Four Ahmadis were arrested Monday afternoon in Pakistan, during a raid on the offices of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
The arrests were carried out in the Ahmadiyya majority town of Rabwah by the CTD (Counter-Terrorism Department) of Punjab Police. CTD is responsible for investigating terrorism and sectarian-related incidents.
Three police vans with 28 heavily armed officers forced their way into the ‘Tehrik-e-Jadid’ building and ‘slammed’ the workers onto the ground according to witnesses. At the same time, another group of officers made their way up to the publishing office on the second floor of the building, where they arrested four office workers affiliated with the Ahmadiyya community’s magazine. Officers also sealed the community’s printing press which was used to publish the community’s daily newspaper ‘Al Fazl’ and the ‘Tehrik-e-Jadid’ magazine, both of which are ‘banned’ according to the Police.
Another CTD unit entered the building’s security room and brutally assaulted the security manager on duty, due to the severity of his injuries, the manager had to be treated at a local hospital. Before leaving, the CTD officers also disabled the CCTV system and took away office equipment including computers, cell phones, and several books. Witnesses say Police officers refused to show any search or arrest warrants.
The Express Tribune reported that five workers were also booked under Sections 298-B, 298-B (a) and 298-C of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 9-II (w) of Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
Saleemudin, spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community said, the magazines were banned in December 2014, but the court subsequently granted a stay in June 2015. “Since then the magazine is being published,” he claimed.
CTD Punjab chief Additional IG Rai Muhammad Tahir told the media that he consulted his legal team about the court stay and was informed that “there is no stay order intact until now”.
Tahir said, the CTD team decided that there “is no judicial bar” on conducting a raid, adding the raid had nothing to do with any pressure group.
Pakistani rights activists and Journalists criticized the increasing hostility of the Government towards Ahmadis and took to social media to raise their concerns.
Ahmadis who identify themselves as Muslims are considered heretics by mainstream Muslims. Due to their beliefs, Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani government in 1974. Since then they have been fiercely persecuted in Pakistan, both by the state and extremists. They have been arrested for reading the Holy Quran, holding religious celebrations and having Quranic verses on rings or wedding cards. Four years ago, 86 Ahmadis were killed in two simultaneous attacks in Lahore.