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Ahmadi cemetery fence razed in pre-dawn operation
* Officials admit action taken under pressure but insist construction was illegal
By Ali Waqar
LAHORE: Following directions by the district government and Wagah Town administration, a large contingent of Lahore police bulldozed the boundary wall of a 6-acre piece of land legally procured by the Ahamdiyya Community to extend its graveyard.
Policemen arrived at Handu Gujjar in five buses at about 5am on Sunday morning and supervised the demolishing of the boundary wall in less than 20 minutes. District and town officials said the construction was illegal because the town authorities did not approve the plan.
Local Ahmadis believe the operation was a result of a campaign started by extremist clerics and religious organisations that had said the fencing of the graveyard was an attempt to create a “mini Rabwah”.
Several religious organisations had put up provocative banners and clerics were giving hate speeches in mosques urging to Muslims to wage a jihad against Ahamdis. The city police did not take action on the hate campaign.
Wagah Town officials had served a notice on the Ahamdiyya community several days ago, saying the construction of the boundary wall was illegal. Another notice was served on Saturday (April 21), asking the community to respond within three days. Town officials disregarded the deadline however and told police to bulldoze the boundary wall. Town nazim Khalid Ghurki said the notices were served on his directives. He did not rule out pressure from clerics as one of the reasons for stopping the construction. “We would have faced this pressure, but the construction of the wall was illegal,” he said, adding, “The issue was discussed with the district government, which made the final decision.” Town municipal officer Muhammad Rizwan said he did not know anything about the issue or the notices. A senior official, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, told Daily Times that the government had decided to raze the wall under pressure from “certain elements” for the fear that the issue may ignite into a major problem for the government.
He also said that the construction of the wall was illegal. The area of the land was more than 14 acres, he said, and the statement that it was meant for a graveyard did not “make sense”.
The affected community had the right to submit a construction plan to the town government, he said, and the matter could then be resolved under the law. “We will also have to see if the law allow the Ahmadiyya community to construct the boundary wall.” The issue surfaced several days ago when some extremists began to provoke people against the extension of an Ahmadi graveyard in Handu Gujjar, seven miles from Shalimar Gardens off the Grand Trunk Road going towards Wagah.
The community had bought six acres to extend an existing cemetery, but local clerics – allegedly from Sunni Tehrik and Tehrik-e-Tahafaz-e-Naomoos-e-Risalat – began to provoke the residents of the locality to oppose the construction of a boundary wall. The community had bought the land from an Ahmadi landlord because no local authority or housing society is prepared to offer them space for a cemetery in Lahore.