The Society – 2006

2006

 

Riots at Jhando Sahi

Violence, arson and loot committed against Ahmadis in District Sialkot in police presence

Ahmadiyya mosque destroyed. Entire Ahmadi community of the village is forced to flee for fear and lack of protection

No culprits detained; however, the police detained seven Ahmadis and charged four of them on bogus charge of defiling the Holy Quran under PPC 295-B that prescribes imprisonment for life

Authorities took no steps till a month later for the evictees to return home

THIS happened on June 24, 2006 in village Jhando Sahi, near Daska in the Punjab. It is a big village with a population of approximately 5,500. There are approximately a dozen Ahmadi households in the village; their population is almost one hundred,  women and children included.

Two or three Ahmadis undertook cleaning of their mosque after the mid-day Zuh’r prayers. In order to protect the sanctity of old religious literature and papers they put them in a sack, dug up a small pit inside the mosque and set them on fire. A hostile neighbor noticed the activity from a nearby roof, and without any further inquiry or information shouted that copies of the Holy Quran were being burnt. The village was hosting a fair on that day. This man hurried there and raised the cry. This agitated the crowd who rushed to the Ahmadiyya mosque, occupied the place, got hold of some Ahmadis and beat them up severely.

The local anti-Ahmadi mullah of the End of Prophethood (Khatme Nabuwwat) faction, called Multani came to know of the incident and proceeded to add fuel to the fire. The police had arrived by then (of Police Station Bambanwala; SHO Mr. Sanaullah Dhillon), but they made no attempt to restrict the clerics from spreading the mischief. They only arrested Ahmadis, and let the religious zealots do what they did.

These vandals, who were in hundreds, attacked Ahmadis’ homes, and set fire to their shops. In order to avoid physical harm, Ahmadi women and children fled from their homes. The mob looted all the expensive belongings from their homes and set fire to the rest. The stock of two shops owned by Ahmadis was also set blaze. Two motor-cycles were burnt and two tractors belonging to an Ahmadi farmer were damaged. Three thousand liters of fuel was ruined, and these thugs looted thousands of rupees cash. In some homes, children scared to death hid themselves under charpoys (traditional beds) in unlit and unventilated rooms for hours to escape detection. These families were denied refuge by some neighbors while some others afforded them protection till the mullah announced on the mosque’s loudspeaker that those who provided refuge to ‘Mirzais’ would have their houses demolished. Mr. Muhammad Nawaz, an influential Ahmadi agriculturist, was held by a scarf twisted around his neck. He was pulled around through the streets, and was beaten up severely on the face. He was hit on cheekbones; his eye-sockets barely escaped damage. They manhandled his septuagenarian father who is a respectable elder and president of the local Ahmadi community.  All this was undertaken by religious bullies in police presence that was there in strength including the Elite Force, all under the overall charge of District Police Officer (DPO Sialkot) Mr. Tariq Khokhar. As a culminating act they destroyed the Ahmadi mosque and took away its girder and beams as plunder. It is rather funny that only three days later, the Federal religious minister Ijazul Haq could assert, “all minorities enjoy equal rights in Pakistan, and their places of worship are fully protected by the government” (The daily Dawn, Lahore; June 28, 2006).

Under the circumstances, with no protection from the police or authorities, Ahmadi families had no choice but to flee from the village to wherever they could find a refuge. Most of them fled from their places of hiding under cover of darkness at night. Some women and children had to wade through watered farmland barefoot after midnight. The police charged four of the detained Ahmadis under PPC 295-B and took them away to Sialkot. No Ahmadi was allowed to visit the village. Outsider mullahs continued to visit the village. The police did not charge any rioters or their leaders.

The role of the police calls for special mention and censure. It was apparent to all that the police had given freedom of action to the rioters. In fact, some Ahmadis reported being chased jointly by rioters and constables. The crowd felt greatly encouraged by the permissive attitude of the police, and indulged in criminal behavior. The mullahs and riot leaders felt free to issue instructions to the miscreants on loudspeakers. It was announced that Ahmadis were Wajebul Qatl (liable to be killed). The police heard it and took no action. It is odd that those who decry in full throat the destruction of the Babari mosque in a neighboring country, themselves destroyed still another mosque. They took away from the debris whatever they found of value.

