Attacks in Lahore at Ahmadi Mosques: an Eyewitness Account

As many readers may be aware, today there has been a terrible pair of attacks on Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, by gunman armed with grenades and automatic weapons. As of now about 70 people have been killed. In some ways the style of the attacks — heavily armed gunmen on foot, mowing down people at random in crowded places — reminds one of the attacks by a group of militants on Mumbai, in 2008. Within Pakistan itself, there is also the recent memory of the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. The BBC has an eyewitness account by an unsigned observer:

I saw one of the attackers as he was entering the sermon hall, then I ran away. He very much reminded me of the people who attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team, he was wearing similar clothes – the traditional Pakistani dress shalwar kameez and he looked like someone from a tribal area.

I went upstairs and I found a room with a bed, I hid under the bed. I was too scared to leave, even after the firing had stopped. I saw from the window security personnel, rescue people, fire brigade. The bodies had already been taken away.

This is a big old building, it’s 50 years old. I was on my own. I didn’t know what was happening. I could hear the firing going on for quite some time.

I am not surprised by this attack. We were expecting it for three or four weeks – a threat was published in a local newspaper that there would be attacks and the authorities were informed.

That’s why we have our own security guards in front of our mosques. They are not professional, they are volunteers. They were the first to have been killed. (link)

That last detail is distressing: there were specific warnings published in a local newspaper? And the authorities still didn’t see fit to send in police to guard the mosques? Granted, if these guys were anything like the militants in the Mumbai attacks, even armed police may not have posed a significant deterrant. But still: it seems like a malicious kind of negligence to have left these folks to fend for themselves.

This tragedy is part of a long history for the Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan, who form a minority community of about 4 million (many Ahmadiyyas have left Pakistan since the 1970s). Wikipedia describes how the sect was declared to be non-Muslim, and effectively disenfranchised through a series of ordinances, starting in the 1970s. More details about the history of Ahmadi political agitation in Pakistan can be found here (Musharraf initially aimed to counter some of the discriminatory laws targeting Ahmadis, and effectively ended the ban on Ahmadis voting in elections in 2002). Finally, UNHCR has a limited timeline concerning political agitation involving the Ahmadis here.

It should also be noted that there was a serious Maoist attack in West Bengal, India today as well — leaving more than 70 dead as a derailed passenger train was struck by an oncoming cargo train. See a BBC account by Soutik Biswas here. The sense I’m getting is that the sabotage that caused the derailment itself was relatively minor, and might have led to minimal casualties; the event that has caused the high body count was the secondary collision.

24 thoughts on “Attacks in Lahore at Ahmadi Mosques: an Eyewitness Account

  1. heavily armed gunmen on foot, mowing down people at random in crowded places — reminds one of the attacks by a group of militants on Mumbai, in 2008.

    In that specific sense, I can agree; but the Mumbai attacks were executed with more lethality and broad-spectrum terror in mind. I don’t mean to diminish the suffering of the Ahmadis; just noting that the Mumbai attacks seemed geared at hurting ANYONE, whereas this was a specific attack on 2 mosques…however, the bumbling Indian authorities may’ve contributed to this impression. Or the conjecture that the attackers were jacked up on a number of drugs.

    Even here (US), the Ahmadiyya get evils amongst moderate muslims. A friend of mine (a convert) snorted most derisively when I asked him about the difference. “They’re not even muslims!” was the response. Well, then!

  2. These very same people who deny them basic rights will claim Dr. Abdus Salam, Ahmadiyya and physics Nobel laureate, as one of theirs

  3. In that specific sense, I can agree; but the Mumbai attacks were executed with more lethality and broad-spectrum terror in mind.

    No point quibbling over this — horror is horror — but these were just two guys, each on his own in a separate mosque. 35:1 is pretty lethal. But I take your point about general terror vs. targeted attacks.

