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Desecration of Mosques
The drafters of the notorious Anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX of 1984 were conscious of the importance of the Masjid (mosque) in Ahmadiyya liturgy, so they specifically targeted this institution by providing a clause in the Ordinance, that any Ahmadi who refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship as Masjid shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. The same punishment was prescribed for any Ahmadi reciting Azan, the Islamic call to prayers. The message contained in the new law was well understood by anti-Ahmadiyya extremists and they indulged in large-scale desecration of Ahmadiyya mosques all over the country. In this, almost always, they were supported and even encouraged by the agencies of the government. These miscreants, guided and led by the Mulla, took all kinds of actions to violate the sanctity of Ahmadiyya mosques. Their most favorite target was the Kalima (the Islamic creed: There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His messenger) on the face of the mosques, which they took to erasing. In this, they were fully supported by the government. In 1987, the Government of Punjab ordered all district magistrates to remove the Kalima inscription from all Ahmadiyya mosques. According to the New Life UK of 18 December 1987, the government circular said that the Majlis Khatme Nabuwwat held a meeting under the chairmanship of the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs at which they decided that these words should be removed from the Ahmadi places of worship immediately and that members of the Ahmadiyya Community responsible should be arrested and tried. The directive was followed up and Kalima was erased, often in very disgraceful and painful manner, from many mosques, and a large number of leading Ahmadis were arrested and prosecuted. This vulgar campaign was supported fully all along by the government and remains supported until now.
The desecration of mosques was undertaken in many ways in addition to the erasure of the Kalima. Mullas demanded that Ahmadi mosques should have no minaret and no Mehrab (niche). They told Ahmadis to shift the orientation of their mosques away from Qibla at Mecca. Often they attacked and destroyed or took away the dish antenna installed in mosques to receive the sermons of the Khalifatui Masih i.e. Supreme Head of Ahmadiyya Community, through satellite transmission. A number of mosques were attacked and demolished or damaged. Mosques, which were under construction, were not allowed to be completed. Many mosques were unlawfully occupied by opponents. Some were sealed by authorities and have remained sealed ever since. Many mosques were set on fire. All such actions hurt Ahmadis' sensibilities to the core and they suffered greatly. These outrages were among the highest forms of religious persecution and were undertaken by clerics with full support of the government. Wherever Ahmadis tried to resist even passively, they were subjected to State tyranny and suppressed completely. International Commission of Jurists in their 1987 Report, Pakistan Human Rights, After Martial Law reported upon two such incidents relating to Mardan and Quetta in the following words:
Further the government appears to be either ignoring unprovoked attacks on Ahmadi places of worship or allowing public order to be used as a pretext for stopping acts of worship. Thus their mosque in Mardan, North West Frontier Province was ransacked and reduced to rubble shortly after the police, on Eid day, 17 August 1986, had arrested all the Ahmadis gathered there for prayers. While many of the Ahmadis were prosecuted or charged under 298-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (see above), no proceedings have been brought against those involved in the demolition of the mosque despite an information being laid and the pictures of many of those involved being published in newspapers. The government has not awarded the Ahmadis in Mardan any compensation for the destruction of their mosque and indeed the Daily Nawai Waqt printed on 8 September 1986 a report of an agreement between the government and the International Majlis Tahafuzze Nabuwwat that the mosque would not be allowed to be rebuilt. An Ahmadi mosque in Rahwali has also been destroyed and the mosques in Bhakkar, Jhang and Sadr have been set on fire.
