In Pakistan’s Punjab province, the hallowed arches of a place of reverence belonging to the Ahmadi community met their demise at the hands of law enforcement on a recent Friday. This act occurred in defiance of a high court decree explicitly prohibiting such actions against religious sanctuaries erected by this minority community prior to the year 1984.
On the 8th of September, in Lahore, the police took it upon themselves to barricade the thoroughfare on both ends in the locality of Shahdara Town. They dispatched a team of laborers to carry out the demolition of the archway adorning a place of worship that was cherished by the Ahmadi community.
Amir Mahmood, an official representing the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Pakistan, relayed the disheartening events of that fateful Friday. He reported that approximately twenty policemen descended upon the Ahmadiyya house of worship in Lahore’s Shahdara Town. They issued an ultimatum to the Ahmadis, demanding that they themselves dismantle the arches, failing which the police would take matters into their own hands.
In a valiant effort to safeguard their place of worship, Mahmood and his associates apprised the police officers of the Lahore High Court’s ruling. This ruling unequivocally decreed that the places of worship belonging to the Ahmadi community, which had been erected prior to the enactment of the 1984 law, were to be protected from demolition or alteration.
Despite their appeals and insistence that the place of worship in question had been constructed before the year 1947, the police remained unswayed. It appeared that external pressures from radical Islamist factions had influenced the police’s actions, ultimately leading to the arch’s lamentable destruction.
The police justified their actions by citing concerns about a breach of law and order due to the arch’s presence at the place of worship. When the Ahmadi community declined to comply with their demands, the arch met its untimely demise, as per the police’s account.
In the preceding month of August, the Ahmadi community had already endured a series of attacks on their places of worship across the country. These attacks had resulted in the demolition or removal of minarets, arches, and sacred inscriptions.
Reports indicate that Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a radical Islamist group, has played a prominent role in inciting hatred against the Ahmadis. They have consistently demanded police intervention against Ahmadi places of worship.
Regrettably, the Ahmadi community finds itself in a situation where the police often resort to pressuring the minority group into desecrating their own places of worship instead of offering protection. This effectively fulfills the desires of extremist elements within society.
Amidst this dire backdrop, Mahmood lamented the deteriorating conditions faced by the already marginalized Ahmadis in Pakistan. They continue to endure persecution at the hands of malevolent forces. Acts of desecration against the minarets of places of worship, particularly in Punjab, persist unabated, with authorities seemingly turning a blind eye to the ongoing atrocities.
It is worth noting that in Pakistan, Ahmadis are often derogatorily referred to as Qadianis. This term carries a negative connotation when used in reference to this community.
In 1974, Pakistan’s Parliament officially classified the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims, and this status was further solidified a decade later when they were prohibited from self-identifying as Muslims. Additional restrictions include a ban on proselytization and pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.
Despite official figures indicating a Ahmadi population of approximately one million in Pakistan, unofficial estimates suggest a significantly higher number. In a nation with a population of 220 million, an estimated 10 million individuals belong to religious minorities. These minority groups, living in a predominantly conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, frequently voice complaints of harassment at the hands of extremist elements.