Mass arrests, unjustified incarceration and extensive persecution of Ahmadis to placate the mullah
Some unknown persons murdered a mullah, Amir, in Chak Sikandar, District Gujrat, Punjab, on September 4, 2003. The mullah was riding a motorcycle with his son who also died in the attack. The anti-Ahmadiyya faction of the village put the blame of the murder on Ahmadis and the police accepted the accusation prima facie without any inquiry and proceeded to victimize the Ahmadiyya population in a big way. It is a telling story and its essential details will show how the system works, in fact malfunctions, with little regard to facts, justice and principles of fair administration.
Chak Sikandar is a sizable village with Ahmadi as well as non-Ahmadi population. The village Ahmadiyya community comprises mainly farmers and labor class. The two religious communities lived in peace, however things changed when the state intervened and forcibly declared Ahmadis non-Muslims, and General Zia implemented a policy of persecution of Ahmadis. This policy encouraged mullahs to wield influence in the civil society at the cost of Ahmadis. In Chak Sikandar, Mullah Amir was clever and wicked enough to gauge the anti-Ahmadiyya environment in the country and to exploit the same to his advantage at the village and area level.
Mullah Amir was an ex-soldier. He was a prisoner of war in the 1971 war in erstwhile East Pakistan. After his return from captivity he was discharged from the Army, and he returned to the village. In the village, he had only one acre of agricultural land, so he decided to become a cleric and took over the mosque. He calculated that in the prevailing environment, an anti-Ahmadiyya posture and stance would provide him the required finances and social status to lead a better life than he ever had in the Army. He joined the Khatme Nabuwwat Organization, became an activist and took to fanning the fire of anti-Ahmadiyya hatred. He was a fiery speaker and a successful rabble-rouser. The peace of the village came to an end and was replaced with communal hatred and animosity. It became almost a tinderbox. The situation because explosive and resulted in the 1989 communal riots in the village. The Ahmadiyya community suffered greatly in those riots. Apart from the deaths, scores of Ahmadi houses were put to torch, their cattle were killed, most of the households had to flee from the village for safety. The authorities condoned the attacks, arrested Ahmadis and made them feel as political orphans.
Mullah Amir emerged as the hardened victor who acted as unbridled gang leader in the following years. From sources, unknown to the villagers, he became almost rich. He was the first man to build for him a bungalow in the village. He wielded influence with authorities, and his own flock was cowed down by him. In the power struggle among his own community, he generated opposition. There was a great deal of whispering when his brother-in-law, whom the mullah did not like, was murdered and the killer could not be traced. Then in 1996, the mullah was not on good terms with a local influentional, Haider Bhand. A few weeks later Haider was also murdered. The police did not nominate the murderer again, but the bereaved families bore grudge against the mullah.
On the day of the incident, the mullah was murdered about two furlongs outside the village, at about dusk time. It seems the killers had planned well. They succeeded in their attack and fled. Nobody saw them. The police did not actively pursue their track. Immediately after the killing, some people acted in a manner to conveniently and spuriously put the blame on Ahmadis. The mullah was rabidly anti-Ahmadi, so the killers could easily take cover behind this. It worked, as estimated and planned by them.
The villagers came to know soon after the attack that the mullah had been murdered. They informed the police that arrived without delay. Someone switched on the loudspeaker in the mosque, blared the news, and accused Ahmadis. Sajjad Haider, son of Haider Bhand (murdered in 1996) had it announced that he will donate Rs. 50,000 to build the tomb of the mullah. When the police arrived they asked Abdul Ghafur, the brother of the accused to formally lodge the complaint for the registration of the FIR. Ghafur stated that as he was not fully aware of the circumstances of the incident he would take two days to consider, and then make the complaint. He was firmly advised that a delayed FIR would lose its impact so he should make his complaint. Ghafur thereafter undertook consultation and advice, and proceeded to blame Ahmadis in his report. The police registered the FIR and moved fast to arrest all the available Ahmadis in the village. The murder itself and the post-murder activities moved like clockwork as if some hidden co-ordination was at work. These proceedings manifestly moved away from locating the real culprits, and were directed to implicate Ahmadis who were not responsible.
