US Commission on International Religious Freedom Condemns Attack on Ahmadi Community

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom roundly condemned the brutal attack on members of the Ahmadi sect during the Friday prayers in Lahore. The organization released the following statement on Friday:

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, reports indicate that gunmen attacked two mosques belonging to the Ahmadi community in Lahore, Pakistan, during Friday prayers.  The attackers seized worshipers and battled security forces, with scores killed. 

“USCIRF condemns this monstrous act of violence against a peaceful religious community and extends its condolences to the families of the victims,” said USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo.  “This is just one more example of the results of ongoing intimidation, thuggish threats and violence against the Ahmadi community in Pakistan.  The Taliban-associated extremists find cover in the anti-Ahmadi laws in the Constitution, Pakistan’s egregious blasphemy law, and the government’s unwillingness to protect the religious freedoms of this community. The government of Pakistan must take responsibility for changing this situation.” 

“The United States must vigorously press Islamabad to address these religious freedom violations or more violence is sure to follow,” added Leo.  “For starters, the U.S. government must urge for the repeal of the blasphemy law.” 

USCIRF has documented systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion in Pakistan for several years. Sectarian and religiously-motivated violence is chronic, and the government has failed to protect members of religious minorities from such violence and to bring perpetrators to justice. Religiously discriminatory legislation, such as anti-Ahmadi laws and the blasphemy law, foster an atmosphere of intolerance in the country and embolden extremists.  Growing religious extremism threatens the freedoms of expression and religion or belief, as well as other human rights, for everyone in Pakistan, particularly Ahmadis, women, members of other religious minorities, and those in the majority Muslim community who hold views deemed un-Islamic by extremists.  Since 2002, USCIRF has recommended Pakistan be named a “Country of Particular Concern” by the State Department, but the U.S. State Department has not followed that recommendation. 

Ahmadis, who may number between three and four million in Pakistan, are prevented by law from engaging in the full practice of their faith and may face criminal charges for a range of religious practices, including the use of religious terminology  Pakistan’s Constitution declares members of the Ahmadi religious community to be “non-Muslims,” despite their insistence to the contrary.

11 thoughts on “US Commission on International Religious Freedom Condemns Attack on Ahmadi Community

  1. It is time that Pakistan wakes up and grasps the essence of the pledge.

    One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

  2. A lot has been touted about the independent and a free Judiciary in Pakistan. The supreme court is busy setting the price of sugar and wheat.

    It is time that the country decides what are the “basic fundamental rights” of a Pakistani.

    All the population needs to be treated equal in order to provide equal justice for all.

    Which is not the case yet.

  3. Daily Times – Site Edition Monday, May 31, 2010

    COMMENT: We are in it together —Dr Syed Mansoor Hussain

    The Ahmedis have never done anything to harm Pakistan, and yet those that opposed the creation of Pakistan are at the forefront of accusing them of being anti-Pakistan

    After the Friday massacre in Lahore, I kept asking myself, how and why we have come to this point. I grew up in the Lahore of the late 50s and 60s. My family was not very religious but neither were they very liberal. I went through a typical upper middle class education for that time, English medium schools, followed by a couple of years in Government College (GC) and then five years in the King Edward (KE) Medical College.

    During those years, I had of course heard about the Ahmedis and very probably had friends and classmates who were Ahmedi as there were Shias, Sunnis, and even some Christians, but never gave it a thought. The first time this sectarian anger against the Ahmedis came to the fore in my life was when as a second year student in KE, a classmate of ours died in a tragic swimming pool accident.

    We decided to have a funeral prayer (namaaz-e-jinaza) for our classmate on the college campus. Suddenly out of nowhere appeared a bunch of students who belonged to the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) trying to convince us that the deceased was an Ahmedi and a funeral prayer should therefore not be held for him. Fortunately, a majority of students in our class ignored these IJT types and went ahead to offer the prayers.

    My earliest memories of Lahore as a child were of processions, riots leading to curfews and eventually something called a Martial Law. Many years later when I went back and read about the early history of Pakistan, I realised that those riots were part of the anti-Ahmedi movement led by anti-Pakistan religious groups like the Ahrar and the Jamaat-e-Islami. Part of my reading included the ‘Munir Report’ written by Justices Munir and Kayani about those ‘disturbances’.

