Islamabad, Pakistan – Members of Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi group say their locations of worship and graveyards are being attacked as a part of a systemic and coordinated hate marketing campaign.
Neighborhood spokesman Amir Mahmood informed Al Jazeera on Tuesday they’re dealing with a major enhance in assaults, notably within the japanese province of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous.
Mahmood mentioned no less than 74 graves have been vandalised in Punjab’s Daska metropolis final week whereas minarets of two Ahmadi locations of worship have been demolished close to the provincial capital, Lahore.
He accused police and administrative officers of demolishing their non secular buildings – one constructed earlier than 1947, the 12 months Pakistan was fashioned after independence from British rule – below strain from a right-wing non secular celebration.
“The non secular celebration, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), additionally threatened the native administration of great penalties if the minarets of our place of worship will not be destroyed,” Mahmood mentioned.
“They’ve now issued an ultimatum to the administration to behave upon their calls for by Friday, which coincides with Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebrations,” he added.
The five hundred,000-member Ahmadi group is a spiritual minority in Pakistan, which considers itself Muslim, however was formally declared “non-Muslim” in 1974 by means of an modification within the structure.
A decade later, below the dictatorship of former navy ruler Zia ul-Haq, a ruling barred the Ahmadis from “posing as Muslims” and disallowed them from publicly referring to themselves as Muslims. They have been banned from practising elements of the Islamic religion or publicly displaying any image that recognized them as Muslims, together with constructing minarets or domes on mosques, or publicly writing verses from the Quran, the Islamic holy guide.
On Monday, the Human Rights Fee of Pakistan, the nation’s most distinguished rights physique, mentioned no less than 34 assaults on the Ahmadis’ non secular locations have taken place since January this 12 months.
Stories from the Ahmadiyya group of no less than 34 incidents since January, wherein their websites of worship have been desecrated – together with with the complicity of the police – ought to sound alarm bells for the federal government and for all progressive-minded individuals. No different group…
— Human Rights Fee of Pakistan (@HRCP87) September 25, 2023
Based on knowledge compiled by the group, in 2022, no less than three Ahmadis have been killed over their religion, whereas one other 108 individuals have been booked in varied non secular circumstances. A minimum of 14 mosques and 197 graves belonging to the group have been desecrated final 12 months, they alleged.
Zaheer Aslam (whose title has been modified), an Ahmadi businessman in Daska, informed Al Jazeera his ancestors lived in Daska, a small city of lower than 200,000 individuals, even earlier than the nation was fashioned. He mentioned lower than 200 households within the city have been now Ahmadis.
“Our group has at all times confronted prejudice – generally viciously, generally extra subtly. Nevertheless, this 12 months, the flames of hatred are way more intense,” he mentioned.
Aslam mentioned Daska is dotted with TLP banners calling for rallies in opposition to Ahmadis for allegedly “insulting” Islamic non secular symbols.
“A rally was taken out at present [Tuesday] which was stuffed with hate speech in opposition to our group, whereas the administration sits quietly and watches all of it unfold,” he informed Al Jazeera.
Saadat Ali, a police official posted in Daska, mentioned police try to make sure regulation and order within the metropolis forward of celebrations for the prophet’s birthday. He denied allegations that police have been being pressured by the TLP or that police officers themselves desecrated graves.
“We acquired a grievance from TLP about Ahmadis displaying minarets on their locations of worship. I informed the group it was constructed earlier than 1984 and they need to seek advice from courts to hunt steering. It doesn’t fall below police’s ambit,” Ali informed Al Jazeera.
However group spokesman Mahmood rejected the claims by the police.
“I wish to ask the administration: did they [attackers] not perform their operation at midnight, below police safety? What proper did they’ve? It was our graveyard, purchased by our cash, and it solely buried individuals from our group. What regulation allowed them to take this motion?” he requested.
Whereas police say they’re ready for any eventuality forward of Friday’s celebrations, the Ahmadi group in Daska stays apprehensive.
Aslam, the enterprise proprietor, mentioned a majority of individuals campaigning in opposition to Ahmadis don’t belong to Daska and had come from close by cities and villages.
“Individuals of the town, by and huge, will not be energetic contributors in these hate-filled rallies. However circumstances are such that no person has the braveness to return out and publicly assist or defend us,” the 47-year-old mentioned. “There’s an air of worry and intimidation utterly suffocating us.
“We have been informed to not name our locations of worship as mosques. We have been informed to not give azaan [the call to prayer]. We have been informed to not write Quranic verses on our properties or graves. What do they need from us subsequent? That we cease respiratory the identical air lest we contaminate it?”