    Incidentally, here is a great blog post in support by a fellow Pakistani (not an Ahmadi, despite the conceit of the post). And here is Chapati Mystery on the attacks.

  4. This sense of lawlessness in South Asia (both Pakistan massacres and train attack in India) really needs a firm hand to stomp it out. No community here would dare to act up this way–they would be squashed quickly. Sometimes I’m not a big fan of trying to be too democratic before you have other prerequisites in place. I was in Vietnam last weekend–local people were saying–”In the West the people can have guns–they have a house and a business–things to lose–here, we have nothing to lose, so if the people have guns, they will kill their enemies in the street.” I guess I am pretty detached from my desi roots, though, so take it for what it’s worth.

  5. “In the West the people can have guns–they have a house and a business–things to lose–here, we have nothing to lose, so if the people have guns, they will kill their enemies in the street.”

    Maybe the ones who can vacation in SE Asia do. If all Americans had something to lose we wouldn’t have a meth-problem plaguing rural America.

    The reason Americans don’t kill each other in the street more often is because the government will smite them with great vengeance and furious anger.

  6. And here is Raza Rumi at Pak Tea House:

    Once again the terrorists have hit Lahore. But this time they have chosen the favorite target of the fundamentalists – the Ahmedis who were declared as non-Muslims in 1974. Two places of worship have been attacked and innocent people have died. This is unacceptable and outrageous. It means that the state policy of exclusion has finally turned the country into a nightmare – a polity where freedom to worship, profess religious orientation and expression is not only curtailed by simply denied.

    The resolve of the Government and the Army must be now strengthened after these tragedies. We condemn the state excesses and also the this heinous act of terrorism. It is almost surreal to see what is happening in Lahore – there is no law and order, no law enforcement worth its name and hapless citizens witnessing the crumbling of a society. It is time to wake up – complacency will not do.

    We have to fight terror and the enemy within and not blame the external forces time and again. As I write these lines, I am petrified as a very dear friend’s father is trapped in the Model Town mosque. May God protect him.

    http://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/lahores-now-the-latest-target-of-taliban/

  7. Extremist organizations always need “action”, and the action should always show them as winning — without that the cadre will dissipate. If it was not the Ahmadis, it would’ve been some other group.

    This pressure cooker is letting off some steam, the real fireworks will start if the Pakhtun Vs. Punjabi narrative takes hold. Hopefully it won’t, but the drones, and the cost-benefit calculations, are running in the background.

  8. If all Americans had something to lose we wouldn’t have a meth-problem plaguing rural America.

    WTHell are you talking about Jules? Meth abuse is not exclusive to rural areas, nor do only impoverished people abuse it. In fact, the average addict is middle class and lives in a city.

  9. As usually, Pak interior minister has said that RAW might be involved in this (Read Here). When will they stop blaming India, Israel & US for their self inflicted wounds?

  10. what disturbs me most is that majority of the people here don’t even care. while all of this was going on and i was sitting infront of the television praying that it all stops and worried for my beloved ones, i was constantly receiving messages from my non-ahmadi friends saying YOUM-E-TAKBEER MUBARAK when they all knew that i am am ahmadi and definitely i would be in a very bad state of mind, would they have cared to forward those messages if it would have been another university being bombed?? or a railway station?? i dont think so!!

  11. More than nintey Ahmadis have been killed and more than one hundred are injured. Even before this incident several Ahmadis have been killed in Pakistan in teh name of religion.

    Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always been working for peace and never supported extremism. This is one of the reasons that they have been declared Non-Muslims by the extremist Parliament of Pakistan. As per law of Pakistan Ahmadis, cannot say themselves Muslims. They are deprived of the basic rights in Pakistan. During the last twenty years several Ahmadis have been killed in the name of religion. Unfortunately despite all these racist acts many governments have been supporting the extremist governments in Pakistan who have flourished Taliban and Qaeeda.

    The government of Pakistan did not provide the security. Instead there have been programs on media in Pakistan in which the “Mullahs” have been spreading hatred against Ahmadis and inciting people to kill innocent members of this community.

