LAHORE: Over 100 tombstones were desecrated by unidentified men at an Ahmadi graveyard in the Model Town area of Lahore early Monday morning.
Eyewitnesses said 12 to 15 masked men, carrying weapons and excavation tools, had entered the graveyard in Model Town Q Block between 1:30am and 1:45am.
At least five of the men were reported to be carrying weapons, including 9mm pistols and a bigger gun.
The perpetrators removed and broke the tombstones of graves. They also told the caretakers that they were not supposed to write the Kalima or Bismillah on the tombstones because, “Ahmadis are infidels.”
“I was about to sleep for a while when I heard the sound of someone jumping inside the compound. When I was about to check who could be there, a number of men pounced on me, started beating me and took my gun,” said Muhammad Younis, a guard at the graveyard.
Younis told The Express Tribune that the attackers had a camera and took his picture after he was tied up. He said some of the attackers had climbed in from the rear wall of the graveyard and a few of them from the front.
The removal of tombstones began after everyone at the compound was tied up.
Around 20 people, including guests and families of the caretakers and guard, were locked up.
Three armed men stood guard outside the quarters where all caretakers were being kept.
On a mission?
Eyewitnesses who were locked in the quarters said they could hear that the attackers were receiving calls and were informing the person on the other line that they had started their mission.
The men were wearing black masks and were speaking Punjabi and Urdu. Their ‘leader’ had long hair, a beard and traces of Pashto in his accent.
They told the guard and others that they belonged to a banned organisation and the Taliban.
Younis only managed to make one phone call to the community’s head of security guards, Muhammad Asif. He was also locked up on arrival.
Eyewitnesses said the entire incident lasted for about 35 minutes. The perpetrators ran off in a hurry when a policeman, who is from the Ahmadi community and a guard at one of their worship places, arrived and fired in the air.
Asif said the attackers also took cell phones, wallets and money from three individuals.
No FIR was registered till the filing of this report, but members of the community said they will file one.
Community to take legal action
In July, 2012, Tufail Raza of the Khatme Nabuwat Lawyers Forum had approached the Liaquatabad Police Station in Lahore for the removal of Islamic inscriptions from tombstones at the graveyard. The graveyard had been established in 1980.
The police did not follow up on the application, but began pressurising the community to remove the text. In October, the Additional Sessions Judge of the Lahore Session Court had asked the police to act according to the law and had disposed of Tufail Raza’s petition.
Idrees Qureshi, the SHO of Liaquatabad Police Station, told The Express Tribune that the court order and application was with DSP Legal for his opinion on how to tackle the issue.
Qureshi said that more than 30 individuals from the Khatme Nabuwat organisation had visited the police station at least three times to ask for the removal of the tombstones.
When the SHO was contacted by The Express Tribune at 11:51am, he was not aware of the desecration incident. “I will send someone to look into this, when I get a call,” he had said.
Ahmed Munir, a member of the Ahmadi community who has been liaisoning with the police over the issue since July, said, “We cannot remove the Kalima ourselves, because it is against our faith, but we requested the police to look at the law and not interpret it the way the anti-Ahmadi elements asked them too.”
Saleemud Din, spokesperson of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, had a question for the authorities, “this is not some obscure village in Hafizabad, this is Lahore and the neighborhood where the Sharif family lives, how is such an incident allowed to take place here?”
The community says they will take legal action against those who attacked the graveyard.