At least three houses belonging to members of the Ahmadiyya community were raided by police in Faisalabad city of Pakistan’s Punjab province on Eid-al-Adha, June 29, for the law there prohibits the Ahmadiyyas from calling themselves Muslim and observing Islamic festivals.
Police were acting on complaints by workers of an extremist group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), and confiscated sacrificial animals meant for the ceremonial qurbani from the houses. Some news reports said the police arrested one man from Faisalabad, while three others were arrested, among the 10 booked in all, across different towns in the province.
The community, also called ‘Qadiani’ after their sect’s original headquarters in Qadian town of Indian Punjab, has regularly faced persecution as it does not conform to the majority belief within Islam that Prophet Mohammed was the last-ever prophet.
Those arrested in Faisalabad (once called Lyallpur) and elsewhere face up to three years in jail if charged under laws that specifically target the sect, which was established in the late 19th century.
There were similar arrests last year too, and several times before that over decades now.
The number of Ahmadiyya in Pakistan has been estimated to be up to 2 percent of the population. According to a Pew Research Center report, only 7 percent of Pakistanis consider the Ahmadiyya to be Muslims. There are tiny populations of the sect members in India and other countries.
Warnings issued by cops, others
Ahead of Eid, the top brass of police in Pakistan Punjab had issued directives to area cops to stop the Ahmadiyyas from performing qurbani as this would be “offensive to Muslims” and could “trigger tensions and allow extremist elements to benefit”, News18 had learnt.
Sources further told News18 that in the Faisalabad case, neighbours of an Ahmadiyya family approached the TLP, and men from the group first reached the houses, at which the families tried to hide the goats. Police came soon after.
In another similar event on Eid day, Ghulam Raza, a sub-inspector in Gujrat, a district headquarters in Pak Punjab, publicly announced that no Ahmadiyya was “allowed” to celebrate Eid since “they are not Muslims”. He said if they were found doing so, they would be arrested and charged.
Even the Lahore and Islamabad bar associations wrote to the province’s home secretary and inspector general of police, on June 22 and 24, seeking “preemptive and preventive” action to stop the Ahmadiyyas from performing the ritual sacrifice.
What the Pakistan law says on ‘Qadiani’ sect
Section 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code, brought in by the military dictator General Zia ul-Haq in 1984 as part of a broader hardline Islamisation of the country, states that “any person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves “Ahmadis” or by any other name), who, directly or indirectly, poses himself as a Muslim, or calls, or refers to, his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith… shall be punished with imprisonment…”
But there are even stricter provisions against blasphemy in general in Pakistan that provide for the death penalty as well.