Over 100 tombstones at an Ahmadiyya graveyard in Lahore were desecrated in the wee hours of Monday by masked gunmen, who specifically targeted those graves which bore Islamic inscriptions. They proclaimed themselves to be members of a banned organisation and said that the Ahmadiyyas had no right to use Koranic verses on their gravestones as they are not Muslims.
The vandalism in the Model Town area evoked widespread revulsion with many lamenting the mindset that refused to allow even the dead to rest in peace. “Won’t let the living live, and won’t let the dead rest in peace”, a tweet posted in anguish had many takers as efforts were afoot to move a petition against not just this attack but perennial efforts to intimidate the Ahmadiyya community.
According to The Express Tribune, the attackers entered the graveyard with weapons and digging tools. The guard and grave digger and their families were tied up first and told that the Ahmadiyyas had no right to use Koranic inscriptions on their graves.
Then the intruders went about their job of pulling out the headstones with Koranic inscriptions and breaking them.
Members of the Ahmadiyya community said the graveyard had the graves of men who had fought for the Pakistan Army, including some prisoners of war. In a tweet, the spokesman for Jama’at Ahmadiyya Pakistan, Saleem ud Din, said: “With Ahmadis’ graves the target of miscreants, what is the guarantee that the living would be spared.”
Regularly targeted by vigilante groups, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan bills the Ahmadis as the most vulnerable of all the minority communities living in the country, Hindus included. They were declared non-Muslims in 1974 through the Second Amendment introduced by the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government.
Matters took a turn for the worse under the Zia ul-Haq regime.
Since then, they are not allowed to propagate their faith, refer to their place of worship as masjid (mosque) or use the azan (public call to prayer). Instead, their places of worship are called Ibadatgah and they have separate burial grounds.
They are stripped of their vote unless they registered themselves as non-Muslims.
In the Zia days, they were arrested for reciting the ‘Kalma’ (the first article of faith in Islam), their versions of the Koran were destroyed, and they were not allowed to use Islamic terminology on wedding invitation cards.
Though the situation had eased in subsequent years, the growing radicalisation of society in recent years has brought the community once again under constant attack including boycott of some of their products.