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VIOLENT INCIDENTS - REPORT OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF PAKISTAN ON THE INCIDENT AT NANKANA SAHIB
REPORT ON ANTI-AHMADIA RIOTS AT NANKANA SAHIB
In the second week of March the Press in Pakistan reported incidents of assault and arson by mobs incensed at the news of the alleged burning of a copy of the Holy Quran. The houses of Ahmadia Community at Nankana Sahib and adjoining villages, 60-70 miles to the West of Lahore, were the target.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan taking cognizance of the press reports and appeals from some members of the Ahmadia community constituted a mission to visit the scene of the occurrence. The mission visited Nankana Sahib and Chak No. 563 GB on April 16, 1989 to ascertain facts and to see the damage done.
The mission comprised Mrs. Alys Faiz, Dr. Mubashar Hassan, Begum Mehnhaz Rafi, Ms. Shahtaj Qizalbash, Mr. Mahmood Zaman, Syed Imtiaz Shah, Advocate, and Mr. Azhar Jafri. The mission visited the sites, taped evidence and interviewed local authorities.
At Nankana Sahib the first stop was the house of Dr. Abdul Rehman where the leaders of the town's Jamat-e-Ahmedia, Malik Saleem Latif, Advocate, President of the Jamat in Nankana Sahib, and Mirza Altaf-ur-Rehman Advocate gave a detailed account of the happenings on April 12, 1989.
Malik Altaf Advocate stated that at about 4.40 p.m. on April 11 there was an announcement from a nearby Mosque's loudspeaker that the qadianis had burnt Quran Sharif in Chak 563 GB. It was a challenge to the faith of every Muslim who will have to show that he was capable of defending his faith. It was also announced that a strike would be observed and a procession taken out the next day.
Malik Altaf said that as they had some indication that trouble was brewing, grave apprehensions arose in their mind. So they immediately tried to contact the Station House Officer of the Police (SHO) and the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mohammad Aslam Khan Lodhi (DSP), as well as the resident magistrates and the Asstt: Commissioner (A.C.), Ch. Ghulam Sarwar. It was the time of dusk prayers. They were told that the SHO and DSP were out of station. One resident magistrate was on leave and the other resident magistrate and the A.C. had gone for a walk. They made a second contact with the A.C. by waiting three hours outside his house. At that time the A.C. was back home but passed on a message that he would give an audience to them the next morning i.e. on April 12.
Malik Altaf continued that on April 12 the members of the community contacted the A.C. telephonically who assured them that they should not feel apprehensive as the government had made adequate arrangements to ensure their security. The A.C. also said that the situation was not grave. Later they contacted the DSP who extended similar assurances. He also told them that the local police had adequately been reinforced from the District Headquarters, Sheikhupura. On being so assured the community felt satisfied.
Following Malik Altaf, Mirza Altaf-ur-Rehman and others described in detail the destruction and narrated sequences of arson by violent mobs which went on rampage unhindered and unchecked using abusive language and raising slogans against Ahmadis.
The members of the Ahmadi community bitterly complained that no effort whatsoever was made by the police accompanying the mob to offer police protection to the Ahmadis. Malik Saleem Latif stated that the violent procession that had formed at Ghalla Mandi, first damaged the place of worship of the Ahmadis and desecrated Quranic inscriptions considered holy by them. His own house, adjacent to the place of worship, was also attacked. He said that the rampage continued for about seven hours during which 25-27 houses and shops and clinics of Ahmadis were set on fire or grossly damaged. The mob also burnt several copies of the Holy Quran in the prayer centre and in the houses of Ahmadis. They burnt expensive libraries at the residence of Mirza Altaf-ur-Rehman and Malik Saleem Lateef.
Dr. Abdul Rehman's clinic and his house were badly damaged. Some of the portions of the house were demolished. His tenant, Mohammad Ayub Qamar, had a similar experience when most of the belongings of his house were reduced to ashes. The mission also visited Chatthhi Gali in old Nankana Sahib, which was the worst affected area. There the houses belonging to Abdul Rehman, Ghulam Mohammad and Mohammad Afzal had been set on fire. The roofs of these houses had caved in. In the street the mission saw the remains of burnt down refrigerators, television sets and other electronic gadgets. Similarly clothes, utensils and toys of children were heaped out in the street and set on fire. Abdul Rehman told members of the mission that he had lost about 400 grams of gold which he had kept at his home as dowry for a daughter who was to be married shortly. He said that the assailants had brought blackish inflammable materiel with which they used to set on fire the belongings and houses of Ahmadis. He also showed the mission a copy of a burnt Quran and Jainamaz.
In the house of Ghulam Mohammad also dowry for his daughter was reduced to ashes. The mission members then visited the residence of Mubashar Ahmad, a small katcha house. In its courtyard lay the ashes of burnt articles. He had preserved the copy of a burnt Quran and Tafsir Kabir, a book considered holy by him. The adjacent electronic workshop, owned by him had been looted. Several T.V. sets, including those in the shop for repair, transistor sets and electrical fittings had been removed by the mob. The shelves of the shop were stripped empty and removed.
The mission also saw the newly built house of M. Dawood Ahmad in the Satellite Town. The mob had caused extensive damage to the house. The assailants had taken particular interest in demolishing his expensive bathroom. A burqa-clad woman of the house told the mission in tears that seven copies of the Quran were burnt by the mob. She showed some remains to the members of the mission.
Adjacent to the main bus stand was the house of Mirza Altaf-ur-Rehman advocate. The violent mobs had, in addition to doing other damage, razed to the ground 320 foot-long boundary wall of the house. He told the mission that the mob had spent four hours in destroying his house, all of it in presence of police. He had seen DSP handing over to the mob pillows of his bed room for burning.