Here, a word about the FIR. Ghafur, whose report forms the basis of the FIR, was in the village mosque when the murder took place. He knew little about what happened at the scene of the crime. However, according to the FIR, he and his four colleagues saw the entire action of the murder; they saw and named eight Ahmadis armed with specified firearms (giving their type and bore); also two unknown men whom he can recognize if produced; description of the entire event as to who fired, in what sequence, and the body parts where each bullet hit the two targets etc. The report is descriptive enough to beat any composition based on repeated replays of a video. They even named two others whom the accused had consulted prior to the attack. The FIR mentions that this consultation was observed and heard by named witnesses etc. etc. The FIR is a bunch of lies and is entirely fabricated. It is typical in that in this part of the sub-continent, subsequent to a murder, the accuser names a large number of his opponents, and concocts false evidence to incriminate many innocents. This gives him the opportunity to harass a great many of his opponents, through the state apparatus, at little cost. The police are happy with a large number of suspects as they all become available for extortions. In such cases, the police and court proceedings bring in great difficulties for the accused; thus a murder is sometimes welcomed as an occasion to extensively harass the opposition. They did this to Ahmadis; and the police, rather than locating the real perpetrators of the crime, a difficult undertaking, were satisfied with arresting a large number of Ahmadis and harassing them extensively.
It would be of interest to narrate the flow of events soon after the incident. As the news of the murder of the notorious mullah broke and the loudspeaker of the mosque got going at ‘high’ pitch, Ahmadis got very worried. The memory of the 1989 riots flashed back and most of them feverishly considered various options to avoid the inevitable, although misplaced backlash. With many, the immediate reaction was to flee from the village. The police nabbed the rest who stayed behind. The police raids went on till 11 p.m. and they arrested 22 Ahmadis including two boys under 12. The police and the villagers took the two dead bodies to the Lalamusa hospital. At the hospital, Dr Naveed was on duty. The crowd came to know that he was from an Ahmadi family, so they attacked him. He escaped with mild injuries. Early next day, anti-Ahmadiyya sentiments and propaganda picked up in high gear. This was the day of burial of the mullah. Messengers were sent to all the neighboring villages to announce that the ‘great’ mulla Amir had been murdered by Ahmadis and all the believers should converge on Chak Sikandar to attend to the last rites and to confront the infidels. Higher authorities did not fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation, so the police were given firm orders to ensure that the law and order situation should not get out of hand. The police established a temporary post at Chak Sikandar and they made sure that outsiders were not allowed inside the village. It was a tense day, and Ahmadis remained apprehensive amidst the non-Ahmadi community; however, no rioting took place.
The police had managed to arrest some of the Ahmadis named in the FIR, but failed to arrest all. The police proceeded to detain Ahmadis who were neither suspects nor in any way required for investigation, but it was done to force the Ahmadiyya community to hand over the absconding accused. Mian Rashid was detained and subjected to torture by the police. The wife of Mian Akmal was manhandled. Eventually they got all the 8 named accused plus two more.
Although the police prevented any riots, they gave a free hand to the fanatics to fan the fires of hatred. No check was placed to their activity. The non-Ahmadiyya mosque has a minaret, 90 feet high. On top of that there is a battery of high-powered loudspeakers. The speakers are switched on a number of times a day to fire a steady barrage of most hateful and abusive anti-Ahmadiyya propaganda. Arif, a pseudo cleric, switches on the loudspeaker every morning on the pretext of Quranic lessons, and harangues his community on nothing but hate and violence. His other favorite subject is financial donations. Then there is one Master Amin, who visits Chak Sikandar every 10 – 15 days and recharges the battery of communal hatred from the mosque. He often takes out a procession in which miscreants are armed and they take to firing in the air. While proceeding to the graveyard they utter provocative slogans and abusive shouts against Ahmadis and their leaders. Master Amin has undertaken to form a squad of 313 Mujahidin who would volunteer to do jihad against the infidels. During the week after the murder, announcements were made from the mosque urging all Ahmadis to recant and rejoin the fold of Islam. They were give an ultimatum that they had till 15 September to do so to save their skin, otherwise they should remain prepared to face dire consequences like burning of their homes and expulsion from the village. People like Arif and Master Amin are new mullah Amirs in the making. These leaders of mischief have got manufactured 6”x4” steel plates, bearing anti-Ahmadiyya vitriol; non-Ahmadis were made to buy them and nail them on their outer doors. Those who were reluctant to pay for them were told that in that case their homes would not be differentiated with Ahmadiyya homes when it comes to arson. All this goes on while there is visible police presence in the village.
