Agreement reached over burials in Sheikhupura village after mob obstructs Ahmadi funeral

Published June 9, 2021
Videos shared on social media showed a crowd of locals gathered at the graveyard during the Ahmadi woman's funeral. — Twitter screengrab
Videos shared on social media showed a crowd of locals gathered at the graveyard during the Ahmadi woman's funeral. — Twitter screengrab

An agreement was reached regarding the burial of members of the Ahmadi community between local ulema and the district administration in Punjab's Sheikhupura district on Wednesday, days after a mob allegedly tried to prevent the burial of an Ahmadi woman.

The June 5 incident, which took place in a village near Safdarabad in Sheikhupura, was first highlighted on social media, with citizens and celebrities urging authorities to take action against those preventing the burial.

After days of tension between the two groups over the issue, which also saw some people resort to aerial firing, negotiations were held on Wednesday involving religious leaders from both sides, and the Sheikhupura deputy commissioner and district police.

It was decided after the talks that "legal action will be taken against the people who took the law into their hands by brandishing weapons," said a statement issued by the spokesperson for Sheikhupura district police, Wajid Abbas. It added that as per the agreement, members of the Ahmadi community would bury their deceased in pre-determined sites.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Abbas said that the incident took place on June 5 after some locals opposed the burial of the Ahmadi woman in the area of the local graveyard that they claimed belonged to them.

He added that there was no desecration of graves in the incident as had been reported on social media, and that the two sides had reached an agreement.

According to Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya spokesperson Aamir Mehmood, the incident took place in Chak 79 of Sheikhupura district. He alleged that some villagers had also made announcements at mosques in the area to not allow the burial of the deceased woman.

"The villagers tried to stop the burial but the woman was laid to rest," he said. He said that the villagers tried to stop the burial even though one portion of the graveyard had been designated for Ahmadis. "The land was allotted to the Ahmadi community," he said.

When the incident was brought to the notice of Azhar Mashwani — the Punjab chief minister's focal person for digital media — he said that the "longstanding issue of the graveyard" had been resolved.

He said that according to the report from the district administration, two different areas had been demarcated for both the communities after an agreement between the elders in the presence of the local administration.

"Police and the administration reached as soon as the incident was reported," he said. When asked about what action was being taken against the perpetrators, Mashwani said that legal proceedings were linked with the complainant's application.

"Apparently they have withdrawn application/complaint after mutual agreement of both communities and resolution of the issue," he said.

The episode involving the mob's obstruction of the funeral prompted criticism on social media.

Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment passed on September 7, 1974, during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

This measure was later followed with Gen Ziaul Haq making it a punishable offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam.

Last year saw an uptick in the number of attacks targeting members of the community in Pakistan.

In November, an Ahmadi doctor was shot dead while his father and two uncles were injured after a teenage boy opened fire on them in their home in Punjab's Nankana Sahib district.

An Ahmadi professor was shot dead in a targeted attack in Peshawar, allegedly over his religious beliefs, in October.

In July, an American national, Tahir Naseem, was shot dead by a teenager in a Peshawar courtroom. It later turned out that the deceased had reportedly left the Ahmadi community.

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