VIOLENT INCIDENTS - REPORT OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF PAKISTAN ON THE INCIDENT AT CHAK SIKANDAR
HRCP Report on Chak Sikandar
Arson and Violence Against Minorities
When the events at Chak Sikandar N0. 30 Tahsil Kharian, district Gujrat, investigated in the following pages, came into the knowledge of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, it was immediately realized that the matter concerned a minority community's most fundamental rights. The Commission immediately set up a Committee, headed by a distinguished member of the HRCP Council and a former Federal Minister, Dr. Mubashir Hassan, to visit the places of occurrence and ascertain facts by meeting the parties involved in the violent clashes and the authorities responsible for maintaining law and order and guaranteeing the citizen's security of life and property.
The report of the Committee was sent to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Punjab for eliciting the views of the administration. Much to the regret of the Commission, the request was not conceded. In fact, no notice of the report seems to have been taken by the Government. The HRCP would have been glad to examine the administration's point of view with due objectivity. However, since the Government has not deemed it necessary to challenge the evidence and conclusions contained in the report, it is a fair assumption that the contents of this report are not disputed.
The HRCP views the violent riots in Chak Sikandar as one of the gravest incidents of its nature in the history of Pakistan. Apart from the religious persecution of a minority community by elements having differences with it, the failure of the local administration administration to prevent violence while there was time, to afford the victims of violence prompt access to medical aid and legal remedies reveal a dangerous set of affairs.
This report is being released to the public in the belief that unless the wrongs done to the Ahmadia community in Chak Sikandar are expeditiously redressed and the perpetrators of violence suitably dealt with, the story of hate and violence may well be repeated in uglier forms and at a greater cost to innocent people and to the cause of societal harmony which must be dear to all members of the Pakistani nation, regardless of their status or belief.
Secretary Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
VIOLENCE AGAINST AHMADIYA COMMUNITY
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan learnt through reports in the national press of incidents of communal violence on 16th of July 1989, at Chak Sikandar No. 30 Tehsil Kharian, District Gujrat.
The reports indicated that there was loss of life and extensive damage to property. Members of the Ahmadia Community also approached the Commission alleging atrocities committed against their community and involvement of the administration in the incidents. The Commission constituted a Committee of the following members:
to investigate the facts of this case.
The Committee met on 3rd Aug. 89 with members of the affected Ahmadi families who had taken refuge with their relatives and friends in Gujrat city. The Committee learnt that Chak Sikandar No. 30 comprises four to five hundred houses of which nearly one-third belong to the Ahmadi community. Both Ahmadis and Muslims belong to the Gujjar caste and are inter-related. There was no history of religious tension between the two communities even during or after the tense periods of 1974 anti-Ahmadia riots. Indeed the harmony was reflected until 1988 in the two communities jointly using the same mosques for prayers, though in separate congregations.
Since 1988 tension between the two communities arose over the control of the mosques. According to Ahmadis the controversy over the mosques was initiated allegedly by one Muhammad Amir, son of Lal Khan, who is a resident of the village. Muhammad Amir, formerly a soldier in Pakistan Army, who originally professed the Ahmadi faith himself, had turned a Muslim after 1974. Muhammad Amir told the committee that he had initiated the move for the dissociation of the Ahmadis from the mosque. He emphasized that the motivation behind his campaign was to ensure the implementation of the law passed by Zia-ul-Haq's government which prohibits the Ahmadis from using mosques for worship or adopting or appearing to adopt any of the practices of Islam. He said it was the law he wanted to see implemented.
There were allegations against Muhammad Amir by some members of the Ahmadi community that he had not only raised the issue of the mosques, but had made some provocative and inciting anti-Ahmadi speeches publicly. It was also alleged that some Ahmadi literature was burnt by him, which was also a cause of tension in the village.
The Committee was told that Muhammad Amir belongs to the Anjuman Tajdar-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, an organization violently opposed to Ahmadis. Muhammad Amir had signed a report in a police station u/s 298-C of Ordinance XX of 1984against Ahmadis of Chak Sikandar and as a "sarparast" of Anjuman Tajdar-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, Chak Sikandar. (Sarparast means patron)
Tension started building up between Ahmadis and non-Ahmadis in April 1989. There was litigation of civil as well as criminal nature between the parties. By July the situation ha become explosive. The Ahmadis expecting violence sent telegrams to the authorities including the Inspector General of Police Punjab, Commissioner Gujranwala, D.I.G. Gujranwala, D.C. Gujrat and S.P. Gujrat. It is alleged that the authorities failed to take notice. Violence erupted with full force on July 16, 1989.
