Zafarullah Khan, Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister, was a resident of the Daska tehsil in the Sialkot district. His ancestral home, constructed before the formation of Pakistan, is located in the old part of Daska. Zafarullah Khan, who was affiliated with the Ahmadiyya community, had taken care of this estate for his faith’s religious education and training. The central gate and minarets on the roof were built for this purpose.
These minarets and the nearby Ahmadi graveyard have sparked a new dispute amid protests from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
Eight hundred meters from the old Daska flows the Daska Canal. On the left side of the Daska Canal are the newer settlements. When you cross the bridge over the Daska Canal, there are two villages on the right side, Bharoky Kallan and Moseywala. Until 20 years ago, many Ahmadi families resided in both these villages, but most of them have since relocated to various European countries.
In Bharoky Kallan, 5 per cent of the population is Ahmadi, while those affiliated with Ahl-e-Hadith and Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat make up 10 per cent and 85 per cent, respectively.
The Ahmadi cemetery is situated in front of the newer settlements and is referred to as the Bharoky Kallan graveyard.
Not long ago, a wealthy resident, Ameer Hamza, from the locality of Tootianwala in Old Daska, submitted a request to the Assistant Commissioner. He reported that on July 18, 2023, he was passing by the estate of Sir Zafrullah Khan Sahi, a former Foreign Minister, when he noticed a mosque-like minaret and dome. Upon entering the building, he discovered it was a place of worship and school for the Ahmadiyya/Lahori Group. They have constructed their place of worship in a manner that resembles a mosque, which is causing distress to the sentiments of the Muslims. In his request, Hamza urged the Assistant Commissioner of Daska to have the minarets of this place of worship removed.
On July 23, 2023, Junaid Amjad Butt, a resident of Bharoky Kalan in Daska, submitted a request to the Assistant Commissioner. In the request, he stated that Islamic words are engraved in the tombstones in the graveyard of the Ahmadiyya/Lahori Group. These tombstones should be removed, and legal action should be taken against those responsible.
Both individuals who submitted these requests are associated with the TLP.
After the administration did not take action on the requests, the TLP’s Daska unit organized a protest rally on September 22, 2023, starting from College Chowk and culminating in a sit-in outside the Daska DSP’s office. Following negotiations with a delegation of protesters, the administration assured that 12 Rabi ul Awwal would remove the minarets of the mosque in question.
The TLP warned that if the administration did not fulfil this promise by September 29, 12 Rabi ul Awwal, the protesters would take matters into their own hands and remove the books and minarets themselves.
During this time, in the village of Bharoky Kalan, unidentified individuals vandalized the graves in the Ahmadi cemetery by tearing down tombstones placed on the graves which contained Islamic words.
Ahmadis alleged on social media that the sanctity of the cemetery had been violated, accusing the authorities and the police of facilitating the demolishment of tombstones.
Mudassir Mirza* is associated with the Ahmadiyya community and is a resident of Daska City. He expressed that he lives in fear due to the threats from religious groups.
“Individuals associated with the Ahmadiyya community are afraid to attend educational institutions and engage in their businesses due to the threats. Because of these threats, members of the community have been forced to worship in their homes instead of the places of worship.”
Mirza Farhan, a 35-year-old resident of Bharokay Kalan, claims that some malicious elements attempt to disrupt peace and security for their interests.
In Sialkot, according to the TLP’s leader, Qari Fazl Haq Sultani, his group has not attacked places of worship or vandalized minarets or tombstones.
In a quiet village, a loud battle: The ongoing struggle over minarets
“We have exercised our constitutional and legal rights by drawing the authorities’ attention to this matter.”
Local lawyer Babar Afzal asserts that Pakistan’s constitution and laws grant fundamental rights and religious freedom to individuals of all faiths. If individuals from any group have concerns about religious communities and authorities, they should seek recourse through Pakistan’s courts.
District Police Spokesperson Khurram Shahzad confirmed that two citizens had submitted requests to the authorities. The police had encouraged both TLP Pakistan and Ahmadis to play a constructive role in maintaining peace and security. After hearing from both sides, the authorities directed them to seek legal recourse as per the law.
He stated that both groups had resorted to local courts to seek justice.
It should be noted that relatives of R Zafarullah Khan, a resident of old Daska with affiliations to the Ahmadiyya community, have been relocating to foreign countries at various times since the establishment of Pakistan, and now only two or three families from such backgrounds reside there.
Published on 12 Oct 2023