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B8 Amnesty International Pakistan, Fact Finding Mission to Jhando Sahi, 13 August 2006
Fact Finding Report, Amnesty International Lahore Pakistan
Date of visit: August 13, 2006
Team: Mr. Faiz ur Rehman (President Amnesty International Pakistan), Mr. Munawwar Ali Shahid (Gen Secretary Amnesty International Lahore), Mr. Irshad Ameen (Media Advisor AI Lahore — Senior Pakistani journalist)
On Saturday, 24 June, Waqar and Nawaz were burning the old pages of organizational as well as religious literature in the compound of Bait-ul-Zikr ((Ahmadi worship place). After seeing this, a neighbour spread the word of burning the Qur’an among participants of a Muslim festival arranged nearby. Immediately a crowd of people rushed to the Ahmadi area of the village and severely tortured the two men. As if this were not enough, they turned to the village and harshly attacked the property, belongings and people of Ahmadiyya community in the village. They set two shops and 3 homes on fire with torture and humiliation of the peaceful Ahmadiyya citizens of the town. Experiencing this, around 70 Ahmadi villagers (12 out of 13 Ahmadi families in the village) left their homes in fear for their lives and later, hundreds of people from the surroundings demonstrated, chanting anti-Ahmadi slogans.
Arriving at the scene of the violence, the police didn’t control devastating mob humiliating and abusing the Ahmadis in the town and violently destroying their properties. Instead the police arrested seven Ahmadis and registered the incident under the notorious Section 295-b of the Criminal Code (the blasphemy law). On the other hand ‘NO’ person had been arrested from the attackers side. After living outside the town for more then a month the 12 Ahmadi families returned back to the town on Friday 11th August.
Amnesty’s Fact Finding Mission
The Amnesty fact-finding team planned a fact-finding visit to the town on August 13 to reveal the facts behind the issue and to observe the current situation of the victims in the town. The team spent 4 hours in fact-finding during which it visited the police station and all the affected sites and interviewed police investigation in-charge, the victims and the representatives of the provoker group.
The Amnesty team started its fact-finding process from the police station Bombanwali where the members interviewed Mohammad Aslam, the sub-inspector and in-charge of investigation who told that on 24th June 2006 Ms. Kausar Bibi noticed from her rooftop that two persons were burning the pages of the holy Qur’an at Ahmadiyya Bait-ul-Zikr. She raised an alarm and gathered the people from around the site. The police reached to the occasion and registered the case under the section 295-b of the Criminal Code and investigated the case as the investigation in-charge. After investigation the four persons were arrested among those two accused Zaheer Ahmed and Waqar were sent to jail on 26th.
When the inspector was asked about the reaction of the police on the incidences of violence, destruction and torture by the members of the mob against Ahmadis the inspector said, ‘since no Ahmadi reported the case to the police therefore the police took no action’. On a question about the application to the police by the Ahmadi victims the sub inspector said that he received the application on 16th July and registered the case against the offensives and made the application a part of the case. However, he affirmed no arrest from the offenders’ side.
On a question regarding the steps taken by the police to provide security to the small Ahmadiyya community in the town he told that for their rehabilitation in the town, a 20 members’ committee had been formed which included 4 Ahmadis including Mohammad Nawaz, Sagheer Ahmed Numberdar, Mohammad Abdullah and Rana Mohammad Nasrullah Advocate. However while his interview with the fact-finding committee Mr. Nawaz renounced the formation of such committee and inclusion of Ahmadis in the committee.
While replying to a question, Mr. Aslam, the sub inspector said, the offenders, who burnt the properties of Ahmadiyya community in the town, looted the belongings and tortured the Ahmadis, would be arrested and would bring to justice but after more then two months of the incident no offender has been arrested.
While visiting the sites and interviewing the affected people the committee noticed the heavy destruction of the properties of Ahmadis including devastation and setting fire to 3 homes, a tractor, 2 motorbikes, 2 shops and the Bait-ul-Zikr.
The team visited the Ahmadi families for interviews who had recently been returned back to their homes after refuge of more than a month. The committee found the people in devastating condition since they found no single house of Ahmadis in the town with the facilities of fan, television and proper bedding. The effects of the psychological trauma were evident from their faces and expressions. While interviews majority of the people including women told that many people used to abuse loudly and threatened them when they were out of homes. Many of the shopkeepers refused to sell the goods to the Ahmadis.
The mother of Tariq Mahmood said, “We are facing humiliating response from the neighbors and inhabitants of the town who not only use abusive language for us but also for our sacred religious personalities, however, we are patiently bearing this all”. She said, they were feeling themselves completely unsafe since their kids couldn’t sleep in the night due to continuous fear. She said they had lost all of their belongings and even no crockery was present in the home and in that devastating condition they were unable to do any business. They estimated a loss of more than 200,00 rupees during the attack.