    In that report I also found out that the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) government in Punjab led by Mian Mumtaz Daultana had aided and abetted this movement. Indeed that report was an eye-opener and is perhaps a great example of the erudition and the objectivity of the senior judiciary in Pakistan. In my opinion any serious student of the history of Pakistan must read that report.

    The decade of the 60s ended with the fall of the military dictatorship of General and then Field Marshal Ayub Khan, leading to the second military dictatorship in the history of Pakistan led by General Yahya Khan. Whatever one might say about the 13 years under these two generals, Pakistan was very much a country infused by a pluralist religious ethos. Sectarianism existed but was very much in a muted and undercover form.

    Towards the end of 1971 I left Pakistan for the US. When I left Pakistan it still had two wings, East and West Pakistan; however, soon the country went through a violent rupture. During the next decade, things changed a lot. The Ahmedis were declared non-Muslims by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), their mosques became ‘prayer houses’ and they were forbidden to call themselves Muslims.

    Then came the evil decade of Islamisation in which Pakistan changed entirely. Religiosity of an extreme sort became the accepted norm, and virtually all Muslims not subscribing to an extremist vision of Islam became pariahs. The Ahmedis were pushed into a corner and became completely ostracised. The 1953 agitation against them had finally succeeded. All members of religious minorities who could, fled the country including the Parsees, the Christians, Hindus, and the Ahmedis.

    For three decades I lived and worked in the US. Other than the family members of the close friends I made during those years, half were probably Jewish and the rest divided between Christians of different denominations, Indians including Hindus, Sikhs and a couple of Jains, and some Muslims from Pakistan. For me religion became the least important barometer of friendship. Frankly, for most of my professional life in the US, if I had to depend on somebody, it was the Jews followed by the Indians with the Pakistani sorts being quite unreliable as a group.

    When I returned to Pakistan some years ago, another General was in charge, and ‘enlightened moderation’ was the slogan being touted by the General and his acolytes. Sadly, whatever the facade was, the reality was that Talibanisation and religious extremism were being pushed by the ‘establishment’. All claims of enlightened moderation were completely exposed when the attempt to take off the ‘religion’ column in the Pakistani passports failed. Like ZAB, Musharraf might have been a religious moderate, but he also gave in to the religious extremists to save his job.

    The last few years have seen an escalation of both religiosity as well as religiously-motivated terrorism in Pakistan. It is true that many external factors are stimulating the extremist revival, the most important being the US-led invasion and occupation of first Afghanistan and then Iraq. But that does not absolve us in Pakistan from the charge of letting this menace grow.

    It happened due to the collusion of the people in power and flourished because many ordinary Pakistanis support the violent and extreme vision of Islam that is pushed by the Taliban and their ilk. Of course the new democratic governments both at the Centre as well as in Punjab have made appropriate noises but they just do not have the gumption to come out openly against religious extremism and those that pander to it. Unless the ordinary people rise up against this menace, it will never be checked.

    As far as the attack on the Ahmedi places of worship (cannot call them ‘mosques’ because that is against the law) is concerned, that is particularly despicable. People aggregate to worship Allah, and they become victims of an attack by those that claim to serve Allah. As far as I know the Ahmedis have never done anything to harm Pakistan, and yet those that opposed the creation of Pakistan are at the forefront of accusing them of being anti-Pakistan.

    Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at smhmbbs70@yahoo.com

  4. I truely feel that this is a grave injustice and more people should join in this cause and fight against it.

  5. PROTEST!!!
    Ask APPNA to officially protest the incidence and lack of security provided by government of Pakistan by wearing black bands at our summer meeting. Also, APPNA should start a signature campaign of its members demanding the government of Pakistan to provide security to its citizens and arrest of members of Punjabi Taliban.
    Let’s put out banners of APPNA in our summer meeting condemning the lack of security in Pakistan and against terrorism.
    Let’s see if APPNA leaders can do some real meaningful work.

  6. By Salman Aslam, Arshad Dogar and Sajid Bashir of the News.

    LAHORE: Eighty people were killed and over 120 others injured when
    armed men launched simultaneous attacks on worship places of Ahmedis
    in Garhi Shahu and Model Town areas here on Friday. The assailants
    made the worshippers hostages after making their way to both the
    worship places, hurling hand grenades and spraying volleys of bullets.

    In Model Town, the people fought with the terrorists and overpowered
    them after the two terrorists had killed many worshippers. However, in
    Garhi Shahu, many people were rescued after the police launched an
    operation.

