A mob of around 1,000 Muslims today attacked and besieged an Ahmadi mosque in Pakistan’s Punjab province to prevent the members of the minority community from commemorating Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, wounding several people. The Rangers were called in to control the situation after people armed with batons and weapons hurled stones and bricks at the Ahmadi mosque in Chakwal district, some 275 km from Lahore, before storming the building.
According to police, the mob also opened fire and set fire to part of the mosque, injuring several people. Ahmadis inside the besieged mosque also hurled bricks, wounding some of the attackers. Jamaat Ahmadiyya Pakistan Punjab spokesman Amer Mahmood claimed that the attack took place after some clerics of the area made announcement from a village mosque asking Muslims not to allow Ahmadis to pray at their mosque – Baitulzikar – on the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad.
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“More than 1,000 people responded to the clerics’ call and gathered there and started marching towards the Baitulzikar. The mob opened fire and threw stone,” Mahmood said. During the incident, a 60-year-old man suffered a heart attack and died before getting any medical aid. Police reached the spot soon after the mob attacked the Ahmadi mosque and dispersed the crowd. Security forces have taken over the mosque and sealed it.
The Punjab government’s home department tweeted that it was following up on the incident.
“The local administration and police are at the spot and handling the situation. As per details, a misunderstanding developed between the two groups. Home Department is vigilantly following up the issue,” it said, adding the police and administration are making all out efforts to resolve the issue amicably.
Pakistan’s parliament declared Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974, and they have repeatedly been targeted by Islamic extremists, who view them as heretics. They have also been taken to court on blasphemy charges. In 1984, they were banned from calling themselves Muslim. They are banned from preaching and even from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. Their publications are prohibited. Several Ahmadi mosques were shut down at the time.