16TH JULY 1989
The Ahmadi group made the following allegations before the Commission with regard to the violent incident occurring on the 16th July 1989 in Chak Sikandar.
The Committee was given conflicting versions of the events as they occurred on the 16th of July.
According to the Ahmadia version, some shots were fired from the house of Muhammad Amir at about 9.00 a.m. following an incident in which one Muzaffar Ahmad was beaten by some persons of the Muslim community. Thereafter, at about noon, a violent mob started to burn the Ahmadi houses and resorted to firing. It was admitted that the Ahmadis also put up armed resistance in some of the houses attacked by the mob. As a result of violence four lives were lost.
Three of the dead belonged to the Ahmadia community, while one person Ahmad Khan belonged to the Muslim community. The Ahmadis claim that Ahmad Khan died as a result of indiscriminate firing of the mob while Ahmadi houses were being set on fire and looted.
The three persons of the Ahmadi community who lost their lives were, Nazir Ahmad Saqi, Muhammad Rafiq and Nabeela, minor, aged 10 years. Those injured included minors Najma Noreen, aged 7 and Afia, aged 10 and Hamida Begum wife of Fateh Muhammad. Hamida Begum stated before the Committee that when violence broke out, a large crowd surrounded her house and locked the front door from the outside. They then set fire to the house. That she and her children, together with Nabeela tried to cross the courtyard and go into the adjoining house. Nabeela was hit by a bullet while crossing the courtyard and she herself and both her children sustained bullet injuries.
Eyewitness account of the death of Nazir Saqi, an Ahmadi male, was given by his sister. According to her statement, the house was attacked by a mob which was firing at the people gathered on the roof of Saqi's house. There was return fire by Saqi who was using a licensed weapon. In the meantime the police arrived and firing was stopped from both sides. The police assured Saqi that all persons had been disarmed and that he should come down from the roof and surrender his weapon as well. As he reached the steps to come down from the roof, he was hit by a bullet and fell down the steps and died on the spot.
The Ahmadi version was denied by the leaders of the Muslim community interviewed by the Committee during its visit to the village. They alleged that one Ahmad Khan was shot and killed by Ahmadis after the incident of beating up of Muzzaffar Ahmad referred to earlier. According to Muslims it was the murder of Ahmad Khan that provoked the attack against Ahmadis. There were also allegations by them that Ahmadis also burnt down three houses of the Muslims.
The local administration when asked by the Committee to verify either of the two versions supported the version of the Muslim group. However, this support was not based on any investigation. The government did not order any enquiry. D.C. Gujrat, A.C. Kharian and the S.H.O. Police Station, Kharian were categorically asked if a proper investigation had been made into the incident. None of the afore-named officers were able to satisfy the Committee that any independent investigation had been carried out in order to establish the various allegations. The government's version is apparently based on the reports of the local officers responsible for the maintaining of law and order which had been violated, resulting in loss of life and property.
The Committee is of the view that the version given by the group led by Muhammad Amir has been accepted by the said officials without independent verification.
The Committee has not been able to reconcile some of the contradictions in the statements made by the Muslim group before the Committee, in the press and in the First Information Report lodged by them immediately after the incident. Convincing evidence has not come forth that the event on 16th July had erupted without preparation and planning and in an unpredictable manner.
A campaign of incitement against Ahmadis by the local Muslim leadership headed by Muhammad Amir had been allowed to continue unchecked despite complaints by Ahmadis who drew the attention of the authorities to this development along with its possible implications.
The Committee is not convinced that the attack on lives and property causing extensive damage was the result of any grave or sudden provocation. Prima-facie evidence exists to suspect the involvement of organized groups other than the locals in this incident. The Committee members noted the presence of one Maulana Ajmal Qadri belonging to Tehrik Khatm-e-Nabuwwat. The Maulana, himself not resident of the village, had taken it upon himself to become the spokesman of the Muslim group in the village and to give the account of the incident of 16th July to the Committee. From his initial statement and that of Muhammad Amir, the Committee gathered that the mob which indulged in violence against Ahmadis largely comprised of persons from outside the village.
This was corroborated by statements of the locals whom the Committee had an opportunity to interview. The Committee, therefore, finds support for the view that violence in the form of firing, arson and looting was the result of a planned attempt of first inciting communal hatred, followed by preparations of violence against the Ahmadia minority and was carried out with the help of armed gangs from outside the village. the Committee is also of the opinion that in view of the contradictory versions presented by the various groups involved, a judicial inquiry should have been immediately initiated by the authorities. The failure to have done so could point towards the involvement of or lack of interest on the part of the administration to find out the facts and bring the culprits to book.
