Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments should bring to justice those responsible for the May 2010 attacks on Ahmadiyya mosques that killed 94 worshipers, Human Rights Watch said today.
On May 28, 2010, Islamist militants attacked two Ahmadiyya mosques in the city of Lahore with guns, grenades, and suicide bombs, killing 94 people and wounding well over 100. The Punjabi Taliban, a local affiliate of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban or TTP), claimed responsibility. Two men were captured during the attack, but the government has failed to make progress on their trial, seeking repeated adjournments from the court as has the defense.
“It’s obscene that two years after the worst massacre in Lahore since the partition of India, the government has still not brought the suspects apprehended at the scene to trial,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “By pandering to extremists who foment violence against the Ahmadis, the government emboldens militants who target the beleaguered community, and reinforces fear and insecurity for all religious minorities.”
The May 2010 attacks killed 27 people at the Baitul Nur Mosque in Lahore’s Model Town area and 67 people at the Darul Zikr mosque in the suburb of Garhi Shahu. Worshipers overpowered two attackers, Asmatullah, alias Muaaz and Abdullah Muhammad, and turned them over to police. Each was charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act and remains in custody, but there has been no progress in the case and proceedings have been repeatedly adjourned.
Since the May 2010 attacks, there has been an intensification of the hate campaign against Ahmadis, Human Rights Watch said. In June 2011, a pamphlet named some 50 prominent Ahmadis in the city of Faisalabad in Punjab province and declared them “liable to be killed” under Islamic law, along with all members of the community. No action has been taken by the government against those who disseminated the pamphlet. In September 2011, one of those named in the pamphlet, Naseem Butt, was shot dead. At least another five Ahmadis were killed during 2011, apparently because of their religious beliefs. In December, unknown assailants vandalized 29 graves in an Ahmadiyya graveyard in the Punjab town of Lodhran.
During 2012, extremist groups in Lahore have used discriminatory provisions of Pakistani law that target Ahmadis and prevent them from “posing as Muslims” to force the demolition of sections of an Ahmadiyya mosque on the grounds that its dome made it look like a mosque. In the garrison city of Rawalpindi, the authorities barred Ahmadis from using their mosque at the insistence of local extremist groups. In both instances, Punjab provincial administration and police officials supported the extremists’ demands instead of protecting the Ahmadis and their mosques.
“The Punjab provincial government should be providing extra security to Ahmadiyya mosques instead of siding with those terrorizing worshipers and attacking their places of worship,” Adams said. “Pakistan’s anti-Ahmadi laws need to be repealed, not enforced.”
Human Rights Watch urged the government of Punjab province, controlled by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party, to investigate and prosecute those responsible for intimidation, threats, and violence against the Ahmadiyya community. Militant groups that have publicly been involved in such efforts include the Sunni Tehrik, Tehrik-e-Tahafaz-e-Naomoos-e-Risalat, Khatm-e-Nabuwat, Difa-e-Pakistan Council, and others acting under the Pakistani Taliban’s umbrella. Leaders of these groups have frequently threatened to kill Ahmadis and attack the mosques where killings have taken place as well as other Ahmadi mosques.
Ahmadi community leaders told Human Rights Watch that they had repeatedly brought threats against them to the notice of the Punjab chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, the provincial government, and the police controlled by the provincial authorities, and that they had asked for enhanced security for vulnerable Ahmadiyya mosques. However, the provincial government failed to act on the evidence or to ensure meaningful security for the mosques.
Human Rights Watch called on Pakistan’s government to introduce legislation in parliament without delay to repeal laws that discriminate against Ahmadis and other religious minorities, including sections 295 (blasphemy) and 298 (Ahmadi specific law that prevents them from “posing” as Muslims) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Human Rights Watch also urged concerned governments and inter-governmental bodies to press the Pakistani government to:
- Repeal sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code;
- Prosecute those responsible for planning and executing attacks and committing other offenses against the Ahmadiyya and other religious minorities; and
- Take steps to encourage religious tolerance within Pakistani society.
“The government’s continued use of discriminatory criminal laws against Ahmadis and other religious minorities is indefensible,” Adams said. “As long as such laws remain on the books, the Pakistani state will be seen as a persecutor of minorities and an enabler of abuses.”