A number of Ahmadi mosques have also been sealed on the instructions of local officials. For example, the mosque in Quetta was closed down and put under police guard on 9 May 1986 when a mob arrived outside and threatened to take it over. There had been advance warning of possible trouble, both in threatening letters and newspaper reports of various groups declaring that they would take action if the government did not change the mosque-like shape of the Ahmadis' place of worship by demolishing the mehrab, minarets and minber. The District Magistrate was contacted for help but only a handful of police came at first and they did not direct the mob away from the mosque. When the Deputy Commissioner arrived, he requested the Ahmadis to leave and then, after they had refused to do so, he directed their dispersal under s.144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Everyone inside the mosque, other than the children, was then arrested and detained for four days. They were ultimately acquitted on the charge of disobeying the order of a public servant (Pakistan Penal Code, s.188). Meanwhile the mosque was sealed up and put under police guard. Although the arrest and dispersal of the Ahmadis in this way might be an adequate response to a difficult policing situation, there has been no explanation for the failure either to take appropriate preventive action against the mob which had initiated the threat to public order or to bring proceedings against those who took part. Moreover, it is doubtful whether the maintenance of public order was the real consideration underlying the official intervention since the mosque was still under police guard during the visit of the mission seven months later. Attempts to challenge this continued sealing of the mosque have so far proved unsuccessful and, as there has been no response to requests for an alternative place to offer prayers, the Ahmadis at present have to pray in a garage. It is scarcely credible that it is not possible for the police to guarantee the members of a religious group the freedom to worship in their own mosque but there seems to be no intention of trying to do so. Ahmadi mosques have also been sealed up in Gujrat, Musewala and Sahiwal on the orders of the District Magistrate.
Ms Karen Parker of Human Rights Advocates, Inc: an organization with consultative status at the United Nations, quoted the following in her January 1987 Report regarding the above-mentioned incident at Quetta: Maulana Azizur Rahman, International Spokesman for Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat announced that an agreement with the government had been reached. The mosque will not be allowed to be rebuilt and the government will not take any action against persons who demolished the mosque, including the members of the National and Provincial Assemblies who participated. Such was the nature and quantum of indecent cooperation between the Mulla and the government. Even Rabwah, the headquarters town of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat - its 95% population is Ahmadi - was not spared from the evil of this vicious campaign. Mosques at Rabwah were exposed to all the dangers emanating from the Ordinance; however, a conspicuous restriction was the denial for many years of the facility of loudspeaker for the Friday sermon which is an essential part of this important congregational prayer. The normal attendance at the mosque on Fridays is approximately 15,000 persons. Accordingly, a number of heralds had to be posted at suitable distances to repeat, one sentence at a time, after hearing what originated from the Imam. Most of the audience could not benefit from the sermon. Pakistan had taken a major leap backward in history. This situation prevailed for years.
This drive which started in 1984, continues till to-date. During the past fifteen years it has taken a heavy toll. Scores of mosques were destroyed, damaged, sealed or disallowed to be built (See Annex I). A few recent cases are mentioned below briefly to show what goes on, almost a decade after the death of General Zia.
Chakwal, a town in the Punjab, has a sizable Ahmadiyya Community established there for almost a century. In February 1996, approximately 300 mullas and their followers demolished the walls of Ahmadiyya place of worship where Eid and funeral prayers are held. After playing this havoc, these people lodged a false report with the police that Ahmadis had opened fire on their youth, so in retaliation they demolished these walls. They also damaged partly their own Eidgah and put the blame on innocent Ahmadis to justify their heinous crime. Later, when Ahmadis rebuilt their walls, the mullas and their followers demolished them again during a nocturnal attack. They followed it up by a general call to anti-Ahmadiyya agitation and laid claim to the town's Ahmadiyya Mosque, which had been with Ahmadis for the last 100 years. They started litigation and managed to get a decision from a judge in May 1997 that as Ahmadis were no longer Muslims according to the Constitution, they were not entitled to retain the old mosque. He debarred Ahmadis even from entering the mosque. The next day, a heavy police contingent arrived at the site and forbade Ahmadis to hold their Friday prayers in the mosque. Ahmadis held their prayer service outside in the adjacent street. They sobbed, and cried before their Lord. It was a moving scene and even the authorities were touched. An official remarked: This is tyranny and persecution-pure, it will not go unpunished. An appeal was made later on in the Session Court which stayed the earlier decision. The litigation, however, goes on.
