RAWALPINDI: Thousands of traders and activists from religious parties gathered in Rawalpindi on Sunday to call on the government to stop ‘unconstitutional’ activities of the Ahmadiyya community in the city.
The protest, arranged by traders’ associations near the Holy Family Hospital, was attended by activists of Jamaatud Dawa, Jamaat-i-Islami and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Members of the banned militant organisation Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan were also in attendance. Over 5,000 people were part of the protest, led by traders’ union representatives Sherjeel Mir and Shahid Ghafoor Paracha.
The rally took place in Satellite Town, where anti-Ahmadi banners had appeared earlier this month. An Ahmadi worship place, Ewane Tawheed, is also located in the area and traders said it was built without prior official approval.
Although the rally was held to protest alleged land ‘encroachment’, speakers used the occasion to demand that Ahmadis stop religious activities such as proselytising and worshipping. It was announced that an intersection close to the worship place will be named the Khatm-e-Nubuwat Chowk.
Participants carried flags of different religious parties, including some banned ones, and portraits of the self-confessed assassin Mumtaz Qadri who killed former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. They also chanted slogans against Ahmadis and their ‘uncalled for’ activities in Rawalpindi.
‘No objections to Ahmadis’
But protest leader Mir told The Express Tribune that they had no objection to members of any community living in the residential area. “The Ahmadis purchased the building in E-69 Satellite Town a few years ago from their own people and established a worship place here. They also started preaching in the residential area, to the discomfort of their neighbours,” he said.
The problem, he said, was that the worship place was located near the hospital and the Ahmadis, who have suffered brutal attacks in the past couple of years, have erected barriers and posted private guards on the main road for security.
“They have raised walls and installed security cameras. Snipers have been posted at the rooftop. It looks like a fortress,” he said.
However, members of the Ahmadi community said that the building was constructed after the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, a registered organisation, purchased the land and they could use the building for worship.
The members, requesting anonymity, said that following the attacks at their worship places in Lahore in which 93 people were killed, they erected movable barriers. Every Friday, they said, young men and police personnel are deputed for security following approval from the district administration.
One community member said that following the protests, they had removed security measures.
Meanwhile, Rawal Town SP Malik Matloob Ahmed said that adequate security measures were made for the protest rally so that nobody would get near the worship place. “Every participant was searched before allowing entry to the protest.”
He said the matter had been referred to the district coordination officer, but despite repeated attempts, the DCO could not be reached for his comments.