    Among the dead were former sessions judge Ameer Ahmad Sheikh, also the
    Ameer of the Ahmedis Lahore Chapter, Ejazul Haq, a reporter of a
    private TV channel, and Major General (retd) Nasir Ahmad.

    SP Qila Gujjar Singh Lines Babar Bukht Qureshi said both the worship
    places were packed for the
    Friday prayers. In the first incident, seven gunmen made the
    worshippers hostage in the heavily built-up Garhi Shahu building at
    1:40 pm, eyewitnesses said.

    The assailants wearing explosive vests and carrying arms and
    ammunition hurled three grenades after an interval of 10 minutes and
    took positions at different points. Gunfire and explosions continued
    for a long time at the worship place. The attackers hurled the fourth
    grenade at 2:09 pm, the fifth one at 2:23 pm, the sixth at 2:40 pm and
    the next three after an interval of two minutes each.

    One attacker was atop a minaret, firing with an assault rifle and
    throwing grenades as the police were engaged in a fierce gunbattle
    with the armed men below.At least, 500-600 worshippers, including
    children, were trapped in the building. Around 10 cars parked outside
    the building were damaged.

    The attackers again started firing at 2:30 pm. Jawans of the Elite
    Force launched the operation.
    A police team, led by SP Babar Bukht Qureshi, managed to break open
    the back door of the building and rescued the trapped worshippers.
    Three attackers apparently blew themselves up while no details were
    available about the other attackers, a police officer said.

    The attackers also fired shots and hurled a hand grenade at the mosque
    of Ahl-e-Hadees, adjacent to the City Law College. Indiscriminate
    firing by the assailants smashed the windowpanes of nearby buildings.

    A police official said there were only two attackers inside who
    eventually blew themselves up. Police recovered two damaged AK-47
    rifles and four hand grenades from them, he added. People gathered
    outside the building raised slogans of Allah-ho-Akbar when police
    launched the operation. Two armoured vehicles were arranged to rescue
    the hostages.

    ASP Civil Lines Maroof was wounded. He got an injury on his leg when
    his gun went off accidentally. SP Cantt Haider Ashraf and
    his gunman also received minor injuries in firing by terrorists.

    Many could sense the frustration of SP VVIP Captain (retd) Romeel
    Akram, who stood in the corner of the building, puffing away at
    cigarettes, not being able to hunt down the attackers. The police
    placed barbed wires and barricades to keep the people away from the
    spot. But people, including women and children, assembled near the
    building to watch the rescue operation. Many families witnessed the
    police operation from the rooftop of their buildings.

    Families of the worshippers rushed to the site to inquire about their
    children studying in the City Law College. Agony painted on the face
    of a woman running barefoot alongside the road depressed many, as she
    did not find her son in the stampede. The locals said security was not
    sufficient on Friday as compared to the past.

    A group of armed policemen created panic among the already terrified
    people by opening
    indiscriminate firing in the air as a mark of jubilation. Later, they
    raised slogans of Allah-o-Akbar and dispersed.

    A dozen ambulances took the dead and injured to hospitals. The process
    of shifting the dead and injured to the hospitals continued till 7:30
    pm.

    Jaffar, a Class VIII student, who was rescued by the police from the
    building, said two gunmen on the rooftop and one on a minaret were
    firing at the worshippers. The boy’s father, Farid, had also been
    trapped inside Baitul Noor in Model Town.

    As gunfire rattled around him, Jaffar made a call to his mother by
    cell-phone, telling her he was hiding in a room adjacent to the
    building. “All people are trying to save their lives,” he told his
    mother.

    A middle-aged man said he was too scared to leave, even after the
    firing had stopped. “I just pretended dead and kept lying among the
    dead in a pool of blood,” he recalled.

    A man rescued by the police said
    he went upstairs and found a room where he hid under a table. “I was
    too afraid to leave, even after the firing had stopped,” he
    maintained.

    Aqeel Ahmad, a UET student, who hailed from DG Khan, said he had been
    visiting the said building for the last three years for worship. He
    was worried as his two friends were trapped in the building.

    In the second attack, two men wearing explosive vests reached Baitul
    Noor at 87-C Model Town at around 1:41 pm on a bike and shot dead two
    guards, one performing duty 20 yards away from the building, and the
    other on the main entrance.

