Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group UK, on the violence against Ahmadiyya Muslim worshippers and their mosques in Lahore, Pakistan
“This morning we had reports of coordinated attacks against the two main Ahmadiyya Muslim mosques in Lahore while they were crowded with worshippers for Friday prayers.
The mosques, Baitul Zikr in Garhi Shahu and Baitul Noor in Model Town Block C, were targeted by a previously unknown group calling itself either Al-Qa’idah Al-Jihad Punjab Wing, or Tehrike Taliban. They arrived at around 13.00 local time, as Friday prayers were starting. Preliminary reports from Model Town, where police have recaptured the mosque, indicate that 23 worshippers were killed, two terrorists who blew themselves up, and two were captured. Some 40 people were injured, 12 seriously.
At the Baitul Zikr mosque 41 bodies of worshippers have been removed so far, and a gun battle continues between the police and terrorists after four hours, with the worshippers trapped inside.
The Parliamentary Human Rights Group recently sent a mission to Pakistan to investigate the treatment of religious minorities, and their preliminary report, issued just before the election, called attention to the widespread intimidation and violence perpetrated against the Ahmadis.
In Punjab, and Lahore in particular, the Muslim League provincial government is aligned with extremist groups such as the Khatme Nabuwwat, which openly incite religious hatred and violence. This atrocious attack on worshippers at their Friday prayers was an organised crime waiting to happen, and the federal government must take responsibility for its failure to deal with the incessant barrage of hate speech by these groups against the peaceful Ahmadiyya Muslims.
It should be noted that Pakistan has enacted specific anti-Ahmadiyya laws – the 1984 Ordinance XX of the dictator Zia ul-Haq – and this is the root cause of the universal discrimination and repression which culminates in assassinations of Ahmadis and repeated acts of terrorism against their places of worship.
I shall be asking the Foreign Office to mobilise the international community to assist Pakistan in combating the sources of terrorism, starting with reforms of the law which incites it.”