Lahore: A 62-year-old man belonging to the Ahmadi community was stabbed to death by a religious fanatic for refusing to praise a controversial cleric in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Friday, the latest in a spate of killings from the minority community.
Pakistan’s Parliament in 1974 declared the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims. A decade later, they were banned from calling themselves Muslims. They are banned from preaching and from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.
The latest incident took place in Rabwah (Chenab Nagar), some 170 kilometres from Lahore. Rabwah is the headquarters of the Ahmadi community.
Naseer Ahmad was stabbed to death at Rabwah’s main bus stop by a religious fanatic for not chanting slogans in praise of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi. He was rushed to hospital where he succumbed to his wounds, said Saleemuddin, the spokesperson of Jamaat-i-Ahmadiya Pakistan.
He said the suspect intercepted Ahmad and demanded he chant slogans in favour of Rizvi. On his refusal, the suspect attacked him with a knife. The locals overpowered the TLP member and handed him over to police.
“The suspect in police custody chanted TLP slogans and expressed no remorse in killing the man,” he said.
Firebrand Pakistani cleric Rizvi died in 2020. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief was arrested for asking army troops to rebel against the army chief and spent several months in jail before being released in May 2019.
Hundreds of TLP activists laid partial siege to the national capital in 2020 to denounce the publication of blasphemous cartoons in a French magazine and force the government to expel the French ambassador.
“He was an active member of the community and it was his Friday ritual to go to the graveyard just like many other Ahmadis to pray for their loved ones before he was attacked,” Saleemuddin said, adding that the father of three daughters was killed only for his faith.
According to police, the suspect has been identified as Hafiz Shahzad Hasan Sialvi, a former student of a TLP seminary in his hometown of Sargodha city.
Police said a murder case has been registered against the suspect, who is in his 20s, and would be presented before court for physical remand on Saturday.
Minorities, especially Ahmadis, are very vulnerable in Pakistan and they are often targeted by religious extremists.
Abdul Salam, a member of the Ahmadi community, was brutally stabbed to death by Hafiz Ali Raza apparently for his faith in May this year.
Former military dictator Gen Zia-ul Haq had made it a punishable offence for Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslims or to refer to their faith as Islam.
In Pakistan, around 10 million out of the 220 million population are non-Muslims.
According to the 2017 census, Hindus constitute the largest religious minority (5 million) in Pakistan. Christians make up the second largest religious minority, with almost the same number (4.5 million) and their concentration is mostly in urban Sindh, Punjab and parts of Balochistan.
The Ahmadis, Sikhs and Parsi are also among the notable religious minorities in Pakistan.