 

Ransacked and looted: Mr. Mahmud’s retail shop visited by media persons.

Ransacked and looted: Mr. Mahmud’s retail shop visited by media persons.

While the mob leaders were in complete control of the Ahmadiyya mosque, they rigged the disposal pit, the bag containing the disposable papers, the Holy Qurans from the closets (but added by them to the disposal bag) etc, and prepared an incriminating video of the alleged activity of Ahmadis. The police simply witnessed the proceedings. Mullahs prepared dozens of CD copies of this fabrication for distribution, and sent them mostly to neighboring villages and nearby Daska town to inflame the public and spread the riots further. The next day a procession was planned at Daska, but it was a failure due to the visit of a VIP political mullah to Sialkot.

The clerics and riot leaders availed the next 24 hours to plan and announce follow up anti-Ahmadi actions. They decided not to allow any Ahmadi to return to the village. They made public the implementation methodology. They reportedly discussed usurpation and disposal of Ahmadis’ non-movable property, including the land of the Ahmadiyya mosque.

At the moment all the Ahmadi families, a dozen or so, got displaced. One of these has a farm outside the village; it shifted there. Their plea to visit their home in the village was turned down, and they were threatened of serious harm if they attempted again. Couple of families took refuge elsewhere with their relatives. Most of them came to Rabwah and took up temporary residence in the Langar Khana (the community kitchen). They were visited by only a few human rights concerns and members of the press, but no politician or official came to see them and sympathize. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP) were good enough to send their representatives to look into their plight. Only the Daily Times and The Post sent their reporters to talk to them. The Daily Times news report is available here.

The Daily Times was sensitive and thoughtful enough to make a prompt editorial comment on the incident in its issue of June 26. The Associated Press team also came and talked to the victims. The homeless men, women and children had distressing and touching stories to tell the visitors.

 

Ahmadiyya Mosque: Destroyed and pillaged; the police inspector (at right) accompanied human rights activists.

Ahmadiyya Mosque: Destroyed and pillaged; the police inspector (at right) accompanied human rights activists.

Mr. Nasir Ahmad, aged 39, stated: “ ……Soon came along the Imam Masjid, Multani Sahib, and he immediately took to the loudspeaker and shouted that Mirzais are Wajebul Qatl; set their houses on fire. …….The mob included Azmat Qadri, Rana Azhar, Liaquat Ali, Rana Sher Sulehra, Amjad Dar, Khurram Riasti, Qamar alias Badshah Sahi etc. They all were howling insults and tried to break open the outer doors. My wife fled over the roof along with the kids, and sought refuge with a relative who initially refused. But when asked in the name of Allah and the Holy Prophet, they agreed to it for a short duration. At about that time, the mob set fire to two of the shops belonging to me and my brother… These stores were the only source with us to support our families. Now we are deprived of these.  …”

Mrs. Zubaida Shakil narrated: “…….Participants of the procession entered my home and went right into the back room from where they got hold of  Shakil (my husband) by the hair, dragged him out and beat him up severely.  …….. The police were present when they beat up the Muallim Sahib (the religious teacher) and our president’s son; the situation was as if that of the doomsday. My elder daughter was with me, and I was extremely worried on her account rather than my own. My house was like a Karbala (the site of Imam Hussain’s ordeal). My younger son wilted under the stress of the situation, and went torpid.………”

Mrs. Parveen Akhtar, wife of Mr. Abdur Razzaq stated: “………. When the mob attacked, I hid my son under the Charpoy and cried and prayed to God repeatedly: ‘O Lord, enable us to bear up with this ordeal in grace, and support us to remain steadfast (a scriptural prayer in Arabic)’. So God sent us his angels to protect us, so that we remained safe and quit our refuge sobbing at about 0200 at night. It felt like facing a doomsday or a Karbala.…………”

Mr. Tariq Mahmud, 42, son of Mr. Abdul Hamid told his story: “………. When the procession came over to my house, they were chanting insults and slogans. They set fire to some of my belongings and looted the rest. They severely damaged my home, and were going to set fire to it when they (the neighbors) dissuaded them. Thereafter they announced that those who gave refuge to Ahmadis will have their houses destroyed. After nightfall the miscreants destroyed our mosque in police presence, and took away the useful debris. At about 0100 at night, I fled from the village and reached Daska with great difficulty, where I went to a relative’s home.………”

The distressing event was a witness to some human decency as well. Most Ahmadis were given refuge and protection by some neighbors and non-Ahmadi relatives, even at risk and under threat. A number of non-Ahmadis kept the victims informed of what was happening outside. This helped them to remain out of harm’s way, and flee at appropriate time. The ‘Elite Force’ police was helpful in giving lift to some families, and drove them out to Daska.

Having relented in the first phase of the riot, the authorities could have undertaken the damage-control exercise during the night and the next day. If the authorities had then enforced law and order, they could have created suitable conditions during the next two or three days only for the evictees to return home in safety. However, they decided not to do so; and as a result, the victims of the disturbances remained homeless for weeks.

 

Mr. Nisar Ahmad, one of the riot victims tells his story to visiting human rights and media men.

Mr. Nisar Ahmad, one of the riot victims tells his story to visiting human rights and media men.

The DPO Sialkot, Mr. Tariq Khokhar told the print and the electronic media that: “Criminal case will be registered against Ahmadi workers under the religious laws…. It is to be ascertained who were implicated in the incident of burning the Holy Quran…. The police had ‘strong evidence’ against three of the seven arrested men…. Bambanwala police has arrested all the three accused and the situation is ‘under control’.… ” etc. What he did not say was the action he failed to take against the criminals who destroyed property, physically assaulted their victims, looted their belongings and forced them to flee from their homes. He also did not assure the victims that they would return home soon in safety. In all fairness, the DPO should not be singled out for criticism; no political leader or government official, big or small, had the moral courage to utter a word of sympathy in public for the victims or to condemn the criminals. The authorities appeared to appease and support the bigots and fanatics, and shun the molested and victimized. This was outright discrimination, persecution and violation of human rights amounting to criminal by international standards.

An interesting comparison can be made in governmental response in two different cases of almost similar nature – the Sangla Hill incident in November 2005 and this Jhando Sahi incident. At Sangla Hill the affected community was Christian, while at Jhando Sahi the Ahmadiyya community was under attack. The post-incident response of the authorities was quite commendable at Sangla Hill, while it is plainly condemnable at Jhando Sahi. Briefly:

Sangla Hill

A mob comprising members of the majority community attacked church properties at Sangla Hill and destroyed buildings including two churches. Subsequently, as per press reports:

  • An FIR was registered against 2000 persons, and one hundred and seventy arrests were made by the police.
  • The prime minister ordered a probe, and undertook that the federal and provincial governments will compensate the losses to the church.
  • The chief minister suspended the District Police Officer of Nankana and the DSP for poor administration and dereliction of duty.
  • The chief minister personally visited Sangla Hill and assured the Christian community of full sympathy and security.
  • A judicial enquiry was ordered.
  • Bishop of Lahore Dr Alexander J Malik stated that the chief minister was taking concrete steps to ensure (civic) rights of Christians.

Jhando Sahi

  • No FIR was initially registered against the rioters or their leaders.
  • An FIR was registered against 4 Ahmadis. They were arrested and detained at Sialkot.
  • No perpetrator of assault, desecration, arson, loot or eviction was arrested.
  • No political leader or official of any level uttered a word of sympathy for the victims of the riot. The political leadership both at the federal and the provincial level preferred to remain dumb, although the UN Human Rights Commission is explicit: “ … the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights….”
  • No steps were taken for weeks for the evictees to return home. The government did not apparently inquire as to, after deprivation of their home and hearth, whether they had some shelter and something to eat. The affected families constitutionally have equal rights, and they are tax-payers like others. If the authorities failed to protect their properties and their place of worship, there was greater reason to provide them with essential support in the following days. These people suffered persecution while they needed protection.
  • Till two weeks later, no Ahmadi could even visit the place. Apparently the government  voluntarily handed over its writ to the mullah and the miscreants. The government ignored and violated basic principles of good governance.

 

As for registration of the riot case, when Ahmadis approached the SHO to register an FIR against the rioters, he replied that he would do that only if ordered to do so by the DPO. The DPO in turn ‘advised’ Ahmadis to ‘exercise restraint’. It seems that according to the police, disposal of old pages of scriptures respectfully by burning is a major crime to be punished with imprisonment for life, while arson, loot, destruction of a place of worship and forced eviction of people from their homes and the village is not worthy of registration in a police report. This is amazing attitude to civil affairs. It also shows that the authorities are sensitive only to the drummed up sentiments of the majority, while the extreme plight of members of a small community is hardly worth placing on record. Whither human rights!

It would also be noted that the provincial government, the local government and the federal government all showed little immediate interest in the plight of Ahmadis. They left it all to the DPO who was interested only in arresting Ahmadis and making announcement to that effect, as if it was a great success story. Under what social and moral justification, the political authorities absolved themselves of the responsibility to mind the security and human rights of the Ahmadi community? Are the authorities not accountable for all citizens of the state to God and to the national and global civil society? The global village got the news of the incident by next day through the internet. Ahmadis are now found in 185 countries of the world; and the international community, regardless of nationality, color or creed is mindful these days about human rights and freedom of religion and faith – concerns and concepts that know no borders. If the government wants Pakistan’s image as a ‘moderate and enlightened’ country, will such incidents and their handling by authorities verify and fortify such an image? Quite the reverse, frankly.

It would also be of interest for the keen to know that the law in Penal Code clause 295-B that prescribes life imprisonment for defiling the Qur’an is not found in the Qur’an. It is not even hinted therein; the Holy Prophet PBUH did not suggest it either. In fact, there were no prisons in Arabia in the early days of Islam. This law that is upheld in the name of Islam is therefore entirely un-Islamic. It was the brainchild of obscurantism imposed and nourished by General Zia. It was contrived and added to the Pakistan Penal Code in 1982. It is unfortunate that Pakistani society is behaving somewhat like that proverbial cheetah who liked the taste of his own blood that he licked his bleeding wound till he died.

It is noteworthy that as late as only a year and half ago the Lahore High Court took note of the opinion of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on the issue to give a decision in a case of alleged desecration of the Holy Quran (PPC 295-B). This opinion records, inter alia:

“… Summary of the opinion of these learned members of the Council (CII) is given below:

These papers (of the Holy Quran, that require disposal) may be burnt; just as Hadhrat Usman Ghani r.a. acquired from Hadhrat Hafsa r.a. the original version of the Holy Quran compiled during the reign of Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddique, compiled several copies of this for distribution, and ordered that different papers (of the original)  be burnt. (See  Bokhari, vol.2; P.746 published by M Saeed Company, Qadeemi Kutab Khana, Aram Bagh, Karachi)

.————-

There are different ways available for the disposal of unusable papers of the Glorious Quran that have printing errors or have become old:

1. Such papers can be burnt. There is nothing wrong in doing so as per Sharia, as the intention is to avoid desecration and defiling of the unusable pages of the Glorious Quran. There exists the precedence of the days of (the third Caliph) Syedna Hadhrat Usman r.a; however in this option there are some administrative difficulties and a risk to peace these days.” The court placed on record that the counsel appearing on behalf of the State stated that the disposal of the papers “falls within the ambit of section 295-B PPC”. The judge, Sh. Abdur Rashid J. however, based his decision on the opinion of the Council, rejected the State’s position, and confirmed the bail (2005 P Cr. L.J. 591).          Is it not unfortunate and deplorable that the self-styled enlightened-cum-moderate State acts more obscurantist than the clerics on its pay-role?

Under the circumstances, Ahmadis who were maltreated earlier by Mr. Bhutto and General Zia can only repeat what the beleaguered Prophet Lot said to his tormentors: “ Would that I  – Had the power to suppress – Or that I could betake – Myself to some powerful support (for shelter)(Al- Quran 11:80     Translation by A. Yusuf Ali).

The case was registered against four Ahmadis, namely Messrs Zaheer Ahmad, Waqar Ahmad, Shakil Ahmad and Fayyaz Ahmad at Police Station Bambanwala in FIR NO. 165/06   dated 24 June 2006, under PPC 295-B. The accused were incarcerated /  detained in Sialkot.

 

(It appears that someone from the victims did betake to the ‘Powerful Support’ hinted by Prophet Lot. One bigwig responsible for their suffering, the District Police Officer, Mr. Tariq Khokhar was hauled up by the Supreme Court a few days later, in some other case, and, according to the press report, was ordered by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to, inter alia: “Go and sit down on the rear seats of the court room and write a report stating that you are incompetent and not fit to continue in service. And present this report to the Inspector General of Police”. The court observed that the I.G.P. should fire such officers (The daily Jang, Lahore; July 6, 2006.)

