LAHORE -  Punjab government has strongly denied the allegations that it is pursuing a policy of discrimination against Ahmadiya Community and providing patronage to groups targeting the religious minority.

The group, also known as Qadianis with reference their spiritual leader Mirza Ahmed Qadiani, was declared non-Muslim in Muslim-majority Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974.

This move was supposed to eventually minimise friction between this religious group and the Muslims of the country. But in an environment of general religious intolerance, the fault lines of hate have not faded over the decades.

The Ahamdiya community on Wednesday released an annual report detailing the attacks on the community and alleging state patronage to the extremist Muslim groups that target the members of the minority group.

According to the report, which was yet to face scrutiny by independent observers, as many as 260 Ahmadis have been killed for their ‘belief’ during the past year.

It alleged that state institutions have not only failed in safeguarding the rights of the minority group but also are a helping hand for the non-state actors in persecution as well.

This report came only a day before a prominent local Ahmadi leader and a relative of Nobel laureate Abdus Salam was gunned down in Nankana Sahib.

The Thursday morning attack, in which Malik Saleem Latif advocate was killed, was claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) – a banned Sunni terrorist group notorious for attacks on Shia Muslims.

The report, published by the Ahmadiya community, said that ‘persecution and hate campaign’ against the minority group increased significantly in the last year.

It claimed that 377 Ahmadis became victims of attempted murder, 27 places of worship were demolished while 33 places have been sealed by the government authorities during the last year.

As many as 17 places of worship have been grabbed and illegally occupied by opponents, the report alleged. It said that 39 dead bodies were exhumed and 65 Ahmadis were not allowed to be buried in a common (Muslim) graveyard.

Jamat-e-Ahmadiya Pakistan spokesman Saleemuddin told The Nation that in the wake of the annual report the community has demanded that their fundamental human rights should be restored and all discriminatory laws abolished.

The report stated that a mob attacked the Ahmadiya worship place in Dolmial, Chakwal and occupied it. “The worship place is still under control of the local administration. Ahmadis are deprived of their right to worship.”

Despite the order by the Lahore High Court in respect of Ahmadiya journals, the report stated that “CTD Punjab raided the Ahmadiya Headquarters in Rabwah, apprehended four Ahmadis and lodged a criminal case on baseless allegation.”

As such, Ahmadis were forced to leave the area for the sake of their lives. Although, the Pakistan Army and Rangers restored peace afterwards but the place of worship is still under the control of the local administration, it claimed.

The report claimed that Ahmadis are restricted to access their religious literature which is a clear violation of Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan. It said, “The Daily Alfazl and the monthly journal Tehrik e Jadid were also banned under this action, against which their editors approached the Lahore High Court and were granted injunctions, on June 2, 2015.

“But on 5th December 2016, when the Order of the Honorable Court was still in effect, CTD Punjab raided the headquarters of Jamat-e-Ahmadiya in Rabwah on the pretext of the aforementioned ban and apprehended four Ahmadis, which was a clear violation of the orders of the Honorable High Court.

“This violation of the fundamental human rights of Ahmadis by this illegal and unjustified police raid, especially under a democratic and constitutional government run by a political party, has outmatched even the dark days of dictatorial regimes.”

The report stated Jamat-e-Ahmadiya filed complaints to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority on two malicious TV programs that telecasted hate against Ahmadis.

On September 29, 2016, when the hearing was scheduled before the Council of Complaints, a mob stormed the room and harassed the council members. Consequently, under undue influence of the mob, Pemra dismissed the complaint declaring it non-maintainable, the report said.

Jamat-e-Ahmadiya spokesman claimed that Punjab government has ‘discrimination’ towards Ahmadis. He said Ahmadis were restricted from participating in the Low Income Housing Scheme by the Punjab Housing and Town Planning Agency, sub region Jhang.

Saleemuddin claimed, during the year 2016, even in Rabwah, where 95 percent population is Ahmadi, the community members were not permitted to hold any religious gathering or convention. Even they were not allowed to organise sports events.

The government nationalised the educational institution in the 70s which included the educational institutions of Jamat-e-Ahmadiya.

The spokesperson urged government to take effective measures to eradicate religious intolerance and bigotry so that “our dear homeland could do away with sectarianism and prejudice and strive towards a path of true progress and peace”.

Punjab Government spokesperson Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan on Thursday denied the allegations made in the report.

Talking to The Nation, he categorically said the provincial government does not pursue a policy of discrimination against any community in the province. He also strongly denied the allegation of patronage of extremists by the state institutions.