Pakistan turned like hell for Ahmadis since 1974 when they were declared non-Muslims through the Second Amendment under the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government.
When General Zia ul Haq came to power, he brought about even more draconian anti-Ahmadi laws. For decades now, their persecution at the hands of bigots has largely been ignored because of these laws. Defending the rights of the Ahmaddiya community is considered an anathema in Pakistani society.
On Tuesday night six minarets of an Ahmadi place of worship, Baitul Hamd, were demolished by the Kharian city police in Pakistan's Punjab [ Images ] province. The demolition took place on the application of some clerics from Barelvi religious organisation called Tehrik-e-Tahaffuz-e-Islam.
The application asked the police to take action under the Section 298 B and C of the 1984 ordinance, which declares it illegal for Ahmadis to act or look like Muslims, to practice or propagate their faith and to call their worship place a "mosque".
However, there was no court order for demolition. According to Nasir Dar, a local spokesperson of the Ahmadis in Kharian, the six minarets had already been demolished whereas the police would demolish the two bigger ones later on as one was attached to the worship place's electric supply and the other would fall on the building if not taken apart with the help of skilled labour.
Police officer Raja Zahid who led the police team said, "We made sure that we were respectful, but the law of 298-B clearly states that Qadianis cannot call their worship place a 'mosque', so if it cannot be called that, then it cannot resemble the mosque either."
Baitul Hamd was built in 1980, four years before the 1984 ordinance. Saleemuddin, the spokesperson for the Ahmadi community in Pakistan, said, "Is there a patent for the design of a minaret that these people have? All kinds of buildings have minarets and domes as part of their designs; then why can't the Ahmadis retain the ones which are on the pre-1984 worship places?"
For Ahmadis, every day brings forth new incidents of harassment; they feel very unsafe all around Pakistan.
In January 2012, local rigid circles asked the Ahmadis at Satellite Town in Rawalpindi to stop worships in the 'Ewan-e-Tawheed', the place they are using for the last 17 years.
It is the property of Jamaat Ahmaddiya and is used as a place for prayers ever since. The building, according to Ahmadis, was built after the group purchased the land. As a registered organisation, under the relevant rules, they can carry out worship in the building. And after getting permission from the district administration, they installed moveable barriers and a few security guards, but the barriers and guards were removed from the main road in front of the building after some people objected to their presence.
The religious centre was shifted to the current building because the old centre in a building near Committee Chowk in Rawalpindi could not accommodate the worshippers.
On this occasion a press release of Ahmadis appeared that read, "The (Ahmaddiya) community is under attack and there are known security threats to community members from these miscreants. Yet innocent and peaceful Ahmadis are not even allowed to defend or protect themselves."
There is zero tolerance for Ahmadis and their practices in Pakistan. The hatred towards Ahmadis is not only limited to the religious extremist but some people representing other political parties are also behind such activities.
Quite recently a newspaper reported that Lahore [ Images ] Bar Association had banned Shezan (juices) in the lower court complexes of Lahore that fell under the LBA's area of activity.
The reports, which quoted LBA president Chaudhry Zulfiqar as confirming the restriction, said the decision had been justified on the basis of an understanding that the company which produced Shezan had Ahmadis as its owners.
Later on when the issue was raised by the media, Chaudhry Zulfiqar denied the report. Actually a group Khatm-i-Nabuwwat Lawyers' Forum was behind this move.
Like the worship places of Ahmadis, the publications of the sect have also been banned. Last week Pakistan Telecommunication Authority banned a website by the name alislam.org which was controlled by the Ahmaddiya community.
An official of the authority said that the site had been blocked because Ahmadis were not allowed to propagate their religious views under the constitution of Pakistan. The PTA had already blocked several sites with inappropriate content, he added.
Some media reports said that the website was accused of blasphemy against the Holy Prophet and the Muttahida Ulema Board had demanded to shut down the site.
In February this year, Monthly Misbah, a women's magazine published by the Ahmaddiya community in Pakistan for decades, was ordered to be banned on the recommendation of a board of clerics constituted by Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab.
The district coordination officer, Chiniot, Dr Irshad Ahmad, issued orders to immediately ban the publication because the Muttahida Ulema Board made the 'observation' to cancel the magazine's 'declaration'.
"In the light of the observation," wrote DCO in his order, "I am convinced that monthly magazine Misbah is being published in contravention of Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance 2002."
"It was informed that propagation of Qadianiat (another terminology for Ahmaddiya faith) is a crime Under Section 298-C of PPC," wrote Dr Ahmad in his official order of February 15, 2012.
"The monthly Misbah has been declared as propagating Qadianiat and as such recommended to be banned by Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab."
Although Ahmadis face threats from different enemies like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Tayiba [ Images ] and Sipahi Sahaba Pakistan, but for them the worst enemy is Punjabi Taliban [ Images ] which is affiliated to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. On 28 May, 2010, two Ahmadi mosques were attacked by militants in Lahore in which 86 Ahmadis were killed.
Hardly there was a politician to condemn or condole the incident apart from slain Punjab Governor Salaman Taseer. Salaman Taseer himself was killed by the extremists when he spoke against Blasphemy Act of the country.
Claiming responsibility for attacking Ahmadis' worshipping places, Punjabi Taliban spokesperson Mansoor Maawia had termed the Ahmadis 'worse than Jews'. He said, "No Ahmadi would live with peace in Pakistan. Our war against them and their followers will continue."