At Goleki, district Gujrat, the Ahmadiyya mosque had been in Ahmadiyya possession since long. During the last few years, they spent considerable amount of money on its renovation. A few miscreants urged non-Ahmadis to lay claim to it. Mulla Manzoor Chinioti, an MPA visited Goleki, and persuaded a turncoat to lay claim to the mosque. Accordingly, non-Ahmadi Muslims approached the police to hand over the mosque to them. In September 1997, the Area Magistrate ordered the mosque to be sealed. Ahmadis had nowhere to pray so they took up praying in the street. The event severely shook up the entire local Ahmadiyya Community and they suffered great emotional stress and strain. It is noteworthy that the magistrate issued the sealing order without hearing Ahmadiyya position and without due inquiry.
In the cosmopolitan city of Karachi, Ahmadiyya prayer center in Drigh Colony, which had been in use for the last 25 years, was outraged, worshippers removed, and the Center sealed, after an angry mob sallied forth from the nearby mosque on 23 January 1998 in the presence of police. The mob got hold of a number of Ahmadis and beat them up. Three of them were badly hurt. One of them, Mr. Ashraf Cheema received head injuries; three stitches were applied there. It is noteworthy that despite early warning and request, no police presence was provided at the Center at the time of the Friday prayers to scare away the possible attackers. Instead, the police and the administration yielded to the Mulla.
In the last week of August 1998, a mob approximately 1000 strong, led by mullas attacked the Ahmadiyya mosque at Naukot. Some Ahmadis had assembled in the mosque for its protection. The police also arrived at the scene. The mob started throwing stones at the defenders and the mosque. The police inspector himself was injured. Thereafter, the mob managed to enter the mosque and started to demolish and ransack it. Ahmadis had to open fire in self-defense, which resulted in injuries to two of the intruders. The mob was not deterred. They demolished some walls and the mosque's roof. Then they set the building on fire. Two shops adjacent to the mosque that belonged to Ahmadis were also badly damaged. Three Ahmadis were injured as a result of stoning, one of them seriously. He was hospitalized. As the Ahmadis present at the mosque were in great danger, they were moved out of the mosque and provided protection at the nearby Rangers' post. The Sindhi and Urdu press covered the event next day in provocative headlines. Clerics were thereby able to spread the trouble to other towns. The authorities, on instructions form higher offices of the government, arrested all the Ahmadis who had been present to defend the mosque, including those who were injured. On 26 August, they registered a case NR 83/98 against 14 Ahmadis under PPC 427, 147, 148, 149, 285, 324 and 436. Another case, NR 95/98 under 13/D Arms Ord was registered against three Ahmadis who were in possession of arms while defending their mosque. None of the attackers was arrested and no charges were pressed against any participant or leader or attacker. To top it all, on 2 September, another case NR 83/98 was registered against 18 Ahmadis of Naukot under PPC 34, 295A and 295C, the notorious Blasphemy Law. The Blasphemy Law was applied, according to the FIR, because the complainant had found the Kalima and Darud (Blessings on the Holy Prophet of Islam) written on plaques in the Ahmadiyya mosque. Fifteen Ahmadis, including a fourteen years old boy were arrested. They were then all taken to the Hyderabad jail and were produced before an Anti-Terrorist Court. The object was to indict them and sentence them expeditiously. The punishment under PPC 295C is nothing short of death. Conviction under PPC 295A invites 10 years' imprisonment. Mullas at Naukot announced on loudspeakers that they had the backing of the Capital, and no Ahmadi will be spared; they will be punished with death, long imprisonment and confiscation of properties.
In conclusion, it can be stated without any risk of contradiction that since the advent of Islam never as many mosques have been desecrated in any Islamic state as in Pakistan during the last 15 years.