Imran Ahmed, 35, started out as a daily wager at a woodwork shop in Gujranwala. He saved up money for three years, then invested Rs100,000 in machinery and setting up his own workshop. As his business grew, he hired two carpenters to work for him. “Things were going really well, but nobody knew I was an Ahmadi,” he said.
Ahmed said that his was the only Ahmadi family in Rana Colony in Gujranwala and he kept this a secret as he feared being victimised. He got along well with his neighbours and one day, when he was injured in a motorcycle accident, they came to ask after him. Inside his house, they saw pictures of Ahmadi personalities. “Their mood totally changed and they left without even having tea,” he said.
Things changed dramatically for Ahmed. He said some other workshop owners who were his business rivals began a hate campaign against him. One by one, his ‘friends’ began socially boycotting him. Shopkeepers would refuse to sell him groceries, and his employees resigned, saying it was prohibited to work with him. “Boys on the street started passing comments about me and things got worse day by day,” he said.
Then one day during Ramazan, Ahmed said, three neighbouring shopkeepers and two clerics barged into his workshop and began beating him. They told him to leave at once if he wanted to protect his life and his family, he said. He asked to be allowed to remove his machinery from the shop, but they refused, he said. He rushed home, just a few hundred yards away, gathered his wife and three young children, and left Gujranwala. He now lives with relatives in another city and works as a daily wager at a furniture shop.
Ahmed said that he had not filed a complaint with the police, but he intended to do so soon. He would also ask the police to recover his machinery and household items. He said that he would nominate Maulvi Abdul Rehman, Abid Ali and Mubashar in his application to the police. He said that Ali and Mubashar had been close friends up until they had found out that he was an Ahmadi.
When contacted, Abdul Rehman said he had no regrets about what had happened to Imran Ahmed. He said Ahmadis were apostates who deserved death. They don’t have a right to do business in Muslim areas, he said.
Asked why Ahmed had not been allowed to take his belongings with him, he said: “It is enough that he spent five years here and fed his family using money from Muslims. We are ready to deal with him if he returns. It is better for him to forget the belongings he left in his shop and his house.”
Munawar Ali Shahid, a human rights activist, said that this was just the latest manifestation of an anti-Ahmadi campaign being run by various hardline groups across the province, particularly in Lahore, where “baseless” cases had been registered against several Ahmadis in recent months. He said that the state had utterly failed to protect the lives and properties of minorities, particularly Ahmadis. He said he too had been threatened for seeking to protect the rights of Ahmadi citizens.