The Committee feels particularly concerned about the allegations that firing and arson continued in the presence of the police. It is also alleged that Nazir Saqi was shot and killed in the presence of the police. The local police have denied this allegation. However, from the statements made by the locals interviewed by the Committee, it is apparent that firing continued till after sundown on 16th, and some incidents of firing also occurred on the 17th. The police claims that after their arrival in the village at around 2 p.m. on the 16th, no further shots were fired from either side as they immediately disarmed all persons. This was in contradiction of the statement made by Deputy Commissioner Gujrat that a request had been made by the district police for army assistance which he had turned down. The police at the spot was obviously unable to control the situation which accounts for their initial request for assistance by army troops.
The Committee was also informed of another incident occurring on the 17th of July. Some persons returning from the funeral prayers of Ahmad Khan (a Muslim) in a procession, damaged the `dera' (a lodge on the farm) of Chaudhry Ghulam Ahmad in village Dhoria adjacent to Chak Sikandar. The incident is alleged to have taken place in the presence of the police and other responsible officers of the local administration. This allegation was denied by the Assistant Commissioner Kharian. however, it is apparent that the incident was reported to the local police but no action was taken nor was a case registered on the complaint of Chaudhry Ghulam Ahmad. Asked by the Committee to respond to the accusation, the A.C. and S.H.O. Kharian denied any knowledge of the incident. The Committee was given a copy of the report made to the S.H.O. by Chaudhry Ghulam Ahmad, who also claims to have met the Superintendent Police in this connection, but was given no assistance.
The Committee is of the opinion that hostilities against Ahmadis of Chak Sikandar did not cease on the 16th July and the presence of the police was no deterrent to further violence by the Muslim group.
There were also complaints that the police had evacuated the Ahmadis from their houses and collected them in one place. But there were no steps taken to save their property from being looted. Also there was no timely attempt to put out the fires which resulted in extensive damage to their homes.
All the Ahmadis, barring a few, were evacuated from the village at about 7 p.m. on the 16th. They were taken by truck as refugees to Kharian. No arrangements were made for them by the administration for their board and lodging.
About the allegation of the Ahmadis that prompt medical care was not provided to the injured, the official position taken by the administration was that Ahmad Ali's body had already been taken to Civil Hospital, Kharian, and in order to prevent confrontation between the two groups, the injured persons from the Ahmadi side were asked to proceed to the Civil Hospital, Gujrat about 25 miles away. Reasonable as the decision might have been, the Committee fails to understand why the injured were not transported to the hospital by the administration when they were brought to Kharian in official transport. According to the accounts of Fateh Muhammad (whose two children and wife were injured and niece Nabeela died of bullet injuries), the police brought the injured to Kharian and left them there to find their own way to the hospital and that was not all. When they approached Civil Hospital, Kharian they were told the authorities had instructed that the injured from the Muslim group were to be treated at Kharian and those from the Ahmadi community were to be advised to seek assistance at Gujrat. He complained that when they reached Civil Hospital Gujrat, the doctors examined the injured but made medico-legal reports of only four of the injured, although six persons had been examined and the x-rays of the injured showed that pellets were still lodged in their wounds. Eventually, the injured had to go to a private doctor for the removal of the pellets.
Leaving the families to find medical help on their own caused unnecessary delay, and was unjustifiable in the circumstances of the case, especially in view of the policy instructions to the medical officers of Kharian Civil Hospital. It is also surprising that the administration failed to convey these instructions to the victims and to guide them properly.
The dead bodies of Ahmadis were also taken to Gujrat Civil Hospital. According to Ahmadis the post-mortem was deliberately delayed and the bodies were not handed back till 24 hours later which is a serious delay in Pakistan culture. Post-mortem on the body of Ahmad Ali, the Muslim, on the other hand was conducted much earlier. The body was returned and even buried by 9 a.m. the next morning.
It is apparent that there was an element of discrimination in the treatment meted out to the affected Ahmadis, which reflects the administration's lack of sensitivity to the plight of victims.
The Committee takes a serious view of the fact which prima-facie establishes discrimination against and the victimization of the Ahmadi population, that although two cases had been registered under section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (murder) in connection with the death of Ahmad Khan on the one hand and Nazir Saqi, Muhammad Rafique and Nabeela on the other, seventeen persons from the Ahmadi community were arrested and kept in police lockup for fifteen days before being sent to judicial custody. No arrests were made in connection with the case registered by the Ahmadis.
