GUJRANWALA: Police registered a case against more than 500 people on Monday after a mob killed a woman and two children and set several houses of the Ahmadi community on fire late on Sunday when a youth from the community allegedly posted blasphemous material on Facebook.
Among those booked by police were prayer leader Maulvi Hakim and his son Zakariya.
According to police, young Saqib allegedly shared a blasphemous image with Ejaz on Facebook. Infuriated, Ejaz, Zakariya and some other people gathered outside the youth’s house in Arafat Colony to “teach him a lesson”.
Sensing danger, members of the Ahmadi community assembled at the house of one Dr Sohail, said police. The angry mob attempted to enter that house in pursuit of Saqib when the people inside allegedly opened fire on them, injuring Zakariya.
The mob had grown in size by that time and eventually entered the house, damaging it. The crowd also damaged some other houses, police said.
Gujranwala CPO Waqas Nazir, Civil Lines SP Zeeshan Siddiqi and CIA DSP Rashid Sandhu reached the spot and began negotiations with members of the two communities to bring the situation under control.
“Later, a crowd of about 150 people went to the police station and sought the registration of a blasphemy case against the youth,” said a police officer. “As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and began burning houses of the Ahmadi community.”
The names of the deceased were Bushra (45), Hira Tabassum (seven) and Kainat Tabassum (10 months). Ruqaiya and her two children Noor Tabassum and Ata, Samer Ahmad, Atia Tabassum, Talha, Humaira and Muneer Ahmad fell unconscious.
SP Siddiqi said a woman suffered miscarriage.
Salimuddin, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, said the incident on Sunday night was the worst attack on his community since the attacks in Lahore four years ago.
“Police were there but only to witness arson and looting. They didn’t do anything to stop the mob,” he said.
“First the crowd looted homes and shops and then they burnt the houses.”
According to police and eyewitnesses, seven to eight houses of the Ahmadi community are in the neighbourhood. All of them have since been vacated.
Heavy contingents of police have been deployed outside the victims’ houses and the hospital where the injured are under treatment.
The police have registered the case against more than 500 people, seven of them nominated accused, under sections 302, 436, 148 and 149 of Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act on the complaint of Bhutta, the father of the deceased children, at the Peoples Colony Station.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has characterised the mob attacks as brutal and barbaric.
In a statement, it said: “The HRCP is shocked and disgusted at the killings after a blasphemy allegation. As things stand in the country now, particularly in Punjab, a blasphemy charge, however unfounded, makes such cold-blooded killings somehow less repulsive. The people who were killed were not even indirectly accused of the blasphemy charge.
“Their only fault was that they were Ahmadi. Torching women and children in their house simply because of their faith represents brutalisation and barbarism stooping to new lows.
“The community, rights-respecting citizens and civil society would and must demand accountability of the mob that cheered as the deceased and injured cried for help. But if prospects for such justice were even remotely realistic, that might have deterred many in the mob from being a part of the heinous enterprise.
“The HRCP calls for a thorough inquiry to find out why police failed to act as the mob went around a number of Ahmadi localities before they eventually chose the one that they decided to target.
“Members of the mob and the people who instigated them need to be identified and brought to justice. Most importantly, the biases and intolerance that led to the killing must be rooted out through proactive and meaningful steps if we are to survive as a civilised society.”
Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014