Why were the minarets of the Ahmadiyya synagogue in Sheikhupura demolished?

On September 13, 2023, Ahlul-Sunni and Ahlul-Shia Muslim scholars and followers of the Ahmadiyya religion living in Kurtu village in Sheikhupura district wrote a petition to the District Police Officer stating that all the people of the village live in tolerance and peace. The Ahmadi synagogue (Bait al-Zakr) has existed in the area for 60 years, and no one has any objection to its construction style, so its minaret and mihrab should not be broken.

Kurtu village with a population of about 4 thousand is located seven kilometers east of Narang Mandi town in Sheikhupura district. According to the 2017 census, the non-Muslim population in this area is 339.

According to Hamid Batar, a resident of the village, there are 30 families of people who believe in the Ahmadiyya religion, while about half of the rest of the families belong to the Sunni and half to the Shia religion. Apart from the mosques of Barelvi, Deobandi, and Ahl-Hadith Maslaks, there is also an Ahmadiyya place of worship in this village. There was never any conflict between the villagers based on religion or creed.

However, just two days later, Sunni clerics started issuing denials saying that they had signed the petition without reading the text. It was their mistake for which they apologise.

A local youth (who has requested to remain anonymous) claims that when the details of the police application incident surfaced on social media, Tehreek-e-Labeek district officials rushed to Ahle Sunnat scholars with dozens of armed workers. went and forced them to record a video message.

If these messages are seen, it is felt that some people sitting behind the camera are giving instructions to the scholars regarding the statement.

On the night of September 24, the police took action on their own and pulled down the top of the minarets of the Ahmadiyya mosque and removed the loudspeakers.

In this regard, an official of the law enforcement agency says that considering the ‘ground realities’ and under police supervision to maintain peace in the area, it was decided to demolish the minaret of the Ahmadiyya mosque.

Hamid Butar says that the police were worried that there might be an accident on the occasion of the 12th of Rabi’ul Awwal and that is why they tried to convince the Ahmadiyya Jamaat to demolish the minaret. The Jamaat’s position was that if the state wanted to maintain law and order, it could do so, but neither would they bring down the minarets of their place of worship, nor would any mob be allowed to do so. Therefore, under the supervision of the police, the upper part of the minarets was broken at night.

Some people belonging to the Ahmadiyya religion say that the police did this under pressure from the Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP). According to them, this group staged a protest outside the DPO office Sheikhupura on August 28, in which it demanded that all the minarets of Ahmadiyya places of worship in the entire district be demolished by 11 Rabiul Awwal, otherwise, it would take this action itself.

These people say that fearing this threat, the police demolished the minarets of Ahmadiyya places of worship at five places in Sheikhupura. Apart from Kurtu, they include villages called Nano Dogar, Kalsian Bhattian, Bedadpur Varkan, and an Ahmadi shrine in Sheikhupura city.

In this regard, Hafiz Khalid Chishti, the local leader of Tehreek-e-Labeek, says that none of his workers participated in demolishing any place of worship of Ahmadis, nor has Tehreek-e-Labeek attacked the places of worship of Ahmadis.

However, people belonging to the Ahmadiyya religion are not ready to accept this. They are of the view that this party has a hand in the recent wave of violence against them across the country.

On 12 Rabiul Awwal, videos of the demolition of minarets and other religious symbols of Ahmadis in Jhelum and Okara went viral on social media. Voice of America shared them and claimed concerning Ahmadiyya Jamaat that Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan was affiliated with Pakistan. A few people have damaged these places of worship.

Ghulam Habib Awan, a senior leader of Tehreek and the expected candidate for the upcoming general elections from this constituency of Sheikhupura, says that he had received an order from Dr. Mohammad Shahid Gujjar, the District Ameer of Tehreek-e-Labaik, that by 11 Rabi-ul-Awwal, if the law enforcers If the institutions do not demolish the places of worship against the law of Ahmadis, then on 12th of Rabi’ul Awwal, their people will do this work themselves.

According to Mian Moazzam Nawaz, a local journalist who has a close eye on this issue, this issue did not seem to be resolved through mutual understanding. That is why the police took action and pulled down the minarets of the synagogue. According to him, the situation in the area is peaceful at present, but nothing can be said about the future when the situation will deteriorate.

According to Amir Mehmood, the spokesperson of Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Pakistan, 39 cases of demolition of minarets of Ahmadiyya places of worship have taken place this year in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, most of which were carried out by the police, while in some places the minarets were destroyed by the crowd. Demolished

Declaring this action of the police as illegal, he says that a court order is necessary to do such a thing. In this regard, there is a decision of the Lahore High Court given on 31 August 2023.

Lahore High Court Justice Tariq Saleem Shaikh had stated in the judgment that “Minarets built before 1984 cannot be demolished. However, if the police are doing this, it should be asked under what law they are doing it.” And on what basis it is doing all this? Article 260(3) of the constitution says that Ahmadis/Qadianis are non-Muslims but they cannot be deprived of the right to be Pakistani citizens nor can they be deprived of their fundamental rights. which can be guaranteed by the Constitution.

Article 4 of the Constitution also says that all citizens deserve equal treatment whether Muslim or non-Muslim. Every citizen is protected by law and has the right to be treated according to law.”

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