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Pakistan: ‘After the living, they came for the dead’

“My mother is buried in the other graveyard. I had to bury my father here, away from her, because we were not allowed to use that graveyard any longer.”

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The Friday Times
By Saba Eitizaz | December 7, 2012

Gunmen desecrate more than 100 graves in an Ahmadiyya cemetery in Model Town Lahore
The Ahmadiyya cemetery in Lahore’s Model Town is dead silent. Broken mud-ridden tombstones are scattered all over the graveyard. An old man weeps silently, trying to fix an uprooted tombstone bearing his father’s name with trembling hands.

“After 35 years of serving this country, this is what I get.” He is a retired government officer. His father had once fought for Pakistan’s freedom.

According to witnesses, 12 armed men broke through the northern wall of the graveyard in the pre-dawn hours of December 3, beat up and tied the 70 year old gravedigger and his family, muttering “kafir” under their breaths. They proceeded to pull out chisels and hammers from a bag full of supplies and began destroying the graves. Two private security men of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya suspected something amiss. One of them entered the cemetery through the main gate and was held hostage by the gunmen. After waiting for several minutes, the second security guard realized something was seriously wrong. He called rescue services and fired warning shots in the air. Perhaps not expecting this development, the vandals appeared to have panicked and fled, leaving behind their tools and bags. By that time, they had destroyed the entire western portion of the graveyard, one hundred of the oldest graves.

The guard pointed out a hammer left on top of an untouched grave, as if dropped mid-attempt. “They came with weapons, and I was scared,” he said. “They could have killed us.” The gunmen covered their faces, spoke Punjabi and only identified themselves as “the Taliban” according to those present.

An administrator of the Ahmadiyya Community, Mr Malik, questioned the security arrangements in the posh Model Town area. “This is virtually Nawaz Sharif’s backyard. How did Kalashnikov wielding masked assailants manage to enter the premises without anyone noticing?” he asked. “We are residents of Model Town and we pay residential security bills each month. Why would no one come to help us?”

The very next day, newspapers also reported the fatal shooting in broad daylight of a Swedish charity worker in the same area of Model Town.

The raid represents the gradual demonization and ghettoization of the minority Ahmadiyya religious community. In 1980, four years after Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims, an unceremonious wall was drawn up to divide the dead. The main Model Town graveyard is on the other side.

“My mother is buried in the other graveyard,” Malik said. “I had to bury my father here, away from her, because we were not allowed to use that graveyard any longer.” Just four years after that, General Zia’s Ordinance 20 cemented that alienation. Although Article 298’s clauses B and C prescribe a fine or up to three years imprisonment, it has cost Ahmadis their lives and their sense of belonging.

Asad Jamal, a prominent lawyer, is saddened that despite knowing the consequences of such Islamization of state policy on minorities, there has been no cohesive legislative debate in parliamentary, mainstream media and civil circles. “Any such statute in the legal framework is a clear invitation to people to take the law into their own hands,” he said. “Why should the state become party to such friction?” The radicalization of major segments of society has him worried for his own future and that of his children. “They will reach their homes, you will see.”

The December 3 attack also raises serious questions about local law enforcement mechanisms. According to documents provided by Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya administrative staff, an individual named Advocate Rana Muhammad Tufail, calling himself a member of the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Lawyers Forum, filed a petition in the Sessions Court demanding action against the alleged inscription of verses of the Holy Quran on the tombstones in this graveyard. The court decreed the police to act strictly in accordance with the law in the matter. The SHO of Liaquatabad police station categorically told Malik, in the presence of several other people, “There is a lot of pressure on me. If you don’t do anything, they will do it themselves.” That is what happened on December 3. The police appeared to show a mysterious lack of interest in investigations. The area’s Superintendent of Police Awais Malik initially said he had no knowledge of the incident. About 18 hours later, he said there was no pressure on the police not to file an FIR. “We will ascertain the facts before the due procedure,” he said.

An FIR was registered almost 24 hours after the incident, despite the evidence of the crime strewn all over the graveyard and a number of eyewitnesses.

A number of religious groups have been reported to be blatantly active in hate campaigns against the Ahmadiyya Community. Last month, an individual with links to the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat group was arrested in the Gulberg area for distributing hate literature, but released without pressing charges, sources said. They said some of the younger members of radical groups differed with them on their operational approach. Yaseen Ahmed, a spokesman for the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Federation, declined to comment.

Hate literature is being distributed in various cities, and includes incitement to violence. Rauf, a young Ahmadi student from Shahdara Town, says the cleric in his local mosque has been consistently making vicious statements against the Ahmadiyya Community in his loudspeaker sermons. Rauf no longer ventures out of his house, not even to pray.

“We are being cornered,” said Saleemuddin, the spokesman of the community. “They were already after the living, now they are after the dead.”

“This is a terrifying and horrifying symbolic gesture that minorities cannot even be at peace in death,” said Imtiaz Alam, secretary general of the South Asian Free Media Association. “The ruling parties are silent because of political expediency and fears of losing the majority vote bank.”

Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, was more cautious. “All parties need to respect the constitution, but I strictly condemn this act of taking the law into one’s own hands.”

Back at the graveyard, broken tombstones carrying sacred texts are scattered all over the ground, compelling some to say the assailants are themselves guilty under the blasphemy law.

Some names have been changed because of concerns about the security of the individuals

Read original post here: Pakistan: ‘After the living, they came for the dead’

This content-post is archived for backup and to keep archived records of any news Islam Ahmadiyya. The views expressed by the author and source of this news archive do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Ahmadiyya Times.

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