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Muslim Rivalry Leaves 8 Dead in an Attack in Pakistan
Published: October 8, 2005
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Oct. 7 - At least 8 people were killed and 20 wounded Friday in an attack on a congregation of a minority Muslim sect, the Qadiani, also known as Ahmadis, who are considered heretics by orthodox Muslims.
The attack, in central Pakistan, raised fresh concerns about the protection of minorities in Pakistan, a majority Sunni Muslim state.
Pakistan has had continuing clashes between the Shiite minority and the Deobandi sect, a puritanical branch of Sunni Islam, which have caused hundreds of deaths on both sides over the last decade. But Christians and Qadiani have also been persecuted and attacked by religious militants over the years.
President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly promised to rid the county of extremism and sectarianism. But attacks of a religious nature remain frequent and deadly.
The attack on Friday took place when about 40 Qadiani gathered for morning prayers in Mong, witnesses said. Mong is a rural village in Punjab Province, 100 miles south of Islamabad, the capital.
Two people, their faces hidden by black hoods, stormed into the building and opened fire, killing two worshipers on the spot, Masood Ahmed Raja, a cardiologist, said by telephone.
“I was saved by the angels,” Mr. Raja said. He had been unable to join the prayer session because he was called away to care for a patient.
On returning to the mosque, he said, he saw two men escaping on a motorcycle with a third man.
The police said that six more victims died at a hospital and that two critically wounded people were moved to Lahore, the provincial capital.
Of the estimated 10 million Qadiani worldwide, 3 million to 4 million live in Pakistan, mostly in Punjab. Mirza Ghulam Ahmed founded the sect in 1889, calling himself a prophet. This enraged other Muslims because it challenged a basic precept of Islam: that Muhammad was the final prophet.
A constitutional amendment introduced by the government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974 declared Qadianism to be a non-Muslim minority. In 1984 Pakistan’s last military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, made it a criminal offense for Qadiani to call themselves Muslims, to employ Muslim terms and appellations associated with Muhammad, to use Muslim practices of worship or to propagate their faith.
“We condemn this attack,” Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. “Any act of violence in which innocent people are killed should be condemned.”
Human rights advocates have long campaigned for the protection of religious minorities in Pakistan, where religious extremism and intolerance threaten the social fabric.
The leader of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance condemned the attack and accused the government of failing to protect minorities, The Associated Press reported.
Security forces were on high alert across Pakistan after the attack, and the authorities stationed additional troops outside mosques.