The behavior of the police deserves condemnation. Their conduct is far from professional. They have not traced the real culprits and have nothing concrete to incriminate Ahmadis; still they have made no move to free the innocent. The police actively co-operated with the false accusers to harass and persecute Ahmadis. At their behest, they raided Ahmadi homes, subjected them to searches, harassed Ahmadi women, beat up the men and behaved very badly. They thrashed Messers Ejaz, Mian Akmal and Javed, Ahmadis. They took away Munir, an Ahmadi accused to solitary confinement and subjected him to torture. They beat up severely Mian Rashid. The policemen, in collaboration with mullah Amir’s party, subjected an Ahmadi woman to physical harm by other women. She asked the police to register an FIR, but they refused to do so. Eventually she applied to a higher official, who ordered that the criminal case be registered. It was done (FIR 536/03), one month after the incident. No arrests however were made. On the other hand, the police, in collaboration with Ahmadi-opponents raided the house of Mr Javed Iqbal, Ahmadi, on the pretext of search for firearms. They found nothing. Nevertheless they charged four Ahmadis, Messers Javed, Nasir, Sadiq and another in a fresh criminal case FIR 479/03, and arrested Mr Nasir and Mr Javed. This was unabashed high-handedness and discrimination, loud and clear. While carrying out the search, the policemen stole Rs 10,000, which they found under a bed; Javed had got the money by sale of a calf a few days earlier. The criminal case and the arrest etc have cost Mr Javed further two times this amount in ‘miscellaneous’. To add insult to injury, the police subsequently arrested 18 more Ahmadis under PPC 107/151. These are: Mukhtar Ahmad, Rukhsar Ahmad, Bahawal Baks, Mubarak Ahmad, Tariq Ahmad, Nadeem Ahmad, Bilal Qaisar, Qamar Zia, Humayan, Muhammad Saleem, Badar Munir, Khurram Munir, Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Afzal, Iftikhar Ahmad, Zafrullah, Ghulam Ahmad Tahir and Noor Muhammad. These were subsequently released from Gujrat Prison on bail, however the ten accused in the main FIR remain incarcerated.
Ahmadis’ life at Chak Sikandar was not ideal even before Mullah Amir’s murder. It has worsened since then. It seems it will take a long time before reverting to pre-September level. Mullah Amir’s successors have found that his murder is a jackpot. They continue to circulate the bowl for donations in his name for the welfare of his family, and have collected more than a million of rupees. Anti-Ahmadiyya slander is an essential part of the campaign. So notwithstanding the President’s assertions against extremism, it is flourishing under the nose of the local police at Chak Sikandar. In the past three months, Ahmadis have suffered financially as the farmers could not reap the seasonal crop. Ahmadi labor is not getting work as before. Ahmadi children’s education has been adversely affected. At one stage, Ahmadi girls were turned away from attending classes in their local primary school. Their parents approached the Education Officer to have them reinstated in their classes. This has been done, however, school children are facing harassment from their class-fellows who are in greater numbers. Although, Ahmadis who fled from the village, have returned, but they are facing different kind of new hardships. There is a social and commercial boycott in place. Non-Ahmadi retailers do not sell them their daily needs. The village transporters do not let them ride their transports to go to town. Even medicines are denied. Ahmadis, with community help, have opened a small retail outlet of their own, installed a small wheat grinder and got themselves a rickshaw for transport. The community leadership has urged the Chak Sikandar Ahmadis to cope with the ordeal with patience and fortitude, and bear with all kind of provocation. Ahmadis remain worried about their kith and kin suffering in prison. There are ten Ahmadis in the District Jail at Gujrat. One of them is 75 years old. Another is their vice-president who is a heart patient. One, Mian Khan is a single parent whose children wait for him. Almost all of these prisoners are breadwinners of their families in whose absence they have the additional worry of financial hardship. And, above all, they are all innocent in this case. Mullah Amir is gone, but his unpropitious legacy remains.
