PAKISTAN: Ahmadi pesh imam cut by blades amidst ongoing attacks

In the continuity of attacks on the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, Mr. Najeeb Ahmed, pesh imam (leader) of the Sarai Alamgir mosque was punished by unknown Muslim fundamentalists with sharp shaving blades in Gujrat district, Punjab province. On December 1, as Mr. Ahmed entered his house, he was pounced upon, his clothes were removed and his upper body was attacked with shaving blades. His cries and screaming caused his attackers to then run away. The police have taken no action to arrest the attackers or provide security to Mr. Ahmed. He has not even been provided with medical treatment.

The recent violence against the Ahmadis has accelerated after the burning of an Ahmadi owned chipboard factory. An Ahmadi mosque in Kala Gujram, not far from the factory, has also been targeted, where Muslim fundamentalists burned the Quran. The local law enforcement agencies failed to control or disperse the crowd and protect the lives and property of the Ahmadis. On the other hand, the police acted cruelly and arrested a senior member of the Ahmadiyya Community in Jhelum. The perpetrators intended to burn alive all Ahmadis onsite.

“I begged them for the life of my wife and children, and they freed them only after taking me to burn in the factory’s boiler”, states Asif Shezad, an Ahmadi who survived a lynching attempt following an allegation of blasphemy that aroused a mob to set the Jhelum chipboard factory on fire on 20 November 2015. The 2000 strong mob also burnt down the owner’s residence adjoining the factory. Instead of controlling the charged mob and the arsonists, the police arrested three Ahmadis on the local cleric’s allegation that they had burnt the holy Quran. The very next day an Ahmadi mosque adjacent to the factory was ransacked. Shezad and his family have since gone into hiding, fearing for their lives.

In another incident, the owner of a spectacles shop was arrested along with his employee on blasphemy charges for selling Ahmadi literature. The shop was situated at Chanab Nagar (former Rabwa, the centre of the Ahmadiyya community). Although Mr. Abdul Shakoor does not sell anything apart from eye glasses, the local administration ordered his arrest merely on the complaint of an anti-Ahmadi organisation.
Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law does not clearly define blasphemy but says the offence is punishable by death. Anyone can thus file a blasphemy case claiming their religious feelings are injured for any reason. The accused are often lynched, and lawyers and judges defending or acquitting them have been attacked. Blasphemy laws are increasingly used to seize money or property.

Since its inception, Pakistan has been battling a religious existential fight with itself. A country attained in the name of religion is yet to establish the definition of a Muslim. A Sunni Muslim Punjabi male is what best confirms to the state ideology and orthodox theology. No longer a silent spectator in systematic and continuous religious persecution, the state has now become an active abettor. The judiciary also appears complacent and meek in the face religious fundamentalism and orthodox clergy who are bent on enforcing and implementing the firebrand version of Wahabbism (a religious movement to restore Islam to its original form).

While minorities in general are persecuted and beleaguered, the Ahmadiyya community suffers the brunt of the country’s religious discrimination and hatred. In the course of 2015, the Ahmadiyyas suffered severe curbs on their right to freedom of speech and to practise and propagate their religious belief, as well as the deaths of many innocent Ahmadis targeted by religious zealots.

On 20 October 2015, 37-year-old Ikramullah was killed in broad daylight by four assailants who opened fire at him and later fled the scene. Ikramullah was in the pharmacy that he owned when four gunmen on motorbikes stormed the store and opened fire. Ikramullah was shot several times and one of the bullets went through his skull. Earlier that month, three members of the Ahmadiyya community survived a gun attack in Karachi.

Anti-Ahmadiyya literature is continuously being published and distributed, endangering the lives of community members. Several Anti-Ahmadi conferences were held in Lahore during 2015, where the speakers—many belonging to the ruling party—incited people against the community. In one such conference held on 11 September 2015 at Mughalpura, Lahore, the attendees declared Ahmadis to be rebels of the religion and the country, demanded their removal from important posts, and the banning of products manufactured by Ahmadi companies.

Ahmadis have been arrested in Pakistan for reading the Holy Quran, holding religious celebrations and having Quranic verses on rings or wedding cards, and even for using Islamic greetings. They suffer incessant discrimination in procuring ID cards, passports, and even educational certificates. Many Ahmadis avoid using their right to vote as they must declare themselves non Muslim Ahmeddiya, making themselves vulnerable to physical attacks and socio-economic boycott.

Years of institutionalized discrimination against the Ahmadiyya community and its persistent vilification have led to extreme apathy, where even the mass murder of Ahmadis in Lahore on 28 May 2010 failed to elicit any kind of public outrage. The blood Ahmadis, Christians, Shias or Hindus, is not the same as Sunni blood; the bloodletting of these groups is acceptable and tolerated as a remote event that does not affect the majority.

The religious intolerance spawning in Pakistan has created a major fault line in the moral and social fabric of the society. If this inaction and apathy on the part of the state and society continues, the time is not far when the country will fall into civil strife and anarchy.