    Later, they parked their bike in which a time device was planted near
    a picket, set up by the administration of the building and rushed
    inside the three-storey building. The two opened indiscriminate fire
    at the worshippers present inside the building and hurled two hand
    grenades at the people, as a result of which dozens of people,
    including children, sustained
    severe wounds.

    One attacker stayed in the main hall while the other rushed to the
    other hall. Meanwhile, one of the two assailants was overpowered by
    some worshippers, who snatched his gun before he could blow himself
    up. “We grabbed his arms so that he could not pull the pin of
    explosive vest he had worn,” said a youth, who declined to be named.

    The worshippers gave a good thrashing to him and the men on security
    fired shots at him and, as a result, he received around nine wounds in
    both legs.

    “He tried to fire shots from his AK-47 rifle, but fortunately the
    bullet stuck in the chamber and we managed to grab his arms to stop
    him from making another move,” Rizwan said and added the jackets they
    had snatched from the assailants contained around 2-kg of explosive.
    The explosive in the jackets containing ball-bearings was attached
    with a detonator.

    The other attacker, who was in the second hall, could not timely reach
    the spot to save his accomplice. The worshippers encircled him when
    he was reloading his weapon.

    Physical brawl between the attackers and the worshippers was going on
    when the area echoed with the sounds of a huge explosion. The time
    device planted in the bike parked a few yards away from the building
    exploded with a big bang. As a result, a cameramen and a reporter
    received injuries. A car and a bike were partially damaged. A DSNG of
    a private channel was attacked by a bike rider, who fired at least
    seven shots at the vehicle. Luckily all travelling in the vehicle
    escaped unhurt. Both the attackers, one of whom was identified as
    Mohammad, were handed over to the police. They were aged 16-18 and
    were clad in Shalwar Kameez. One had trimmed his beard while the other
    had a long beard, the building inmates said.

    The injured attacker was shifted to the Jinnah Hospital under tight
    security, while the other was removed to an undisclosed
    location for questioning.

    Inspector General Police Tariq Saleem Dogar, along with heavy
    contingent of police, reached the spot. An eyewitness, Farid, an
    engineer by profession, said the attackers had started firing
    indiscriminately. People were running, trying to find a place to hide,
    he added.

    Another eyewitness said the terrorists had a beard and were clad in
    Shalwar Kameez and looked like from the tribal area.

    Many eyewitnesses said the police reached the site when they had
    already captured the attackers.

    The Bomb Disposal Squad defused almost 18 hand grenades and four
    detonators, besides collecting the remains of the explosive devices
    for forensic examination.

    A violent mob attempted to snatch official weapons from DSP Model Town
    Nasar Bajwa. The locals of the area expressed concern over the string
    of militant attacks and condemned the government for not taking
    concrete measures to protect the lives of innocent
    citizens.

    Agencies add: Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervez has claimed the Indian
    intelligence agency, RAW, had been backing terror elements to sabotage
    peace in Pakistan. He said terrorists in Model Town and Garhi Shahu
    used AK-47 rifles, Russian-made hand grenades and suicide jackets.

    President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and
    Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif have ordered an inquiry into the
    deadly incident in Lahore. They have condemned the incidents in
    strongest terms.

  7. The Second Amendment laid the foundations of intolerance and religious tyranny in Pakistan, which has manifested itself in other ways. Since then our state has been in a downward spiral

    The violence against the Ahmediyya community underscores the bigotry that has become the hallmark of our beloved homeland. A community — already sacrificed at the altar of political expediency — has now been made to pay the ultimate price.

    Amongst the dead, which included retired army officers and other contributors to Pakistani society, was reportedly the youngest brother of Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan. For those who are unaware of who Chaudhry Zafarullah was, he was the author of the Lahore Resolution, Pakistan’s first foreign minister and Pakistan’s advocate before the Boundary Commission. In other words, this community has paid for such crimes as their valiant contribution to the Pakistan Movement, their significant role in the development of Pakistan and the fact that Pakistan’s only Nobel Prize was bagged by them. Yet what happened on Friday was waiting to happen, given the neglect and at times outright bigotry that our governments, both federal and provincial, have been guilty of on this count starting with the PPP government in 1974.

