200,000 Ahmadis to boycott Pakistan election: Spokesman

LAHORE (AFP) - Some 200,000 members of Pakistan's minority Ahmadi community will boycott next month's election in protest at their treatment by the authorities, a spokesman said Monday.

Ahmadis, who believe that the founder of their sect was a prophet, were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani government in 1974 and now suffer discrimination and violent attacks.

It is against the law for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims, but they still see themselves as such and object to being treated as a religious minority at election time.

"We have been boycotting the election process since 1985 when Ahmadi voters were put in the list of religious minorities," Saleemuddin, a spokesman for Jamaat-e-Ahmadiya told AFP.

He said the community wanted its voters to be included in the joint electorate system.

"We will stay away from the election and boycott it like in the past to register our protest," he said.

Pakistan goes to the polls on May 11 for a general election that should see the first democratic transition from one civilian government to another after the completion of a five-year mandate.

Election registration forms require voters to give their religion and address and Ahmadis refuse to complete them for fear of being attacked. Their graveyards are often targeted and in 2010 nearly 100 people were killed in Lahore after militants stormed two Ahmadi prayer halls.

Founded by Ghulam Ahmad, who was born in 1838, the Ahmadi sect believes that Ahmad himself was a prophet and that Jesus died aged 120 in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-ruled Kashmir.

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