Mullah and police co-ordinate outrage in Rabwah
The mullah remained active to keep Rabwah sensitive. The police, perhaps unwittingly, but deliberately became a willing tool in the hands of clerics to mount an unjustified and cruel punch on the Ahmadi population of Rabwah. The two got their act together to register a criminal case under the anti-Ahmadiyya law against an Ahmadi shopkeeper. It caused more than a wave of concern among the citizens of Rabwah.
Mr. Nazir Ahmad, Ahmadi, owns a shop Ahmadiyya Glass Store at Aqsa Road, where he also undertakes manufacture of frames for photos and pictures. He had displayed there a large size photo of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. On March 12, 2003 at about 1730 the Officer Incharge of the local police post visited the Store accompanied by Mullah Allah Yar Arshad, and three constables. The police took away the photo and registered a criminal case F.I.R. 50/2003 at the complaint of the mullah, under the anti-Ahmadiyya sections PPC 298B and 298C. Under these laws the Ahmadi accused could be imprisoned for three years and made to pay a fine.
The incident caused great concern and indignation among the citizens of Rabwah. A delegation of 50 persons called on the police to make their protest. They told the police that display of a photo and the inscription of Alaihissalam (on whom be peace) was not against the law, so why the case. The Inspector had no answer to that.
As this incident was the latest in the series of incidents precipitated by the mullah to disturb the peace of the town, senior officials of the government and the administration were contacted by Ahmadiyya leadership to urge immediate corrective action
Copy of the letter written to the Chief Minister of Punjab on the subject can be read.
Police, in league with mullah, commits grave sacrilege and arrests an Ahmadi
In collaboration with Mullah Allah Yar Arshad, the police at Rabwah registered a criminal case under the anti-Ahmadiyya law PPC 298C, against two Ahmadis for writing the Kalima (Islamic creed) on there house, and arrested one of them. The same night, under the directions of the police inspector, the Kalima was forcibly effaced from the front wall of the house of the accused.
Mr. Masood Ahmad, Ahmadi was having his house constructed in Rehman Colony, Rabwah. He got the Kalima inscribed on his house. The Kalima is the statement of faith for Ahmadis as well; they have no other creed. It simply means: There is none worthy of worship except God; Muhammad is His prophet. Mullah Allah Yar Arshad, the local station chief of mischief, approached the police and got them going on this non-issue. The police accompanied the mullah to the location and detained Mr Mubarak Ahmad, the son of the owner. At the police station, Mr Mubarak was forced to agree that if the police decides to efface the Kalima, the house owner would not resist. Under this arrangement, Mubarak was released. Subsequently, in the middle of the night, on 28 May at about 0100, the police visited the house to undertake the deplorable sacrilege. However, as a number of Ahmadis had gathered at the spot, the constables returned and took away again Mr. Mubarak to the police station. There, the police registered a criminal case against the father and the son on May 29, 2003 on behalf of Mullah Allah Yar Arshad, and formally arrested Mr Mubarak Ahmad.
At about 10:45 p.m. on May 29, 2003 a police contingent, comprising 9 individuals visited the site. They had brought chisels and hammers with them. In the darkness they acted as shameless agents of the mullah and broke up the Kalima. The police undertook willful vandalism and damage to private property in the name of religion. A number of local Ahmadis were present at the occasion, who helplessly watched the shameful act of police functionaries. They did not put up any resistance to this act of tyranny; instead they recited prayers and turned their supplications to God. The incident reminds one of the painful destruction of Buddha’s statues in Afghanistan by Taliban two years ago.
Mr Mubarak Ahmad remained behind bars awaiting a decision on his plea for release on bail. He is not even the owner of the property. The father and the son face three years’ imprisonment for writing their own harmless creed on their own house. The incident proved beyond any doubt that the government of Pakistan had done nothing to restore human rights to Ahmadis and the police were under instructions to collaborate with the mullah to persecute Ahmadis. Rabwah never was nor is a sanctuary for Ahmadis.
Mubarak’s attorney approached the magistrate for his release on bail. The magistrate rejected his plea on June 11, almost two weeks after his arrest. Mubarak therefore, applied to the Additional Session Judge at Chiniot. The judge heard the plea on June 20. A gang of mullahs had come to the courtroom for the occasion. The judge accepted the bail application and let him off the hook- at least for the time being. The young man spent approximately 4 weeks in prison. Both son and his father will now face court proceedings against them under PPC 298C.
