‘After the living, they came for the dead’

The Ahmadiyya cemetery in Lahore’s Model Town is dead silent. Broken mud-ridden tombstones are scattered all over the graveyard. An old man weeps silently, trying to fix an uprooted tombstone bearing his father’s name with trembling hands.

“After 35 years of serving this country, this is what I get.” He is a retired government officer. His father had once fought for Pakistan’s freedom.

According to witnesses, 12 armed men broke through the northern wall of the graveyard in the pre-dawn hours of December 3, beat up and tied the 70 year old gravedigger and his family, muttering “kafir” under their breaths. They proceeded to pull out chisels and hammers from a bag full of supplies and began destroying the graves. Two private security men of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya suspected something amiss. One of them entered the cemetery through the main gate and was held hostage by the gunmen. After waiting for several minutes, the second security guard realized something was seriously wrong. He called rescue services and fired warning shots in the air. Perhaps not expecting this development, the vandals appeared to have panicked and fled, leaving behind their tools and bags. By that time, they had destroyed the entire western portion of the graveyard, one hundred of the oldest graves.

The guard pointed out a hammer left on top of an untouched grave, as if dropped mid-attempt. “They came with weapons, and I was scared,” he said. “They could have killed us.” The gunmen covered their faces, spoke Punjabi and only identified themselves as “the Taliban” according to those present.

An administrator of the Ahmadiyya Community, Mr Malik, questioned the security arrangements in the posh Model Town area. “This is virtually Nawaz Sharif’s backyard. How did Kalashnikov wielding masked assailants manage to enter the premises without anyone noticing?” he asked. “We are residents of Model Town and we pay residential security bills each month. Why would no one come to help us?”

The very next day, newspapers also reported the fatal shooting in broad daylight of a Swedish charity worker in the same area of Model Town.

 Read more: