GUJRANWALA: Three female members of the Ahmadi community, including two minors, were killed late Sunday and eight others were severely injured when an angry mob attacked and burnt five houses, a storage building and several vehicles over alleged blasphemy.
Those killed in the attack include a 55-year-old woman Bashiran, a minor girl Kainat and 7-year-old girl Hira.
The victims were rushed to the district headquarters hospital and the condition of few wounded was reported as critical.
Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of the People's Colony Circle as saying that the trouble started with an allegedly blasphemous post on Facebook by an Ahmadi youth.
The son of a Imam of a local mosque along with his friends reached the house of the youth where they entered into a scuffle and were allegedly fired upon.
The Imam's son and his friend sustained gunshot wounds following which a mob gathered and began protesting which eventually attacked and damaged homes and other property belonging to members of the Ahmadi community.
Gujranwala CPO Waqas Nazir, Civil Lines SP Zeeshan Siddiqi and DSP of CIA Rashid Sindhu reached the spot and began negotiations with members of both communities to bring the situation under control.
“Later, a crowd of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused,” said another police officer who declined to be identified. “As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis.”
The youth accused of making the Facebook post had not been injured, he said.
Civil Lines SP Zeeshan Siddiqi said the victims died of suffocation and that a woman miscarried during the riots and was being provided medical treatment.
Salimuddin, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, said it was the worst attack on the community since simultaneous attacks on Ahmadi places of worship killed 86 Ahmadis four years ago.
“Police were there but just watching the burning. They didn't do anything to stop the mob,” he said. “First they looted their homes and shops and then they burnt the homes.”
According to police and eyewitnesses, there were seven to eight houses of the Ahmadi community in the vicinity. However, following the violence all Ahmadi families in the area managed to flee.
Fearing further incidents of violence and arson Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) suspended the supply of electricity in the area.
Ahmadis have been arrested in Pakistan for reading the Holy Quran, holding religious celebrations and having Quranic verses on rings or wedding cards. Four years ago, 86 Ahmadis were killed in two simultaneous attacks in Lahore.
Also read: Persecuted Ahmadis seek shelter in China
Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law does not clearly define blasphemy but says the offence is punishable by death. Anyone can file a blasphemy case claiming their religious feelings are injured for any reason.
The accused are often lynched, and lawyers and judges defending or acquitting them have been attacked. Rights groups say the laws are increasingly used to seize money or property.
Two politicians who suggested reforming the law were killed, one by his own bodyguard. Lawyers showered the killer with rose petals when he came to court.
The number of accusations is rising, according to a 2012 study by the Islamabad-based think tank, the Center for Research and Security Studies. In 2001, there was only one such complaint, but in 2011 there were 80. No more recent figures are available but 2014 looks set to be a record.
In May 2014, 68 lawyers were charged with blasphemy for using the name 'Umar' in protest slogans against a police official of the same name.
In the same month, prominent human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman defending a Pakistani university professor accused of blasphemy was shot and killed after being threatened in court by other lawyers.