The Committee was told by the Deputy Commissioner, Gujrat and the Assistant Commissioner, Kharian, that the administration had, as a policy, not made any arrests in connection with the violence committed against the Ahmadis for fear of adverse local reaction. The entire local police force, the Committee was told, was concentrated in those days on preventing Shia-Sunni riots during Muharram. Accordingly, it was contended that the administration was not in a position before the 10th of Muharram (13 August) to enforce the prosecution of those responsible for the murder of Ahmadis. The Committee finds this position untenable.
The Committee made inquiries and has learnt that no arrests have so far been made even long after the 10th of Muharram has passed. The Committee takes note of the attitude of the administration with regret and finds that instead of redressing the wrong done to the victims the administration has bowed to the intimidation by the aggressors and is trying to appease their unlawful demands at the cost of justice.
The Committee was told that most of the Ahmadi families had left the village after the 16th of july, and those who stayed behind had got ``converted to Islam.'' The Muslim leaders claimed that about forty families had renounced the Ahmadi faith and accepted Islam. None of these people were made available for interview to the Committee inspite of specific requests made in this regard. It was stated before the Committee that the locals were not willing to tolerate the presence of any Ahmadi in the village, and would not allow the return of the families who had been evacuated after 16th of July. Those who wished to return to live in the village would only be allowed to do so if they renounced the Ahmadi faith. When questioned whether it was true that persons returning to the village were required to sign an affidavit affirming conversion to Islam and renouncing the Ahmadi faith, the local leadership confirmed that such forms were kept in the mosque. However, the Committee was told that it was not necessary to sign these forms.
It may be relevant to mention here that Maulana Ajmal Qadri, referred to earlier, was present in the village ostensibly as a part of a Peace Committee formed in their village. The Maulana had observed that the only possible way of keeping peace was to permanently remove the Ahmadi population from the village. It may be mentioned that no representative of the Ahmadi community was included in the Peace Committee.
At the house of Nazir Saqi, who was killed during the violence, the Committee members met two of his female relatives. both these women were left unprotected in the house with children, as all their male relatives including young boys had been arrested on 16th of July. Both the women complained bitterly of daily threats by the group led by Muhammad Amir. They stated that their children could not attend school as they felt unsafe leaving their home. They also made allegations that they were constantly threatened on the loudspeaker from the mosque. They alleged that similar threats were made to them every morning and they were given ultimatums to leave the village or suffer dire consequences. The Committee felt that there was cause for apprehension as to the safety of these women and their children. Their allegations and fears were conveyed to the Assistant Commissioner with a request to make measures to ensure their safety.
The Committee is of the view that the allegations made by Ahmadis of forced evacuation and imposition of restrictions against re-entry to the village have validity. The Committee expressed its concern over the illegality of the action of the administration in restraining Ahmadis from returning to their homes. The response of both D.C. Gujrat and A.C. Kharian that it was done to protect the Ahmadis from violence, is not convincing.
The Committee found no evidence that the administration has taken any substantial step to deter violence against the Ahmadis in the village, although it is evident that anti-Ahmadi propaganda and incitement to violence is still taking place. The failure of the administration to take proper action must be an encouragement to the elements interested in creating and strengthening an anti-Ahmadi atmosphere in the village. They are continuing their activity with impunity and seem assured that the administration will not interfere on this account.
The Committee finds that keeping Ahmadis out of their village and away from their homes is a violation of their rights granted under the Constitution.
The Ahmadia community has claimed that properties belonging to sixty-four families were destroyed/damaged. According to Deputy Commissioner, Gujrat, 25 houses were burnt. Assistant Commissioner Kharian gave the figure of 38 houses, out of which three were claimed to be the houses of Muslims. The Committee feels that because of the restraint on the affected families to return to their homes they have been denied the opportunity to assess the damage. No serious effort at such assessment has been made by the administration. Some of the houses inspected during the tour of the village had been extensively damaged. It was also noted that most of the houses from which the families had been evacuated stood empty, stripped of all household effects. This points to looting. There has so far been no investigation or any effort to recover the looted goods.
The Committee expressed concern to the Assistant Commissioner as to how the Ahmadis could assess damage done to their property and make arrangements for the protection of their belongings. The Assistant Commissioner offered to take those who wished to visit the village and see their property under police guard. There was, however, no response as to why the Ahmadis were being denied the right to return to their homes and under what law. Neither was there any answer as to when they would be allowed to return. According to information received by the Committee, the Ahmadis who were informed of this decision of the administration and who approached the administration, were not given any assistance. None of the evacuated families have been allowed to return to their homes to date.
The Committee has been supplied with a list of names of the owners whose property was damaged. That list is annexed to this report.