Severe harassment of a convert and four other Ahmadis
Mullah Shabbir Usmani approached the police and reported that four Ahmadis of Sangra, a nearby village to Rabwah, had preached Ahmadiyyat to a youth, Javed Hussain, and made him a convert. The mullah demanded that all five be booked under the anti-Ahmadiyya law PPC 298C. The police responded promptly, proceeded to Sangra and nabbed the four Ahmadis.
At the police station, the real position was conveyed to the police that Javed Hussain had converted one and a half year ago. At this, the police released the four accused temporarily, under a surety. The next day the convert and his father had to report to the police station, where they affirmed that Javed had converted eighteen months ago on his own accord and not as a result of preaching by the four accused.
Subsequent to the above proceedings, the police let go the five Ahmadis. The incident, however, was a big jolt to them as it could have precipitated into long prosecution and years of imprisonment for them. The mullah is well armed with the weapon of the anti-Ahmadiyya law. He is free to use it at the place and time of his choosing.
Lahore: Pakistani officials are not renowned for innovation and efficiency, except on questionable grounds. At Lahore Airport someone senior has thought of a way to harass Ahmadi travelers. They are asked to declare religious texts and reading material with them and present their baggage for their search. This can be very disconcerting for a passenger who, in such an inquiry, can miss his/her flight – at the least. Little do these officials understand that this is no way to curb the spread of Ahmadiyya literature abroad. A whole library can be transferred these days to anywhere in the world by pressing a key of a loaded computer. Ahmadiyya publications are already being produced outside Pakistan, anyway. Perhaps the officials know this; their only motivation could be prejudice or corruption, or both. A blot on their country’s reputation seems not their concern.
Police undertake sacrilege
Karachi: During the month of August the police told Ahmadis of Drigh Road, Karachi to efface the Kalima (Islamic creed) from their mosque. Ahmadis refused to undertake this enormity. On August 11, the police covered the Kalima by a sheet of paper. Ahmadis protested to higher officials who told them that mullahs had taken exception to the Kalima, and had made representations to authorities. The situation was a threat to law and order, according to them. Ahmadis told them that the community will not erase the Kalima, they could do it themselves if they had the audacity. Against a weaker community, they have it in plenty: they came and effaced the Kalima with spray paint.
A few years ago, the authorities sealed an Ahmadiyya mosque in a neighboring residential colony. It has remained sealed ever since. Ahmadis there have no place to worship. It is blatant denial of basic human rights.
Sadullah Pur, District Mandi Bahauddin: Mr Ghulam Rasul, Ahmadi, died here on March 6, 2003. He belonged to the Jat Hajan clan and was accordingly buried in the joint graveyard specific to the clan. Many days later some miscreants from outside and a few locals started an agitation demanding that the deceased body should be disinterred and buried elsewhere. As the situation grew tense, Ahmadis reported to the police who took no action at their request. Thereafter the agitators approached the police, whereby the police moved fast and registered a criminal case against the Ahmadiyya Community of the village, under sections PPC 298 and 297. These sections prescribe imprisonment up to one year and fine. The Ahmadiyya Community thereupon approached the civil court and obtained a stay order. The police, nevertheless, proceeded to arrest Mr Aziz Ahmad, a brother of the deceased and Mr Mahbub Ahmad, the president of the local Ahmadiyya Community. The police were then looking for other Ahmadis to arrest them.
The traumatized community sought legal advice at Lahore, the provincial capital, and put up a Writ application in Lahore High Court with the plea that the police had transgressed and acted unlawfully. The High Court ordered the police SHO Phalia to make a report on the issue within fifteen days. The police, however, arrested still another Ahmadi, Mr Nasir Ahmad, in this context. The first two detained Ahmadis were released on bail after a fortnight of incarceration.
