LAHORE: For the first time ever, leaders of the Ahmedi community held an official press conference in the provincial metropolis on Sunday at their worship place on Allama Iqbal Road, Garhi Shahu.

Addressing the conference, one of the leaders lamented that since 1974 people of the Ahmedi community have been facing discrimination in the country and are even being killed by terrorists.

Ahmedi Community Director Mirza Ghulam Ahmed said all violent acts against the community were “legally sanctioned”. He criticised that 95 innocent people had lost their lives at the only two centres of the community in the city, where people had gathered to offer prayers.

“Wasn’t it the duty of the provincial government to protect us?” he asked.

He said the Ahmedi community had been declared non-Muslims in 1974 by the then government through a constitutional amendment and members of the community have not been able to arrange a major gathering since 1984.

Ahmed said the community’s last gathering had taken place in 1983, while their public activities have been banned since then. He said it was unfortunate that permissions had been granted for holding meetings and processions to all those who wanted to kill the Ahmedis.

Ban: He said the government not only banned their azan – call for prayer – but also prohibited the publication of Quranic verses in the newspaper of the community called Al Fazal. To a question about findings of the investigation of Friday’s tragedy, Ahmed said so far the Punjab government has not taken the community on board in this matter.

He said the Ahmedi community in Pakistan had played a great role in the Pakistan movement and later in defending the homeland from any aggression. He said the community members have fought battles for Pakistan and sacrificed their lives but unfortunately, “we were declared non-Muslims and even “wajib-ul-qatal” – permissible to be killed – by certain elements of society. He also protested the displaying of banners against the Ahmedi community, saying a planned campaign against the community was continuing unabated.

To a question about the involvement of Indian intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, in the recent incident, he said he would not comment over it. He added that members of the community were living in India as well, and had an affiliation with their respective countries.

Moreover, message of the head of the Ahmedi community, Mirza Masroor Ahmed, was also circulated among the reporters covering the press conference. According to the message, Mirza Mansoor termed Friday’s terrorist attacks “barbaric and alien to all forms of humanity”.

“These attacks took place in places of worship and at the time of the Friday prayers, which all Muslims know is a holy and sacred time. No true Muslim can ever tolerate such attacks, such cruelty and such barbaric behaviour,” the message read.

“No form of terrorism has any place in Islam and those who were behind these attacks may justify their acts in the religion’s name. But let it be clear that they are Muslims only in the name and not in their deeds,” it added. The message further stated that the situation for Ahmedis in Pakistan is extremely grave and they have not been able to live in peace for decades, in fact their lives are in constant danger.

In the message, Mirza Mansoor said, “The Ahmedis are a peace-loving community, thus there will be no improper reaction from any of the community members. Our salvation lies in our supplication to Allah and we believe that He has, and always will, help us. No terrorist and no government can stop the progress of our community because of its divine organization.” Meanwhile, the reporters also visited the site of Friday’s incidents.

Source: Daily Times – Site Edition    Monday, May 31, 2010

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