    Things were not always like this. It bears remembering that in 1944 when a group of Muslim divines approached Jinnah to persuade him unsuccessfully to turn all Ahmedis out of the Muslim League, Jinnah was resolute against such bigotry. He responded to them by saying, “Who am I to declare non-Muslim a person who calls himself a Muslim?” It was for this reason that many religious parties and even self-styled freedom fighters like Mirza Ali Khan (Faqir of Ipi) denounced the Muslim League as a “bastion of Qadiyanism”. Yet such was the force of character of our founding father that he not only stood against such bigotry but without any fear appointed the leading Ahmedi Muslim at the time to shoulder the most important responsibility for the Muslims of South Asia, i.e. of arguing Pakistan’s case before the Boundary Commission. So long as the Quaid’s colleagues were at the helm, there was some semblance of common sense that prevailed on this issue. When in 1953, the Majlis-e-Ahrar and the Jamaat-e-Islami, both groups that had opposed the creation of Pakistan, started a mass agitation movement to have Ahmedis like Chaudhry Zafarullah turned out from the government and excommunicated from Islam, Khawaja Nazimuddin, himself a devout Muslim, refused to bow under their pressure. His government fell a few weeks later and the establishment stepped in to sweep up the mullahs with extreme prejudice.

    In 1974, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was determined to hang on to power by hook or by crook. Though not a bigot himself, Bhutto was ill-advised by his law minister Abdul Hafeez Pirzada. As a result, the PPP stabbed in the back the one community that had helped them in winning the 1970 elections, by putting a question to parliament that it had no authority to determine. As a result Bhutto managed to hang on to power for another three years. The usurper who replaced Bhutto, General Ziaul Haq, took bigotry against the Ahmedis to another level altogether with his unconstitutional and inhumane Ordinance XX of 1984 specifically targeting this community. His bigotry was upheld by our independent judiciary in Zaheeruddin v The State, where the dispensers of justice compared Islamic symbols with Coca Cola’s intellectual property in an argument that defies all legal sense and logic to justify the ban on the Ahmedis from using any Islamic symbols — symbols that are central to their faith.

    Martin Lau, a leading legal scholar of religious freedom in common law jurisdictions, has argued in his paper on Zaheeruddin v The State that Pakistan has abolished religious freedom for Pakistanis, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, through this judicial precedent. My own view is that the very idea of Pakistan as a bastion against the tyranny of the majority was killed the day our parliament decided to take it upon itself to excommunicate a sect from Islam. The Second Amendment laid the foundations of intolerance and religious tyranny in Pakistan, which has manifested itself in other ways. Since then our state has been in a downward spiral. The Gojra incident, violence against Shias, and now the massacre of the Ahmedis is only symptomatic of the real sickness that emerges from the 1974 Amendment. Pakistan shall continue to be on the wrong side of history as long as the Second Amendment remains in the constitution of this republic.

    The time has come for the PPP government to undo this great injustice done to not just a minority sect but to Pakistan itself. All roots of Pakistan’s current existential crisis with Islam emerge from that one foul act that was brought about on the ill-advice of Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, who is now challenging parliament’s sovereignty, the same sovereignty he had argued 36 years ago as being absolute. It is now up to the PPP to make a clear choice. Will it continue to defend a dubious legacy or will it come out decisively against religious bigotry?

    History beckons President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to clear the name of Pakistan’s largest political party by undoing what it did in 1974. In this they must be supported unwaveringly by the MQM and the ANP — for they claim to be the guardians of secular liberal politics. The Sharif brothers must also atone for their sins — of having spoken from both sides of their mouths — by supporting this move. Even the religious parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami foremost amongst them, must state unwaveringly that while they may not consider the Ahmedis Muslims, they are willing to leave this final judgement to God.

    If they manage to undo this grievous injustice and act of inhumanity, the ladies and gentlemen in our parliament will secure for themselves a permanent place in Pakistan’s history as the visionaries who restored Jinnah’s Pakistan, which is to be built on the ideals of justice, fair play, impartiality and complete equality for all citizens of Pakistan.

    Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He can be reached at yasser.hamdani@gmail.com

  8. I am deeply hurt at the massacre of Ahmadies in two mosques in Lahore and condemn this heinous action on the name of so called “Islam”. On top of in human behavior of so called religious groups,” the virtual conspiracy of silence” by Government officials and other political leaders points to the callousness of the Pakistan society at large.
    I demand that government of Pakistan to provide security to its citizens and arrest of the culprits.

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