Essentials of the riots stated above were subsequently authenticated by non-Ahmadiyya independent sources. Some of these are quoted below for record.

Inquiry Report by a team of 9, organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was published in its monthly Jahad e Haq, August 2006. It mentions the following inter alia:

  • “In response to the question as to why the police did not stop the rioters from arson, the SHO replied that had he done so, the agitation would have spread elsewhere.
  • The SHO stated that a committee was formed under the chairmanship of the local Assistant Nazim. Some Ahmadis had departed while the majority were present in the village. People told us that… all the Ahmadi families fled from the village except one family who lived partly outside the village.
  • The team saw in the village that two shops owned by Ahmadis had been entirely burnt, two of the houses owned by Ahmadis had been torched and damaged while the Ahmadiyya place of worship had been completely destroyed.
  • Nawaz, an Ahmadi victim, with injuries on his face and deep black scars of injury under his eyes told us that he too along with his father who is the president of the local Ahmadiyya community was arrested, but released subsequently.

 

Conclusions:

  1. The law enforcing agencies’ conduct, in controlling the riot, was discriminatory against Ahmadis.
  2. The discrimination is apparent in not invoking the law against people guilty of loot and arson in the village. As such, Ahmadis, who were under no blame, also fled from their home and hearth, concerned with their safety.

 

Recommendations:

  1. The investigation of the case should be impartial and transparent, so that no injustice is done.
  2. The administration, Members of the National and Provincial Assemblies and the local government are duty bound to take immediate steps to resettle the families that were forced to flee from the village.
  3. Action should be taken according to law  against those who undertook arson, damage and destruction of citizens’ properties.”

The Friday Times of August 4-10, 2006 published an article by Ms Sadaf Arshad and titled it: Daska doomsday (with reference to the nearby town of Daska). It printed photographs of the destroyed Ahmadiyya mosque and the burnt-out stores. The article mentioned, inter alia:

Even as the police registered a case against the Ahmadis it failed to register a case against the damage to Ahmadi property, as well as on the law and order disturbances.

“The SHO’s apparent helplessness was because no complaint was registered by any Ahmadi. The fact is that no Ahmadis were allowed to enter the village and so they were unable to file their cases. This belies the police claim that Ahmadis are safely living in the village; whereas the Ahmadis allege that the DPO instructed the police to allow the mob to burn the Ahmadi mosque.

“Local talk says that Muslims often discussed the possibility of constructing a madrassah in place of the Ahmadi mosque.

“Also, an Imam called the ‘Multani Imam’, who came to the village three months ago, allegedly spread hatred among both the Muslim and the Ahmadi communities in his khutbas at the Kashmiri Mosque, one of the four mosques in the village. He preached that Ahmadis are Wajab ul Qatl’- that they deserve to be murdered.”

The daily DAWN, in its issue of August 6, 2006 published an article on the Jhando Sahi incident, under the title: Religious laws –  mob violence. Following comment therein is noteworthy:

“Among present-day scholars, Hafiz Sanaullah Madni of Ahle Hadith holds that throwing worn-out pages in a running stream or in a well or burying them in the ground is permissible, but the best form is to burn these as Hazrat Usman had done. Mufti Mohammad Shafi of Deoband holds that burying and then lighting fire over it is also permissible. Hazrat Shah Ahmad Raza Khan of Bareilly and other scholars belonging to his school, however, consider only burial to be proper.

“Opinion on the details of this matter differs as it does in many other aspects of Islamic faith and practice. But it is tragic for people to be killed or driven out of their homes for the act of burning when their intention undoubtedly is not to desecrate the Holy Quran but to save it from desecration. One has not heard of riots or murders for difference of opinion on this count in any other country where the objective is the same.”

