LAHORE: Tension gripped Daska on Thursday as the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) threatened to raze the minarets of a historic worship place of the Ahmadiyya community.

The worship place, located in the old Daska city, was built before Partition by Sir Zafarullah Khan, a member of the Pakistan Movement and the first foreign minister of the independent nation.

According to the district police, the wor­ship place was next to Mr Khan’s house and its minarets were hardly visible. There is no board or inscription of a mos­que on the worship place — an act outlawed in the Pakistan Penal Code.

Concerns have been raised after TLP announced a rally for Friday (today) over alleged desecration by Ahmadi community members of Islam’s Holy figures and the non-cooperation of authorities over the issue.

TLP says it will demolish minarets of building built by Sir Zafarullah Khan

Banners have been put up across the city while videos being shared on social media urged people from all walks of life to join the rally.

Scores of TLP supporters gathered on Thursday and threatened to demolish the minarets of the worship place.

They claimed the minarets were illegal and in violation of laws introduced during the military government of Gen Ziaul Haq in 1984.

Earlier, the party also filed a complaint with the Daska police, demanding action against the administration of the worship place.

The police suggested the party take up the matter with the assistant commissioner as the issue was the district aut­h­ority’s domain and only it could make a decision about the legality of the minarets.

However, the TLP on Thursday called upon its members to gather at Daska to “decide the issue”.

Some users on X, previously Twitter, claimed the district police had decided to demolish the minarets. However, talking to Dawn, Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Hassan Iqbal denied the reports.

He said the structure was intact and police had increased security in and around the worship place following TLP’s threats.

“No one so far has demolished the minarets of the Ahmadi worship place at Daska”, he said, adding negotiations were underway with both sides for a peaceful resolution of the issue.

About the claim of the TLP regarding the illegal construction of minarets, he said according to initial inquiries, the worship place was old and didn’t violate any law.

The DPO added that the Lahore High Court had issued an order last month, declaring the minarets on Ahmadiyya co­mmunity’s worship places, raised before the 1984 law, can’t be razed or altered.

Members of the minority community reserved the right to practise their faith safely at the worship site, the DPO said, while assuring complete security.

Repeated attacks

Despite the LHC order, several worship places of the Ahmadi community have been attacked and vandalised in recent months.

According to Amir Mehmood, a spokesman for the Jamaat Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, five such attacks on Ahmadi worship places have taken place in the span of nine months.

The actions attracted the ire of the UN, prompting its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to express concern over the treatment of Ahmadis.

Published in Dawn, September 22th, 2023

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