    The extremists started building up teh momentum few days before the insident happened. You can see the banners in teh streets of Lahore which were installed by teh extremists in coordination with the government in Pakistan. These banners carry slogans against Ahmadiyya community

    http://twitpic.com/1s3lct

  12. So now Taliban are encouraging to kill everyone. They’re becoming quite invincible.

    PESHAWAR: The Taliban on Saturday claimed responsibility for attacks on Ahmedis’ prayer facilities in Lahore that left over 90 people dead on Friday. “Congratulations to the whole nation on what the brave mujahideen did yesterday in Garhi Shahu and Model Town, Lahore,” Taliban spokesman Muhammad Omar said in a statement. He said, “On the whole, we do like to encourage the nation for increasing such activities, like targeted killings of qadianis, shias, the political parties that support them, as well as law enforcement agencies, the Pakistan Army and other racist parties.” He also warned the Muttahida Qaumi Movement of attacks, calling it a “terrorist wing of qadianis and Jews”. “They are responsible for destruction of the country and the nation. We are encouraging assassination attacks on everyone who is with the MQM,” the Taliban statement said. Source
  13. This is so shocking as is the general treatment of Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan. My grandmother was a Punjabi Ahmadiyya from Lahore in undivided India who grew up in Qadian, Punjab on the Indian side and remained in India after partition while the rest of her family moved to Pakistan. Her house had a library full of books on Islam and Ahmadiyyat – scholarly examinations of the religion and such. My grandmother’s family was close to the founder of Ahmadiyyat – and her message was always to understand Islam and the scriptures rather than blindly following anything. Ahmadis value education tremendously and most are highly educated and peace loving. I am shocked to see their treatment in Pakistan – ironically, the people in the family who left for the newly created muslim state of Pakistan in 1947 were persecuted for their religious beliefs while my grandmother in India could freely follow her faith all her life…

  14. these attacks are very shamefull for pakistan security agencies.and role of plice was not gud at the time.at this sad time we are with ahmadiyya muslim comunity in this sorrow.03346974006

  15. Not only in Pakistan. The Ahmadis face death since the Palestinian Authority clerics labeled them apostates.

    The teachings of the moderate Ahmadiyya sect of Islam have been labeled apostasy by Palestinian Authority clerics, leaving its members open to persecution and even threats of murder. PA leaders have refused to step in, saying the status of the Ahmadiyya community is a matter for the courts to decide.

    Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew news service spoke to Mohammed Sharif Ouda, head of the Ahmadi community in Israel, who discussed the problems facing Ahmadi Muslims in the PA and worldwide.

    Ouda began with a brief description of Ahmadi beliefs. Ahmadi Muslims follow the teachings of Mirzam Ghulam Ahmad, who they believe was the Muslim messiah. Ahmad preached that Islam had been distorted, and urged his followers to return to what he taught was the true Islam – a peaceful Islam that renounces violence and defines “jihad” as a form of inner struggle, and not an armed struggle. The PA clerics’ ruling on Ahmadi Islam poses a danger, he said. The penalty for apostasy in Islam is death, and while the PA has decided not to impose the death penalty on its Ahmadi residents, the decision to label them apostates puts them in danger nonetheless, he said. “They’re encouraging the cold-blooded murder of Ahmadis,” he charged.PA’s Moderate Muslims Face Threats

  16. Pakistan is a country which has devised its constitution to politically infuse Islamic Law which is not only misinterpreted but also misused.

    Politcally instituted Shariat has defined many new laws which are often a glaring contrast between true Islamic values and those implemented.

    Blasphemy Law is one such law which is used to persecute and condemn Muslims and non Muslims alike. The worst affected by these laws are the so called minorities in Pakistan based on religous beliefs. Amongst these, those facing extreme inhuman treatment are Ahmadi Muslims and Chirstians.

