrew its earlier decision to give representation to the Ahmadi community in the minorities commission.
They said that the decision was reconsidered after the move sparked fierce criticism from the religious right on mainstream and social media platforms.
Meanwhile, the federal cabinet has approved the reconstitution of the commission.
Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims in contradiction to the constitution, to the anger of many in Pakistan. Their exclusion from the commission deprives them of a voice and the status and protection it would likely confer.
"The Ahmadi community must not be included in the NCM, given the religious and historical sensitivity of the issue," the Ministry of Religious Affairs said in a note on the issue, seen by Reuters.
Ahmadis recognise Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a “subordinate prophet”, which mainstream Muslims see as a breach of the Islamic tenet that the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger.
The Ahmadi community has up to 20 million followers worldwide with about half a million in Pakistan, community leaders say, though other estimates have put the number in Pakistan higher, with many hiding their identity fearing persecution.
State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan has been among the most vocal opponents of Ahmadi inclusion in the new commission, referring to them on social media as agents of chaos.
"If they want to avail constitutional rights they must accept the constitution first," Khan told Reuters in a text message.