Lahore: Three graves belonging to the Ahmadis have been allegedly desecrated by police in Pakistan's Punjab province, a member of an organisation representing the minority community said on Saturday, days after Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that anyone targeting the country's minorities would be dealt with strictly.
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.
Spokesman of the Jamaat Ahmadiyya Pakistan, the Pakistani organisation representing the Ahmadis, Saleemuddin said the incident took place at a graveyard in Chak-2 TDA district in Khushab, some 300 kilometres from Lahore.
"Police have desecrated three tombstones of Ahmadis' in a graveyard in Chak-2 TDA, district Khushab. This was done at the behest of mullahs (clerics). The Ahmadis are not even safe in their graves in Pakistan," Saleemuddin said in a statement.
He also uploaded pictures of the desecrated graves on Twitter.
Last week, a 100-year-old place of worship of the Ahmadi community in Khrepar in Kasur district, 50 kilometres from Lahore, was taken over by the local clerics.
"They (Ahmadis) are not allowed to live in peace. Let them rest in their graves in peace. Desecration of Ahmadi graves is un-Islamic and inhuman. Please do something; perhaps, issue an order against desecration of graves?" senior journalist and author Mehr Tarar said in tweet.
Who will the minority community turn to when the police are involved in targeting the Ahmadis?, Saleemuddin asked.
He also reminded Prime Minister Khan of his recent warning that his government would take strict action against those involved in violence against the minorities.
"I want to warn our people that anyone in Pakistan targeting our non-Muslim citizens or their places of worship will be dealt with strictly. Our minorities are equal citizens of this country," Khan said in a tweet on Wednesday.
An official from the office of Deputy Commissioner Khushab told PTI that the tombs/plaques from the graves were removed on a complaint filed by the locals.
"Complainant Syed Athar Ali Bokhari and others in their application to the Deputy Commissioner Khushab said that Islamic verses and the Prophet's name were inscribed on non-Muslim Ahmadis graves," the official said.
The application said "the act is hurting the sentiments of Muslims, therefore these tombs/plaques should be removed," the official said.
Acting on the complaint, the police and the local administration removed the tombs, the official said, adding that the administration had not received any application from the Ahmadi community.
Ahmadi community's Punjab spokesman Amir Mahmood said that police and the local administration had entertained the hardline clerics' application.
"How can we file an application with police or deputy commissioner knowing that this may lead to further problems for us?" Mahmood told PTI.
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.