Reuters reports that angry protesters attacked and occupied a mosque belonging to the minority Ahmadi sect in northeastern Pakistan on Saturday 21 November, a day after they torched a factory in response to rumours an Ahmadi employee had committed blasphemy.
The Interior Ministry said police and army had been deployed to the Jehlum district, 164 km (100 miles) north of the city of Lahore and that there were no casualties.
Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but face fierce opposition from among Pakistan’s Sunni Muslim majority. They are victims of violence and discrimination, and frequently face blasphemy charges, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.
Punjab provincial police said the situation in Jehlum was under control, but police said it was still negotiating with local religious leaders and demonstrators to bring the standoff at the mosque to an end.
Amir Mehmood, a member of the Ahmadi community, said hundreds of people had surrounded and torched chipboard factory in Jehlum on Friday evening after Sunni Muslim mosques announced reports that someone at the factory had allegedly desecrated the Koran.
“A mob attacked our mosque in Kala Gujran, an area in Jehlum, took out its furniture set on fire. Then, they washed the mosque and later offered evening prayers in the mosque,” Mehmood said.
In 1984, a Pakistani law declared Ahmadis non-Muslims and made it possible to jail them for “posing as a Muslim” or “offending a Muslim’s feelings”.
Mujahid Akbar, a police officer in Jehlum, confirmed the attacks appeared to have been sparked by a blasphemy accusation but said the facts were not yet clear.
“It might be a blasphemy case, but all that was done may also be because of a misunderstanding,” he said.
Ahmadi authorities have urged that pressure must be put on the Pakistan Government and authorities to:
- act to protect all its citizens – including Ahmadi Muslims – from such attacks and uphold law and order
- immediately arrest the perpetrators and hold them to account before the law
- uphold the constitutional right of all citizens of Pakistan to have full freedom of religion
- repeal its anti-Ahmadi laws that are used to justify hate and murder of Ahmadis in Pakistan.