The monthly Herald of Karachi covered the Jhando Sahi story in its issue of August 2006, written by Azmat Abbas under the title: Strangers at Home. A few excerpts:

  • During this incident the local police stood by as disinterested observers.
  • Next, they (the rioters) set fire to the Baitul Zikr (Ahmadiyya mosque) and destroyed it completely. Wooden planks and other valuable items were also stolen by the mob from the debris.
  • Meanwhile, the police took four Ahmadis into custody and booked them under Section 295(b) of the Pakistan Penal Code, relating to the Holy Quran’s desecration. The case was registered on the complaint of two members of a religious organization who were not even present when the alleged crime took place.
  • It has also been alleged that the policemen joined the mob in chasing the beleaguered Ahmadis. The frenzy continued for several hours and became more organized after the arrival of members of various religious organizations from neighboring villages and Daska town. Some locals claim that announcements were made through loudspeakers shortly after sunset warning people not to provide refuge to the Ahmadis as it would result in attacks on their houses. The same warning was also issued by the police.
  • Apparently, some of the people among the mob had a financial interest in attacking Ahmadi businesses. For example, some people took the pain of locating the borrowers’ register from the general store of Mohammad Ahmad and setting it on fire. “The register had the names of those who had borrowed various items from the shop and the collective amount exceeded 45,000 rupees,” he said.
  • A local police officer, when contacted by the Herald, confirmed that the police was unwilling to provide safe passage to Ahmadis wishing to return to the village. He added that Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Dr Tariq Khokhar had given instructions that no Ahmadi should be allowed to return home without explicit prior approval. Khokhar could not be reached for comment despite several attempts.

The Video CD produced by Mullahs. Mullahs noticed fairly early during the disturbance that the police was on their side and would let them proceed with their criminal proceedings unhindered. So having undertaken a great deal of loot and arson, they settled down to prepare a video of the incident. In this they were at liberty to rig the scenes and mix facts and fiction as suited to their purpose. They produced many copies of this video and distributed them to other communities to spread the violence. The CD shows the following, inter alia:

  • The police and the rioters in close vicinity acting and moving about in complete harmony
  • The police taking no action while the Ahmadiyya property was on fire nearby
  • Video was produced unhindered by police presence
  • The mullah delivered a speech to those present, wherein he said that those guilty of blasphemy were Wajab-ul-Qatl (must be put to death). He said, “Superintendent of Police (the DPO) has assured us that he will not spare such accused. The SHO also said that he was a man of the Khatme Nabuwwat and he had links with the Khatme Nabuwwat Movement, and that he will not spare the guilty and will ensure full penalty.”
  • The mullah spoke at great length in support of Aamar Cheema, ‘Shaheed of Germany’.
  • The video showed that the leadership of the disturbance was allowed to pass on to those with a higher agenda, as the crowd was shown chanting slogans mostly about Aamar Cheema and against the Federal Republic of Germany.

While all this was happening through commission and omission in the months of June and July, the Home Secretary Mr. Khusro Pervaiz Khan, the senior most bureaucrat in the provincial capital who should have assured expeditious return of the homeless Ahmadis back to their village, only issued a governmental notification No SO (IS-III) 1-4/2005 dated 19th July 2006 that he was pleased to forfeit an issue each of the Ahmadiyya daily Al-Fazl, the weekly Alfazl International and the monthly Tashheez-ul-Azhan, with immediate effect. These issues were published prior to the Jhando Sahi incident, and the worthy Secretary made no exact mention of the matter therein that he found objectionable. It is certain that he was acting only to comply with spurious demand of some mullah.

Till August 31, no riot leader nor any of the arsonists had been arrested. Two Ahmadis remained in prison exposed to serious risk of ‘life imprisonment’ through the bad system that is quite effective in dispensing injustice. The molested members of the Ahmadiyya community were allowed to go back to their village in the first week of August, but the government gave them no financial help for restarting their homes. No promise was made to rebuild their place of worship for them. Such is the state support to Freedom of Religion in the land of enlightened moderation. Much later they came up with some compensation; but more on it, shortly.

Men, women and children of the Ahmadiyya community, who suffered greatly and unjustly in Jhando Sahi on June 24, 2006 and in the following weeks, placed their trust in Allah, however, they keenly watched how the provincial plenipotentiaries, Governor Maqbool, Chief Minister Pervaiz Ilahi, Chief Secretary Salman Siddique, Home Secretary Khusro Pervaiz Khan, IGP Ziaul Hasan and the District Nazim Akmal Cheema bore their noble burden of duty placed on their shoulders at this time and space in the Punjab. God and history will keep a record of that, as they did in the case of Mian Brothers’ conduct in Chak Sikandar riots in 1989. DPO  Khokhar was judged early when he faced his tormenting angels in the Supreme Court, a few days after the riots.  And there is more to follow as told by the Holy Quran: What! Did you think that We had created you without purpose, and that you would not be brought back to us? 23: 115/116.

