September 22, 2023
By Xari Jalil
Impending threats of attacks on an Ahmadi worship place has spread ripples of fear and anxiety among the community.
On September 21, a worship house was damaged at Karachi’s Martin Road, the community now says it is struggling to prevent a similar attack on another worship place in Daska.
Official incident data compiled by the Ahmadi community reveals that from January to September 2023 there have been a total of 32 such incidents, while during September 2023 there have been eight. In total in the entire year there have been 15 such attacks according yo the Ahmadi community where the police has been involved in demolishing the places of worship, or have stood by watching silently.
After the incident on September 21, the community registered a case against the assailants at Karachi’s Jamshed Quarters Police Station under FIR No. 29/23. But no arrests were made.
The attack on this structure had taken place once before as well in January this year. In yesterday’s attack, the assailants had not only damaged the belongings in the worship place, they also demolished the remaining two minarets of the Ahmadi worship place. The two minarets had already been damaged in the earlier attack on 18 January, 2023.
Involvement of the Police
The Ahmadi spokesperson told Voicepk that the police has been actively involved in breaking down parts of the places of worship on the pretext that ‘Muslim architecture’ such as minarets have been used.
Recorded videos part of the community’s data compilation practice, have shown local police officers allowing the mob to do as it likes.
“The police actually directs the Ahmadi community to break these structures themselves,” says Amir Mehmood the spokesperson. “When the community disagrees the mob barges in and attacks and demolishes our religious places.”
Mehmood says that this wave of terrorism hasbeen taking place since 2016 with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) advocating for ‘Islamic structures’ to be demolished, and their agenda of bringing forth blasphemy allegations on religious minorities.
In a Lahore High Court verdict of August 31, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh expressly said that no Ahmadi worship place could be changed or demolished if it was built before 1984.
The worship place in Daska, was built before 1947 by a member of the Pakistan Movement and the first foreign minister of Pakistan, Sir Zafarullah Khan.
Fears Setting In
Mehmood specified that it had been threatened that TLP would bring out a rally on the night of September 22, in Daska and the fear of this expectation was unsettling and worrying the community.
“We tried to put pressure on police higher ups and the DPO Sialkot visited the site and took pictures for the record. The Punjab IGP and Shoaib Suddle – the head of the One Man Commission for minorities – were both contacted, as well, after which Mr Suddle tried to reason with the police to provide protection to the community. It should be noted that according the LHC directive, this worship place was built pre-partition.”
Mehmood added that the police was under obligation to provide protection to the Ahmadiyya places of worship. Instead of that they were bowing down to the pressure of the TLP miscreants.
“In fact these threats are repeatedly made to us by the TLP,” said Mehmood
Another senior member of the Ahmadi community, Qamar Suleman also reiterated the recent LHC judgement, but added, “The judge has given the decision, but no one seems to care about it. We have tried approaching the police but its like falling on deaf ears.”
He says the wave of attacks on their places of worship began around a year ago and are increasing.
“It is probably that they (TLP) are trying to gain popularity because of upcoming elections,” he said. “Even though recently a day ago, the Muslim community in Kirto, Sheikhupura, stood up for us and so a potential attack was prevented from happening.”
Suleman was critical of the administration and police’s apathetic attitude.
“When the Jaranwala incident happened, the TLP was involved there too. Citizens came forward to help those people to stand by their rights. Are we not citizens of his country?”
He said the police usually descended in the night making sure it was dark, and then helped assailants demolish the structures.
“They ask us to do it first on pretext of ‘controlling of an angry mob’. When we refuse they come themselves. Anyway if they do demolish our places of worship, what are they gaining from it? Is it charity work? Will anyone benefit from it?”
He reminded that the caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar had promised to take care of the Ahmadi community. But not much had been done.
Police denies involvement
Khurram Shahzad, the spokesperson of the Sialkot district police told Voicepk that ‘no such untoward incident happened in Daska’ while denying he knew much about any other incidents across Punjab.
“The police is not involved in anything like this, nor is it the duty of the police to demolish structures – this is the responsibility of the administration,” he said.
When asked about what the Ahmadis were complaining of, he replied, “That is their version of events. However eventually the police is ready to handle any mob if the situation arises.”
Other inside sources of the police told Voicepk that the police had ‘never acted on its own’. The sources said that if there was an issue at the local level they would try and resolve the conflict and then do as the people wanted them to do in that situation.
Human rights lawyer, Asad Jamal pointed out that the TLP was never actually apprehended except a couple of times when it came into the cross hairs of the state. Otherwise, he said, it has always enjoyed a popularity at ground level which was growing steadily.
“When Khadim Rizvi used to make court appearances we could see how the police itself was cheering him on,” he said. “As a force the police is a limb of the government, but because TLP popularity is increasing its also gaining support within police at local level.”
Jamal says TLP has always run its politics on blasphemy and similar narratives. Its treatment of Ahmadis and Shias was similar.
When was TLP ever apprehended only when they have been in crosshairs with the state.