The mission's next stop was at "Kucha Ahmadian", Qazzafi Street, where the damaged prayer centre is situated. The rooms had been demolished and electronic equipment damaged. A library with several copies of the Quran had also been burnt down.
From Nankana Sahib the mission proceeded to village 563 GB, 6-7 miles away. A magistrate along with a posse of police was stationed in the village to guard the houses of Ahmadis. Most of the houses in the village bore inscriptions in bold letters stating that they were Ahl-e-Sunnat, that is to say not Ahmadis. The mission first went to Ahmadia prayer centre whose outer walls had been demolished and the library burnt down. The magistrate on duty, Mr. Tariq, and SHO Mansoor Khan told the mission that their information was limited to what the villagers had told them. The magistrate said that a man called Nasir had been burning pages of Holy Quran. On hearing the report the people became violent and the two sects clashed with each other. After the incident the D.C., SSP and A.D.C. of Distt: Sheikhupura visited the site and took into possession some burnt copies of Quran, the SHO added. It was this alleged incident which was stated to be the cause of what followed.
The village was inhabited by 25 Ahmadi families which is about one sixth of the total population. The people appeared tense. Three houses were damaged, including the one where one room was set on fire. In the place of worship, however, the damage was greater. Several copies of the Quran were stated to have been burnt and the ashes thrown in the village well to avoid a controversy that the Ahl-e-Sunnat-wul-Jamaat had acted in a similar way.
The mission was able to interview the only "eye-witness" to the alleged burning by the Ahmadis, named Ghulam Rasool. He said that he saw an Imam of the Ahmadi place of worship, Nasir, burning a heap of papers in which pages of the Holy Quran were also found.
The mission visited the house of Mohammad Hanif, the doors of which had been broken. He looked terrified and burst into tears on meeting the mission members, who happened to be the first group to meet him after the nightmarish experience.
Mohammad Hanif related that he and other Ahmadis of the village had made several requests to Ghulam Rasool not to incite the tense situation to avoid sectarian disturbances, but to no avail. He insisted on communicating the alleged incident to the movement of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat in Nankana Sahib. In the evening there were announcements against Ahmadis from the Ahl-e-Sunnat mosques. Immediately afterwards, a mob gathered there and after damaging the Ahmadi place of worship, attacked the Ahmadi houses. He also heard gunshots. He had thrown his children to the adjacent non-Ahmadi house but the inmates sent the children back out of the fear of the mob.
Nearby was the house of Hanif's brother, Mohammad Boota. Its outer walls laid demolished and the doors broken. Most of the Ahmadis had since vacated the village and the rest had confined themselves to their houses.
Another house the mission visited in the village (Chak No. 563 GB) was that of Dr. Mohammad Nawaz. His clinic stood demolished and the contents damaged. Some women of the house, profusely in tears, asked the women members of the mission to ensure their safety. Expensive articles had been looted.
About a kilometer away from the village was an orchard belonging to Dr. Nawaz. The assailants had cut down over 50 of its trees of Guava, Kino and Bamboo that the mission was able to see for itself.
A tubewell in a village nearby belonging to M/s Siddiq and Silan was damaged , its walls demolished and the pump and the motor uprooted.
Back in Nankana Sahib, the mission members called on the Assistant Commissioner, Chaudhry Ghulam Sarwar, the officer in charge of law and order in the Tehsil Nankana Sahib. The officer was frank and forthcoming. He admitted that the district administration did not expect the events of that had occurred. It had thought that it had sufficient force to deter any trouble mongers. Reinforcement had been called from Sheikhupura. The administration had been in touch with the Tehrik-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat. The Tehrik had given categorical assurance to maintain peace and calm.
The administration had several meetings with the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat leadership. To assuage the Tehrik, the government had added to the FIR the charge of Tauheen-i-Risalat against Ahmadis, though no such offense had taken place. As a further precaution the Nankana Sahib administration had been assured that in case the younger elements took out a procession, the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat leaders would also form a part of it in order to prevent untoward incidents.
The A.C. said, "Despite our satisfaction we had taken all the precautionary steps. We had established police pickets, and were also in possession of necessary anti-riot equipment."
But on the ill-fated day (April 12) the administration found itself paralyzed by the violent mob. The administration had the services of two magistrates, while the mob had dispersed into many groups all around the town. The A.C. said that at some places the police was ordered to use tear gas and lathi charge the rioting mob.
"Now after the event, I feel" said the A.C., "as if the attacks were all pre-planned. They (the leadership) failed to fulfill their commitment not to take part in the anti-Ahmadi riots."
Earlier the mission had taken note of a large poster pasted in prominent places. The poster issued by "Aalmi Majlis Tahaf-fuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat" announced the convening of a "Tajdar Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Conference", on March 29, 1989 at Jamia Masjid Ghousia. According to the poster, the conference was to be held under the patronage of Mr. Ghulam Sarwar, the Assistant Commissioner. The names of the Deputy Superintendent of Police and of two magistrates were also mentioned. The poster gave the clear impression that the civil administration was patronizing the local anti-Ahmadi organizations. When confronted the A.C. denied his involvement.
A list of Ahmadi households affected by the disturbance, together with an estimate given to us of the loss suffered in each case, is enclosed as an annexure to this report.
Following a day-long visit to various localities and houses subject to arson, looting and demolition and after listening to the members of the Ahmadiyya Community and the Assistant Commissioner, the Mission has come to the following conclusions.