    Particularly Ahmadi Muslims have become the popular target for religous extremists and fanatics and this has been encouraged by the solemn oath of Ahmadis not to retaliate, since their religion mandates peace and love for all while haterd for none.

    Under new ordinances and laws Ahmadis can not: 1. Preach their belief. 2. Call themselves a Muslim. 3. Recite Holy Quran. 4. Say Muslim salutation “Aasalam-o-Alaikum”. 5. Recite “Kalima Tayyeba” i.e. There is no one worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is His Prophet. 6. Call for Prayers (Adhan). 7. Call their places of worship as “Masjid”. 8. Cannot posses anything (badge/book etc.) on which Quranic Verses or Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Mohammad [peace be upon him]) are printed. 9. Act or pose like a Muslim 10. Do any such act which hurts the feelings of another Muslim.

    Any of the above acts is punishable from 3 to 7 years´ imprisonment and fine but most of the cases show that Section 295-C is added against Ahmadis wrongfully which carries Death sentence. This is in clear violation of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion rights mentioned in Pakistan’s Constitution. Compared to other non-Muslims (Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists etc.) who are not covered under above, as it is not part of their belief. Other non-Muslims except Ahmadis will only be booked under Blasphemy Law when they say anything degrading Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or burn the copies of Holy Quran. Ahmadis cannot even think of doing any such act as belief in Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] and the Holy Quran is the basic principle of Ahmadiyyat.

    In the words of a President of Pakistan, ” Ahmadis offend me. I have a sacred duty to rid Pakistan of them. I intend to drive them out. These laws may violate Human Rights but I don’t care.”

    The evidence of inhuman treatment against Ahmadis can be found in every human rights reports from US State department, UNO, Amnesty Interantional etc.

    Ahmadis today are lying in jails, waiting death penalties, are being totured physcially and mentally and are their voices are being suppressed day in and day out for just one reason: their belief. We ask you for your support. Sign this petition, help the Ahmadis realise their freedom something which every human being is entitled to. Voice out against religious persecution!

  17. Any apostates in Islam and how they are treated by other Muslims.

    The treatment of Ahmadis is the treatment of apostates. No matter if you are Palestinian or Pakistani, Ahmadis are considered apostates – they have strayed too far from core Islamic teachings to the point of being considered apostates. How interesting that their peaceful teaching of jihad as only non-violent by Ahmadis is one of the things that other Muslims consider the realm of apostasy. Is it any wonder they are safer in non-Islamic states? Non-Muslim religions may be ignored as just plain old wrong, but Ahmadis pose a different threat as they consider themselves to be Muslims therefore threaten what non-Ahmadis Muslims believe in ways that non-Muslims do not.

  18. “Ahmadis today are lying in jails, waiting death penalties, are being totured physcially and mentally and are their voices are being suppressed day in and day out for just one reason: their belief. We ask you for your support. Sign this petition, help the Ahmadis realise their freedom something which every human being is entitled to. Voice out against religious persecution! ”

    But expand that to all non-Muslims in Pakistan whose populations have dwindled since partition.

    57 Pakistani Hindus convert to Islam ‘under pressure http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_57-pakistani-hindus-convert-to-islam-under-pressure_1388695 “According to Mangut Ram, his co workers often used to speak against Hindus in Karachi where his family worked. “The owner of the shop where I worked said that after a few months of his employing me the sales dropped drastically because people avoided purchasing and eating edibles prepared by Hindus. Many people opposed the large presence of Hindu employees at his shop and my boss felt pressured to change the situation,” he added.

    Ram said Sardari Lal and his brother Meena/Kartar had worked at the sweets shops for several years and made a decent living that allowed them to support their families.

    He said other Muslims employees of the nearby shops discriminated against them and persecuted them. The shop owner was forced to think about their future at his establishment. “That was when the two brothers and their families decided to embrace Islam in order to keep their jobs and be secure,” he added.”