Fear stalks Chakwal after attack on Ahmadi place of worship

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CHAKWAL: Panic and fear on Tuesday persisted in Dulmial village, about 35km from Chakwal city, after a mob attacked a place of worship of the Ahmadi community a day earlier.

The enraged crowd occupied the worship place and set on fire religious books, fans, carpets and other items. They also offered prayers at the worship place.

An Ahmadi man, identified as Malik Khalid Javed, 65, who was present at the worship place, died on the spot after having suffered a cardiac arrest, while a man — identified as Naeem Shafique, 27, and not belonging to the minority community — was hit by a bullet during the attack and killed. Another non-Ahmadi man, who received bullet injury, is said to be in a stable condition in the District Headquarters Hospital, Chakwal.

The situation remained tense throughout the day on Monday until army and Rangers personnel were called in. They took control of the worship place and sealed it.

Police escorted the body of Malik Javed to Chenab Nagar where he was buried.

Naeem Shafique was laid to rest in his native village of Tatral Kahoon, about 4km from Dulmial. His death was “celebrated” on social media and he was declared a “martyr”.

Provincial minister Malik Tanveer Aslam, MNA Tahir Iqbal, MPA Zulfiqar Ali Khan, the regional police officer and the Rawalpindi division commissioner also reached the village.

Police registered a case against 40 known and scores of unknown miscreants under sections 302, 324, 148, 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

According to sources, about 10 people were arrested.

About 500 members of the Ahmadi community live in Dulmial village. The dominant tribe in the village is of Malik caste. The villagers built a mosque in 1860.

During the early 20 century some members of the Malik tribe converted to the Ahmadi faith. In 1927, a minaret of the mosque was constructed. When the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government declared Ahmadis non-Muslims, the issue of ownership of the mosque cropped up. However, the atmosphere in the village remained peaceful.

In 1997, a case about the ownership of the worship place was filed.

“The case was dismissed by the Lahore High Court,” Assistant Commissioner of Choa Saidan Shah Ashar Iqbal told Dawn.

“We did not follow the case deliberately as we knew that the court would order the Ahmadis to demolish the minaret and tomb of the mosque. In such an expected verdict we would never have been able to take possession of the building,” Faiz Ahmed Faizi, vice-chairman of the Dulmial Union Council, said when Dawn approached him for his version.

There are six shops attached to the place of worship.

Sources told Dawn that a villager settled in Canada recently came to the village and mobilised the villagers to take control of the mosque. About 580 Muslims of the village filed an application with the district coordination officer a couple of weeks ago, asking the DCO to get the mosque vacated from the Ahmadis. “We request you to help us in vacating the mosque, otherwise we would be forced to take an extreme measure,” they warned in their application.

On Dec 5, the Ahmadis also filed an application drawing the DCO’s attention to the simmering tension in the village. It stated that on Dec 2 some clerics from outside the village had addressed the Friday congregation and mobilised the villagers to occupy the worship place by force.

“You are kindly requested to take adequate security measures to protect the life and property and worship places of the Ahmadi community,” Malik Zahid Hameed, local president of Jamaat-i-Ahmediya, and the organisation’s chief security officer retired Col Mohammad Farooq Malik pleaded in the application.

A hate campaign against the marginalised community was also ignited on social media after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered naming the physics centre at the Quaid-i-Azam University after Nobel laureate Professor Dr Abdus Salam.

“After receiving applications from both the sides we discussed the issue at a meeting and adequate measures were taken to resolve the issue amicably,” DCO Mehmood Javed Bhatti told Dawn. He said Muslim members assured the district administration that they would not change the route of the Rabiul Awwal procession. “Despite their assurance we deployed additional police force in the village. We were sure that the organisers would stick to their word but to our surprise they backtracked on their promise and changed the route of the procession,” he regretted.

The DCO said policemen were deployed outside the houses of Ahmadis while Rangers remained alert in the village.

“An overwhelming number of miscreants came from adjoining villages,” an Ahmadi resident claimed.

“The district administration could have taken steps to avoid this tragic situation, but it failed. However, police did a great job by rescuing our 40 members who were trapped in the worship place,” Salimuddin, spokesperson for Jamaat-i-Ahmediya, said.

Published in Dawn December 14th, 2016

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