26 June 2006
P A K I S T A N
Pakistan: Allegedly blasphemous Ahmadis attacked
by Qaiser Felix
Word that the Koran had been desecrated in an Ahmadi village in Punjab provoked the wrath of a crowd of integralists: they wounded three people and burned down homes, shops and a mosque. The victims claimed the incident was the fruit of a defamatory campaign against the minority community.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Ahmadi minority has been subject to aggression at the hands of Muslims once again. On Saturday, 24 June, a crowd attacked the village of Jhando Sahi in Daska – in Pubjab, Pakistan – after hearing rumours that some Ahmadi residents had burned a copy of the Koran. Three people were wounded in the attack, houses were destroyed, and shops and a mosque burned.
Arriving at the scene of the violence, the police arrested seven Ahmadis and registered the incident under the notorious Section 295-b of the Criminal Code (the blasphemy law), under which desecration of the Koran is punishable by life imprisonment. According to the village residents, the attack was the result of defamatory propaganda mounted by some fundamentalists against them and they denied any desecration of the Holy Book of Islam.
The Ahmadi community describes itself as Muslim but it does not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet; thus, it is submitted to persecution by integralists in Bangladesh and Indonesia too.
According to reports by local media, Waqar and Nawaz were burning pages of the Koran outside the Bait-ul-Zikr Ahmadi mosque. After seeing this, a neighbour spread the word among participants of a Muslim festival taking place nearby. Immediately a crowd of people rushed to the Ahmadi area of the village and beat the two men. As if this were not enough, they also set some cars, two shops and homes on fire. Seeing this, around 70 Ahmadi villagers left their homes and later, hundreds of people from the surroundings demonstrated, chanting anti-Ahmadi slogans.
Yesterday, the situation in Jhando Sahi remained tense: a large contingent of police was deployed to avert any more unrest. Protesters from nearby areas started arriving to the village on Saturday night to express their condemnation for the alleged blasphemy, one local newspaper reported.
A press release issued yesterday by the Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya described the arrest of seven Ahmadis as “unjustified”. The group’s spokesman said no desecration had taken place: it was only pages of old magazines thrown out after cleaning of the premises that were being burnt at Ahmadiyya Bait-ul-Zikr mosque. He said: “Somebody saw us from his roof-top and raised an alarm, spreading the ‘rumour’ also at a festival nearby.” He said the crowd that came to the village severely injured three Ahmadis – Nawaz, Waqar and Zahheer – apart from setting fire to 10 homes, a tractor, some shops and the Bait-ul-Zikr mosque. After the attack, at least 10 families left their villages in search of shelter. The Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya is calling on the government to take all necessary measures to prevent the repetition of such incidents.