Following eighteen Ahmadis were named in the proceedings and remained at risk of arrest by the police:
1. Mr Aziz Ahmad 10. Mr Munawwar Ahmad
2. Mr Mahbub Ahmad 11. Mr Muhammad Aslam
3. Mr Nasir Ahmad 12. Mr Muhammad Yusuf
4. Mr Munawwar Akhtar 13. Mr Muhammad Azam
5. Mr. Ghulam Abbas 14. Mr. Bashir Ahmad
6. Mr Ilias 15. Mr Ashraf
7. Mr Tanweer 16. Mr Mubarak Ahmad
8. Mr Yaqub 17. Mr Ghulam Rasul
9. Mr Iftikhar Ahmad 18. Mr Shahadat Ali
As the community had approached the High Court, the police took offense to this audacity and proceeded to arrest three more Ahmadis, namely Muhammad Yusuf, Muhammad Yaqub and Muhammad Aslam. It is not conceivable that the local police would take such a blatant action without nod from their superiors, who, when contacted, expressed their lack of knowledge about the events. Their lack of knowledge was an unabashed lie.
Authorities remove the creed
Chak 295 G.B. Beranwala, district Toba Tek Singh; July 6, 2003: The president of the local Ahmadiyya Community had a nameplate at the entrance of his residence. It also carried his creed, i.e. “None is worthy of worship except Allah; Muhammad is His prophet”. Mullas objected to that, although they have the same creed. They represented to the authorities. The police readily sent an official who visited the residence and took away the name-place. When the aggrieved Ahmadi contacted a senior official, he told him that the removal order was backed by Islamabad.
Evidence of police enormity
Rabwah: Last year, on August 15, 2002 the police intervened on behest of the mullah to efface Quranic verses from the building of an Ahmadiyya religious school. The police undertook the sacrilege itself, although the law does not require it to take any such action. Two photos of this occasion have become available. These are reproduced below for record as evidence of the wide gulf between the profession and the implementation of state policies.
Official financial support to the organization of ‘Protection of Finality of Prophethood’
Press Report: It was reported in the daily ‘Pakistan’, Rawalpindi, on October 23, 2003, by its special correspondent from Chenab Nagar that Mr Akram Khan Durrani, the Chief Minister of NWFP made a donation of Rs 100,000 to the Alami Majlis Tahaffuz Khatame Nabuwwat. This donation was announced by Faiz Ali Haqqani, the provincial education minister at the occasion of 22nd annual conference of the Majlis Khatme Nabuwwat. The minister had come all the way from Peshawar to Rabwah to participate in the conference.
It is pertinent to point out that this conference is the occasion where mullahs of all colours, political and so-called Jihadis, have been getting together in recent years. People like the late Azam Tariq and Masood Azhar and their coteries who are well known in the field of violence and sectarian activism are regular participants in conferences organized by the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwwat, which operates in the garb of religion.
State officials and mullahs
Chak Chattha, district Gujranwala; December 2, 2003: The level of subservience of the bureaucracy in Pakistan to the mullah is amazing. The incident described below shows how the system works.
At about 11 a.m. on December 2, 2003, Mr Atiq-ur-Rahman an Ahmadi rickshaw driver was driving his rickshaw in the town, when a calf fell off a truck on the roadside and received fatal injuries. The calf’s owners frantically looked for a butcher but finding none, gave the knife to Atiq to slaughter the calf so as to render it religiously licit for human consumption. Atiq obliged, but at that moment arrived one Taj Din, a mullah type, who took note.
The owners of the calf sold the carcass to a meat-seller for Rs. 2000/-. Taj Din however took to the mosque’s loudspeaker and announced that as an Ahmadi had slaughtered the calf, its meat was not fit for consumption. He announced that no one should buy that meat. He also telephoned his senior at Hafizabad, Mullah Abdul Wahab. Mullah Wahab phoned the DSP and the SP, senior police officials of the district, and they compliantly sent a few policemen to Chak Chattha to intervene on mullah’s behalf. They ordered the carcass to be dumped in the canal. Then they wanted the Ahmadi involved in the incident to be produced before them. The local chief told the policemen to leave it to him. This fellow is a religious bigot, so it was not a surprise that he gave the decision: (1) Atiq should pay the cost (Rs. 2000/-) to the meat retailer, and (2) He should not, in future, slaughter an animal in the presence of Muslims.
The incident would have remained minor and insignificant if the police had not intervened at the call of the mullah. The police is responsive to the mullah, because it has instructions to be so, from its political bosses; otherwise it is common knowledge that given due support from above, an SHO can be much more powerful and effective than all the mullahs in the jurisdiction of his police station.