CHAKWAL: Built in 1860, a historic mosque in Dulmial village was rechristened a ‘place of worship’ in 1974, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslim.
The building, which saw mob violence on Dec 12 that left two dead and three injured, may now become the scene of a legal battle between the village’s Ahmadi community and its Sunni residents.
The place of worship has been sealed by judicial magistrate Chaudhry Zaffar Iqbal, based on an application by Mohammad Nawaz, the station house officer of the Choa Saidan Shah police station. Both parties have been asked to submit their responses to the court on Jan 3, 2017.
The order issued by the magistrate states that Darul Zikr, the religious site in question, is a bone of contention between “Sunni Muslims and Ahmadi sect. Both these sects are in a tug-of-war since long which resulted into carnage,” the order observed.
Dulmial’s Muslim residents have claimed ownership of a religious site built by ancestors of local Ahmadis
It went on to say that the dispute would likely break the peace within the limits of the court’s territorial jurisdiction, and directed the concerned parties to attend court hearings in person or through their pleader on Jan 3. Both the parties have been asked to submit written statements of their claims about the possession of Darul Zikr.
According to members of the local Ahmadi community, the place of worship was built by their ancestors in 1860.
“We belong to the Awan tribe, and our tribe laid the foundation of Dulmial. The minaret of the mosque was built in 1927, and the mosque was known as minar wali masjid. After we were declared non-Muslim by the Bhutto government in 1974, the mosque remained in our possession but was renamed Darul Zikr, because according to the law we could not refer to our places of worship as mosques,” explained an Ahmadi resident of Dulmial who left the village in the wake of the Dec 12 attack.
Some of the Awans of the village became Ahmadis in the early 20th century. Until 1974, Dulmial had been a stronghold for the Ahmadi community, which made up around half the village population. After they were declared non-Muslim, Ahmadi Pakistanis began leaving the country to escape attacks against them, many moving to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The resident added that the Muslims of the village did not make any calls for the possession of the mosque. However, in 1997, some Muslim residents of the village asked the Ahmadis to vacate Darul Zikr, claiming it was founded as a mosque and should be returned to the Muslim community. The demand led to a brief and vague legal dispute that ended without resolution.
“The Muslims filed a civil case with a local court over Darul Zikr’s ownership. The civil judge sealed Darul Zikr and it remained sealed for a few days. In those days, we had to worship in the street,” an Ahmadi resident from the village recalled. He said the building was unsealed after the Ahmadi community appealed against the civil judge’s order before a sessions judge.
The Muslims filed an appeal with Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench. According to local Ahmadis, the Muslims did not follow the case in the LHC while local Muslims said the case file got lost in the court.
Former Choa Saidan Shah tehsil nazim Hafeezur Rehman said: “The case file was deliberately lost in the LHC thrice. That was why we gave up the legal battle.” Mr Rehman is a suspect in the Dec 12 attack.
Dulmial union council vice chairman Faiz Ahmed Faiz claimed that they did not follow the case because Ahmadis were powerful and in a position to get a favourable verdict.
“The LHC would only order Ahmadis to demolish Darul Zikr’s minaret and tomb. In such an expected verdict, Darul Zikr would not fall into our possession,” he said.
Since 1997, the Dec 12 attack is the first of its kind to take place in the village over the Darul Zikr dispute.
“The question is why did the Muslims of the village remain silent over the issue for 23 years? They filed a case in 1997, while we were declared non-Muslim in 1974,” said a village local. “Does it make any sense that we would not have a single place of worship in a village that was not only founded by our ancestors but also remained a stronghold of our community?”
Leaders from the Tehreek Tahafuz Khatm-i-Nabuwat have made a legal panel to fight the ownership case while Dulmial’s Ahmadi community has yet to do so since many have left the village since the attack.
Published in Dawn December 19th, 2016