As grieved Ahmadi families prepare to mark the first anniversary of the deadliest attack on their community in Pakistan’s history, investigations stand still.
On Friday, May 28, 2010, over 88 people were killed in twin gun-and-bomb attacks at Ahmadi places of worship in the Garhi Shahu and Model Town areas in Lahore. Investigations were launched and arrests were made but little has come out of the investigations.
According to police, a charge-sheet against the accused was prepared after investigations and has been submitted before an anti-terrorism court in Lahore. “The remaining attackers were killed in the operation and no other attackers or facilitators have been identified,” Civil Lines Superintendent of Police (Investigations) Captain (retd) Liaquat Ali Malik told The Express Tribune. “Police responded effectively and killed all of the attackers.”
But many members of the Ahmadiyya community believe that the police response was sluggish.
In its annual report released in January, the London-based Ahmadiyya Jama’at said that police took a long time to arrive in numbers and the delayed response led to more casualties due to lack of medical assistance for the injured. “There was inadequate supervision of the police operation. The contingent present at Garhi Shahu received no orders to mount a prompt counter-attack,” the report says.
Ahmadiyya Jama’at Pakistan spokesperson Saleemuddin says that the police has made scant progress in investigations. “The two attackers against whom a charge-sheet was prepared were tackled by worshippers themselves in Model Town. The police has neither identified any other attacker nor has it taken the matter seriously,” he said.
Ahmadis have many fears over their protection in the country. According to the Ahmadiyya Jama’at, 99 members of the community were killed in 2010. The number is confirmed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its State of Human Rights 2010 report. The HRCP adds that 64 Ahmadis were charged with blasphemy that year.
The Lahore attacks, according to Ahmadiyya Jama’at, were not a big surprise as the provincial government had been forewarned by various sources about the likelihood of such an attack.
Even after the attack, no special measures were taken to secure Ahmadi places of worship. In September 2010, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a worship place in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where worshippers were offering Friday prayers.
The Ahmadi population, estimated to be around four million, has been marginalised since Pakistan’s parliament declared Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974. Ten years later, in 1984, then president General Ziaul Haq enacted an ordinance forbidding Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims and refer to their places of worship as mosques. Under the law, Ahmadis can serve up to three years in prison for “posing as Muslims”.
Saleemuddin believes that the silence over the plight of Ahmadis could lead to more such attacks. “If anti-Ahmadi laws are not repealed, their lives in Pakistan [will continue to] remain in danger,” he says.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2011.