Police take down offensive anti-minority poster in Lahore after outrage

Published December 11, 2015
Photos posted on Twitter on Thursday showed a local police official entering Hafeez Center and taking down the offensive poster. –Photos courtesy Government of Punjab Twitter
Photos posted on Twitter on Thursday showed a local police official entering Hafeez Center and taking down the offensive poster. –Photos courtesy Government of Punjab Twitter

LAHORE: A hateful poster targeting a minority group was taken down from outside a mobile shop in Hafeez Center after a photo of the pamphlet ignited a social media storm on Thursday.

Police said the issue was brought to the Gulberg Police's attention by "several people concerned by the nature of its contents". SHO Yousuf Butt took action against the complaint, and requested the shop owner to take the poster down from a store in the city's largest electronics market.

Under the National Action Plan, police officials have the authority to take action against reported instances of hate speech and hate crime, he said.

On Wednesday night, a photograph of the notice, which used profane language against the Ahmadi community and called for a ban on their entry into the shop, went viral on social media.

One of the tweets also tagged ISPR DG Maj Gen Asim Bajwa, demanding authorities to take action.

The original tweet itself had over 150 shares, with people expressing outrage and demanding action against what was called a "shameless" act of hate.

Columnist and former television anchor Raza Rumi also shared the image and called on the Punjab government to "do something."

A tweet by the Punjab government's official account on Thursday acknowledged Rumi's tweet, and posted a photo showing an official taking down the notice.

–Image courtesy Government of Punjab Twitter
–Image courtesy Government of Punjab Twitter

According to the tweet, the DCO himself went to Hafeez Center after the social media outrage.

SHO Butt, meanwhile, said that he was not aware of any tweets. "We don't even use social media," Butt said, adding that the action was taken by police without any official instructions from the Punjab government.

Meanwhile, many on Twitter saw official action as a victory for social media activists, and appreciated the Punjab government and those who had brought the hate crime to attention.

Soon, the the hashtag #IStandwithGovtPunjab made the rounds on the mico-blogging website.

Others shared incidents of similar hate speech, in other parts of Lahore and Pindi.

Some, however, raised questions about action taken against the shop-keeper, and wanted to know if an arrest had been made.

SHO Butt explained that an arrest cannot be made without an official complaint.

"We cannot take action against the shop owner," Butt told Dawn.com, "No official complaint has been registered."

Growing intolerance

Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani government in 1974. Growing intolerance towards the community has resulted in a series of hate crimes and blasphemy accusations. Many Ahmadis have been arrested under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws 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. Last month, an enraged mob torched a place of worship in Jhelum after allegations of “desecration of the Holy Quran”.

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