On Wednesday a Police operation against illegal encroachments in the Ahmadiyya town of Rabwah turned violent as protestors clashed with Police.
On 9th November, Police along with officials from the local Municipal authority launched a demolition drive against illegal encroachments. But the anti-encroachment operation soon turned violent when the operators of these illegal establishments attacked Police and municipal workers. Later, the same mob set fire to some of the salvaged material in the middle of Aqsa road.
Many of the illegal encroachments are operated by ethnic Pashtuns from the north of Pakistan, who have been at the center of a larger, religiously motivated land-grab scheme in and around Rabwah. With the help of local anti-Ahmadiyya clerics many have built illegal settlements in and around the town’s bushy hilltops. Rabwah, is home to Pakistan’s most persecuted religious community, the Ahmadis, who were declared “non-Muslim” by the Government in 1974. Since then the Ahmadis of Rabwah have faced land-grab attempts from both the Government, and extremist groups, who see it as a victory against ‘heretics’. Earlier this year, the Government auctioned off part of the town and refused to sell it back to the Ahmadis, its original owners.
Police officials said the action was taken after their repeated warnings to vacate the Government land were ignored. Assistant Commissioner Lalian, Kashif Awan said, a case had been filed against 14 men under the section 7 of the Anti-Terrorist Act 1997.
Even though none of the local Ahmadis took part in the protest, most of the men indicted in the case are Ahmadis who say they have been targeted by the authorities due to their faith. The incident report provided by the authorities corroborates this claim, as the word ‘Qadiani’ has been written in front of their names which is a derogatory religious slur for Ahmadis.