Historic building demolished, Ahmadiyya place of worship vandalised in Sialkot

Published May 24, 2018
Workers stand outside the site on Thursday morning. ─ DawnNewsTV
Workers stand outside the site on Thursday morning. ─ DawnNewsTV

Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya spokesperson Salim Uddin, in a press release issued on Thursday, condemned the demolition of the community's place of worship as well as a historically significant building by "miscreants along with governmental administration" in Sialkot.

According to the press release, 30 to 35 employees of a Tehsil municipal committee escorted by police came to the Hakeem Hasam Uddin building around 10:45pm on Wednesday and began demolishing it.

"In the meantime, more than 600 miscreants chanting slogans joined in and started demolishing an Ahmadi worship place near the building," read the press release, adding that the "vandalism" continued until 4:30 in the morning.

The incident caught attention on social media when pictures and videos showing a "mob" destroying the religious site started circulating early Thursday morning. One video showed a man breaking a minaret with an iron tool.

Image of the destroyed minaret. ─ Local source
Image of the destroyed minaret. ─ Local source

A separate video showed a man, who is said to be a leader in a major political party, thanking the district police officer, the deputy commissioner, religious parties and teams of the town municipal administration for their support in removing minarets — "which are a symbol of Islam" — from the place of worship.

"The Ahmadi worship place and building vandalised by the mob possessed historical significance for the Ahmadi community and had been standing for more than a century," the press release stated.

According to the statement, the building had been "renovated a while back, after which the municipal committee sealed it".

"We are seeking legal action against [the attackers]. Vandalism of buildings by the governmental administration for the mere satisfaction of extremist forces without any judicial order only goes to demonstrate the fact that the civil establishment has given up in front of elements that use religion to seek their personal and organisational interests," the statement regretted.

The spokesperson demanded security for community's worship places along with compensation for the damages, which he said ran into tens of thousands of rupees. He also asked that the miscreants be tried under the law.

The local authorities, however, insisted that the building was demolished because it was an "illegal construction".

Sialkot Mayor Chaudhary Tauheed Akhtar told DawnNewsTV that members of the Ahmadi community were constructing a building without having an approved design. The administration received complaints about the illegal construction and subsequently sealed the building, he added.

According to Akhtar, the illegal construction continued in violation of rules and the corporation therefore "took action last night and demolished the illegal construction".

When asked about the mob attacking the place of worship, Akhtar said that he had informed the assistant commissioner and the DPO. "We were supposed to demolish the illegal construction — now, it is the duty of police to investigate the incident and take legal action."

DPO Asad Sarfraz said that the law is equal for all and that an inquiry has been ordered into the incident. Action will be taken after the report is furnished, he said.

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