“We were in the home with some of our guests when the children informed us of a big crowd coming towards our home while continuously beating one of the Ahmadi Nawaz”, said Tariq Mahmood. “We gathered the family members and rushed to our neighbors who, instead of giving us refuge, started beating our children and abusing the women. The mob entered our house and destroyed the household and looted the belongings including dresses and jewelry amounting to Rs. 175,000”.
Mohammad Nawaz told that he arrived to the town from Gujranwala to get medicine. “I was preparing to go back that I heard noise and people knocked the door. As I opened the door many people pulled me outside and fixed a big cloth around my neck and started pushing me ahead the mob. Many people kept on beating me and pushing me around the town. When I was almost unconscious some people asked them to leave me and they left me there.”
Tariq Mahmood, the owner of the Al-Fazal General Store told that the mob firstly looted the stuff from the shop and then set the shop to fire. Everything in the shop burned into ashes. Sajjad Ahmed the owner of the CD and audio shop told that the mob looted the whole stuff in the shop costing to Rs. 200,000 and then set the shop to fire.
Naseer Ahmad told that he was coming back from Kamonke town when he saw a big crowd looting their homes and setting those into fire. “It was unbelievable for me. I couldn’t event think that such incidence can happen. The mob was ready to destroy anything even the people who were not even accused of doing anything. Why did they set our homes to fire?” The estimated cost of the loss of his house was Rs. 150,000.
In the last the members of the fact-finding committee interviewed Faiz Ahmed and Rana Bashir Ahmed the two non-Ahmadi persons in the ‘peace committee’ as formed by the police. They repeated the same account as the cause of the conflict which was earlier described by the police officer. However both of them insisted that the people of the town were not involved in setting the houses to fire, torture on the Ahmadis and looting their belongings. “Those were the people from other towns arrived to participate in the local festival”, they said. When they were asked, how did they come to recognize the Ahmadi people and their homes in the town, they had no answer. Moreover, both of them affirmed that NO Ahmadi was part of the ‘peace committee’.
Faiz Ahmed who has returned from Korea to spend his annual leaves told that it was not good to target the whole community if some members of a community were accused. He said he and his fellows witnessed the whole trauma and didn’t try to stop people for doing so. “We are political people and we will have to go to the people for their votes and that could have damaged our political position in the town”. Both of them told that there was huge number of police present in the town including 45 police vehicles when the mob was attacking and targeting the Ahmadis in the town. “Police might have taken no action to avoid any further damage”, he said.
We at Amnesty International (Lahore-Pakistan) fear that the perpetrators of attack on the Ahmadiyya community in Jhando Sahi may go unpunished and that such attacks will continue unless the Pakistan authorities respond quickly to bring the perpetrators to justice and take steps to protect Ahmadis against future attacks.
The continued violence generally against the religious minorities and especially against the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan is evident by the previous attack on worshippers in a Baitul Zikr (Ahmadi mosque) in the village of Monga, near the town of Mandi Behauddin on 7 October 2005. Eight Ahmadis were killed and at least 18 injured in the attack. The perpetrators have not brought to justice until now.
Police investigations of previous targeted killings of Ahmadis in Pakistan have been slow or have not taken place at all. In many cases the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. We at Amnesty International believe that the government's consistent failure to investigate attacks and killings of members of religious minorities fails to discourage further human rights abuses against such groups. The right to freedom of religion, as laid down in the Pakistani constitution and in international human rights law, must be made a reality for all religious minorities in Pakistan.
Over the years we are getting information of numerous targeted killings of Ahmadis, usually carried out with impunity. In some cases, the targeted Ahmadis themselves were subjected to criminal charges. In one incident in October 2000, eight Ahmadis were murdered in the village of Ghatialian, Sialkot district, in an incident similar to that of 7 October 2005. In October 2000 gunmen opened fire on Ahmadis while they were gathered at a Bait ul Zikr for worship. Five Ahmadis who witnessed the attack and reported the incident to the police, along with 21 other Ahmadis, were arrested and many of them are still serving life sentences for what Amnesty International believes to be false charges. None of the gunmen were ever arrested or brought to justice.
We request you to consider this report and gather more information on the issue through your other resources and help creating international pressure on Pakistani government to abolish the laws relating to religious offences, which effectively criminalize any exercise of the right to freedom of religion by Ahmadis and the blasphemy law under section 295C PPC. This is important since Pervez Musharraf government has already promised to consider abolishing this discriminatory law but no practical step has been taken in the positive direction.