Sindh’s Sanghar District, Pakistan – In a distressing display of religious intolerance, an enraged Islamist mob disrupted the construction of a mosque belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, sealing the building under the watch of local police forcibly, reports Voice PK. This incident is the latest in a series of hate crimes perpetrated against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, including the desecration of graves and curtailment of their basic rights. As Pakistan witnesses the escalation of state-sponsored persecution against this religious minority, international outrage mounts, holding Pakistan accountable for its failure to protect the religious freedom of its citizens.
The construction of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s mosque, known as Baitul Zikr, provoked local fury due to the inclusion of minarets, a quintessential feature of Muslim architecture associated with mosques. On Wednesday, an angry Islamist mob encircled the under-construction mosque, forcing the suspension of construction. Local authorities, claiming to “keep the peace,” sealed the place of worship under police supervision oversight the basic rights of the community. A representative of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community expressed deep concern, denouncing the incident as an unfortunate act and a direct threat to their community. Furthermore, he questioned the impartiality of the police, alleging their favoritism towards individuals affiliated with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a conservative religiopolitical Islamist party known for its extremist views.
The plight of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community stems from the Zia-ul-Haq regime’s amendments to the Pakistani constitution in 1984, which effectively declared Ahmadis as “Not Muslim,” stripping them of their fundamental rights. Article 298-B of the Constitution of Pakistan restricts the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community from referring to their place of worship as a “masjid” or mosque. Violation of this law carries severe penalties, including imprisonment of up to three years. Consequently, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community adopted the term “Baitul Zikr,” meaning “place of contemplation,” to describe their mosque, the place of worship.
In a series of separate incidents, unidentified individuals desecrated Ahmadi Muslim graves in Kotli and Sheikhupura under the cover of darkness. These acts of sacrilege have left the community spokesperson deeply disheartened, emphasizing that they have been targets of violence for an extended period, with even their final resting places being violated.
Adding to their persecution, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been wrongfully implicated in cases related to the ritual sacrifice of animals during the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. Prompted by calls from TLP leaders, five first information reports (FIRs) were filed against members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This further highlights the influence of conservative religious factions in Pakistan and their alarming sway over matters of religious freedom and human rights.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah confirmed on June 18 that the TLP had engaged in negotiations with the government regarding blasphemy laws, further indicating the government’s reluctance to address the plight of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. These developments raise concerns about the erosion of Pakistan’s commitment to protect its religious minorities and uphold the principles of justice and equality.
Bilal Farooqi, News Editor at The Express Tribune, wrote on his Twitter, “The Tehreek-e-Labbaik goons who attacked Ahmadis. They are declaring that they will make life difficult for Ahmadiyya community, if it wasn’t already bad enough. These are the kind of people that roams the streets of Pakistan. How can the minorities feel secure in this country..”
The Tehreek-e-Labbaik goons who attacked Ahmadis. They are declaring that they will make life difficult for #Ahmadiyya community, if it wasn't already bad enough. These are the kind of people that roams the streets of Pakistan. How can the minorities feel secure in this country.. pic.twitter.com/VJ3DLKYBdc
— Bilal Farooqi (@bilalfqi) August 23, 2018
Bilal further shared some more evidence of violence against Ahmadi Muslims in the country. He tweeted, “A few days ago, the administration removed the inscriptions from the graves of 10 #Ahmadis from a joint cemetery in Sheikhupura district. It is truly deplorable that the administration is persecuting the #Ahmadiyya community in connivance with hate-mongering mullahs…”
A few days ago, the administration removed the inscriptions from the graves of 10 #Ahmadis from a joint cemetery in Sheikhupura district. It is truly deplorable that the administration is persecuting the #Ahmadiyya community in connivance with hate-mongering mullahs… pic.twitter.com/iqOxuRrm4w
— Bilal Farooqi (@bilalfqi) July 6, 2023
He also shared a tweet, “In more of these deplorable series of acts, unidentified individuals on Wednesday vandalized graves of 3 Ahmadis in the shared cemetery at Qaziyan Chowk, Kotli, Azad Kashmir.”
In more of these deplorable series of acts, unidentified individuals on Wednesday vandalized graves of 3 Ahmadis in the shared cemetery at Qaziyan Chowk, Kotli, Azad Kashmir.
Report & pics via @IamAmirMahmood pic.twitter.com/y0Tjxxchui
— Bilal Farooqi (@bilalfqi) July 6, 2023
A tweet has been shared by Stand with Minorities on Twitter, “Extremist organisation Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan are forcibly sealing an #Ahmadiyya place of worship ‘Baitul Zikr’ in Sanghar, #Sindh, in the presence of the Police. This is testament to the fact that religious extremists & radicals are more powerful than the Govt in #Pakistan.”
The tweet, shared by Stand with Minorities, contains video footage filmed on a mobile where people are chanting “Curse the Qadianis“.
Disturbingly, this recent incident adds to a long list of atrocities committed against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Since 1984, 31 places of worship have been destroyed by Islamist mobs, while an additional 44 have been sealed off. Shockingly, 39 Ahmadi bodies have been exhumed and desecrated after burial. The persecution and violence against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community have tragically claimed hundreds of lives of Ahmadi Muslims, individuals who paid the ultimate price for their unwavering faith.
The international community stands united in its condemnation of Pakistan’s discriminatory treatment of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Human rights organizations and advocates worldwide call upon Pakistan to rectify its constitutional amendments, address the persecution faced by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and guarantee their religious freedom. The world watches attentively as Pakistan’s response to this issue will undoubtedly shape its standing in the international community and its commitment to human rights and religious tolerance.