The action taken by the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz Ilahi should be placed on record here. The Ahmadiyya Community headquarters sent a detailed letter to the Chief Minister on the tragedy at Jhando Sahi and requested intervention, relief and support for the riot-stricken. More than two weeks after the incident, the Chief Minister’s Secretariat wrote a brief letter to DPO Sialkot that is readable for its (lack of) concern, and is worded to ensure the desired action (or inaction). The entire body of this letter, No: CMS/AS(M) 25/2006/6602 dated 11 July 2006 is the following:

“Subject:         COMPLAIN (sic)

Reference enclosed application of Mr. Saleem-ud-Din, Nazarat Umoor-e-Aama, Sadar Anjuman Ahmadiyya, Chenab Nagar Rabwah, District Jhang containing a complaint which is self-explanatory.

2. I am directed to forward the case for appropriate legal action, as per law, please

D.P.O. Sialkot”

This letter arguably deserves no further comment.

An Amnesty International team of three, led by the president of the Pakistan chapter, visited Jhando Sahi on 13th August and made on-the-spot in-depth inquiry. The team produced a Fact Finding Report and sent its copy to the President of Pakistan with a covering letter on September 2, 2006. The Report, more or less, confirmed what we have already reported above, so we reproduce here only: 1 Comments/Recommendations, and,  2. The Important Points Needing Immediate Action of the A.I. Report, inter alia:

Comments/ Recommendations

We at Amnesty International fear that the perpetrators of attack on the Ahmadiyya Community in Jhando Sahi may go unpunished and that such attacks will continue unless the Pakistani authorities respond quickly to bring the perpetrators to justice and take steps to protect Ahmadis against future attacks.

Police investigations of previous targeted killings of Ahmadis in Pakistan have been slow or have not taken place at all. In many cases the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. We at Amnesty International believe that the government’s consistent failure to investigate attacks and killings of members of religious minorities fails to discourage further human rights abuses against such groups. The right to freedom of religion, as laid down in the Pakistan constitution and in international human rights law, must be made a reality for all religious minorities in Pakistan.

Amnesty International has appealed to successive governments of Pakistan to abolish the laws relating to religious offences, which effectively criminalize any exercise of the right to freedom of religion by Ahmadis and the blasphemy law under section 295-C PPC. Your government has also promised to consider abolishing this discriminatory law but a practical step is still awaited.

The Important Points Needing Immediate Action

  • During attack on Ahmadiyya Community by a mob of extremist Muslims in Jhando Sahi town near Daska, District Sialkot, the mob set two shops and 3 homes on fire with looting, torture and humiliation of the peaceful Ahmadiyya population in the town, no perpetrator has been arrested even after 2 months of the incident.
  • The police, instead of arresting the violators, have arrested 4 Ahmadis, 2 of those are still imprisoned with no bail.
  • No act of reconciliation has been made by the government, neither a visit by the responsible authorities nor any financial compensation to the victims of the religious extremism.

The drop scene. Many weeks later, there was a press report that the Inspector General of Police asked the DPO for a report on the status of the Jhando Sahi case. The officialdom handled the criminal clerics like a hot potato unnecessarily. No arrests were made, however a criminal FIR was registered against some named rioters and riot-leaders. They were threatened with further action. As a result a compromise was made which suited the criminals as well as the administration. Ahmadis, as the victimized group who had suffered greatly at their hands, had to cut their losses and agree to an unequal agreement. Both sides agreed to withdraw their complaints against each other. As a result, the two Ahmadis who were still in prison and whose application for bail had been rejected, were released on bail on November 8, 2006, three and half months after the attack on them. It is easy to discern that the net result of the entire episode was that the criminals who rioted, looted and burnt, and their mentors, all got away without paying any price for their excessive criminal conduct, while Ahmadis were made to feel obliged for cutting their losses and being spared from the risk of life-imprisonment for an act which is not a crime by any standard.

