LAHORE: Three Ahmadiyya places of worship were allegedly desecrated by police in Sheikhupura district.
The first incident occurred in the Kirto area of Narang Mandi, followed by the desecration of a place of worship in Nano Dogar in Sharqpur, late on Sept 23 and Bedaadpur Virkan near Muridke, all in the district of Sheikhupura. In each case, the minarets of the places of worship were demolished.
Ahmadiyya people have accused the Sheikhupura district police of being complicit in the desecration, rather than providing necessary protection for their places of worship.
They alleged Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers pressured the police and local residents to bring down the minarets in Kirto Narang Mandi.
Earlier, residents from Sunni and Shia sects issued a written statement asserting peaceful coexistence with the Ahmadiyya people in their village. However, a police team, led by a superintendent of police, demolished the upper part of the minarets, eventually ordering the remaining portions to be covered.
A police officer said Ahmadiyyas had constructed the minarets of the places of worship against the law, and they were told to remove them.
He said the police had received several complaints about Ahmadiyya places of worship resembling Muslim mosques, which was against the law.
The TLP had previously organised a protest outside the district police officer’s office in Sheikhupura on Aug 28, during which they demanded demolition of all minarets on Ahmadiyya places of worship in the district by Rabiul Awwal 11. They warned if their demands were not met, they would take matters into their own hands.
A spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya community said the place of worship had been built before 1984 and cited a Lahore High Court ruling stating that their places of worship built prior to Ordinance XX of 1984 were legal and should not be razed or altered. Despite presenting these court orders to the authorities, their pleas went unanswered.
The spokesperson alleged that Punjab police officials succumbed to the pressure from TLP protesters and initiated actions against their places of worship in Sheikhupura.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) released a statement expressing concern over these incidents.
The HRCP reported that the Ahmadiyya community had faced at least 34 incidents of place of worship desecration since January, some involving the alleged complicity of the police.
The HRCP called on the government to take immediate action to protect the rights of religious minorities and assign special police units to safeguard these sites, as per the 2014 Jillani judgment. These disturbing events have drawn attention to the plight of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, raising questions about religious freedom and tolerance in the country.
The HRCP and other advocacy groups have called on the government to take decisive action to address this issue and protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2023