Those who harm simple people/ and who laugh at their injuries/ will not be safe./ For the poet remembers. (Inscription at the martyrs’ monuments, Gdansk shipyard, Poland)

At this late stage, the administration distributed some money to the victims of these riots and donated Rs 25000/- ( equivalent of US $ 418) for reconstruction of their mosque; this money would just suffice to construct a one-man shower & WC in the mosque. Ahmadis of the village are considering return of this charity to the authorities.

 

Another blow with the help of the bad law

Faiz Ganj, District Khairpur; June 29, 2006: A criminal case was registered at Police Station Faiz Ganj under the religious clause PPC 298A and the Ahmadi-specific PPC 298C against 11 persons at the accusation of one Haji Ali Ahmad of Jamal Pur. The accused include Mr. Muhammad Ayub who was on a visit here from the UK, and Mr. Maulud Ahmad son of Dr Ismael, Ahmadis. There are two non-Ahmadis also among the accused.

The complainant has not named the other 7 accused, but has mentioned that he can identify them on seeing them. This is the usual trick to widen the net of criminal accusation.

The accusation is the result of nothing but personal vendetta; there is no genuine religious basis for the case. Ahmadi-specific and religious laws have been invoked by the accuser simply to dishonestly support his case.

The evil of most of such laws defies description. The recent in-depth inquiry by the media in the Hudood laws has brought that out manifestly.

 

Riots, business and sectarianism – a strange mix

Lahore; February 17, 2006: During the anti-cartoons violent demonstrations at Lahore on February 14, the demonstrators chose to attack and badly damage the Shezan Restaurant on The Mall. This well-known restaurant was owned by an Ahmadi in the past, but he had sold it to a buyer in 1974. The mischief leaders of the February 14th riots were perhaps not aware of this; hence the attack. The daily Pakistan published the following story of this double mishap in its issue of 17th February. It reflects rather poorly on the psyche of religions groups in Pakistan as regards riots and religion.

Shezan Restaurant is not owned by Mirzais. We have complete faith in the End of Prophethood.            General Manger

1500 work in 19 branches; 50 lost their jobs in arson at the Mall Road branch

….

Lahore (Report by Ishtiaq Hussain)… Mian Imran, the General Manager Operations of Shezan Bakers and Snack Bar said in a special interview with the daily Pakistan that Mr. Muhammad Afzal the (present) owner of the Shezan Restaurant acquired all the rights of Shezan Bakers and Snack Bar from Mirzais (Ahmadis) in 1974; as such we have nothing to do with Mirzais…. Our network is only at Lahore, while outside Lahore the franchise rights belong to Shezan International that is owned by Mirzais who contribute 10% of their income to Rabwah. He said that the owners of Shezan Bakers and Snack Bar have full faith in the Khatme Nabuwwat. Our feelings are the same as the rest of the Islamic Ummat on the issue of protests against the publication of cartoons, but we condemn strongly damage to property. Trained youth in the agitated mob threw a petroleum bomb at the Shezan Restaurant, and the fire flared up all of a sudden. However, the police was more of a silent spectator. The workers escaped from the back door of the Shezan. Likewise, miscreants undertook damage to the Shezan Bakery at Garhi Shahu Chowk and looted the stock. That branch is functional again, however, reconstruction of the Shezan Restaurant will be undertaken after March 3 when a (general) strike is scheduled (by the organizers)……”

 

Tension in District Qasur

Jaura, District Qasur: During the month of January, anti-Ahmadi activists diusturbed the peace of Jaura, as also of the Adda Nurpur Nehr. Ahmadis reported the matter to senior officers of the police department, who took suitable action to deter these activists from making the situation any worse. These elements then contacted their mentors, the district leaders of the Khatme Nabuwwat organization, who, in league with mullahs from Multan, made a plan to hold anti-Ahmadi rallies in the area. The police were informed and they took preventive action by switching off sound amplifiers of the two mosques at Adda Nurpur Nehr. The police warned the agitation leaders namely, Javed Gill, Haleem Yusuf, Sabir Shah, Sheikh Riaz etc to desist from creating a law and order situation. These activists, however, still indulged in harassment of individual Ahmadis here and there, but on the whole the situation remained under control.

 

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