A victim of the Lahore attack remembers

Published: September 25, 2010

Women mourn the loss of relatives after the attack on May 28 PHOTO: REUTERS

You read stories of violence and atrocities committed on faceless Pakistanis in your local newspapers on a daily basis. You absorb the news as detached consumers. Empathy and even hints of grief might stir your heart while reading a poignant story every once in a while, but try as you might, you will never be able to relate to the victims and those directly involved – because you were never there. It didn’t happen to you or, anyone you know. And for that, you’re almost relieved. Yet guiltily so.

But what would happen, if one day, you or your loved ones were victims of a cruel, intolerant act of violence? And what if, someone you knew and loved deeply was taken away from you, within a mere few agonising hours?

What then? How would you survive the horror?

Settled abroad with her husband, Irum received a phone call from her distraught sibling. It was the 28 day of May – this year – a Friday. Back home in Pakistan, it was 2:30pm. Two Ahmadi places of worship in Lahore were under siege by terrorists, and Irum’s father was in one of them –  Darul Zikar, a place that Irum for many years, used to frequent with her family on Friday for prayers, and over Eid, as a young girl.

Prior to her sibling’s phone call, “Abu” had called Irum’s mother and told his wife that he was injured. He’d been shot in his left foot. After telling his wife to remain calm, Irum’s mother heard a series of gun shots. Then, the line went dead.

Abroad, Irum watched the television in horror – live visuals of the attack were being shown on the BBC.  Three hours later, after the attack was over, Irum’s father could not be found. Family members searched hospitals, but to no avail.

Hours later at 10:00pm, Irum’s father had been located. His body was found at a local hospital. “I was half expecting it since there had been no news,” Irum said, “But when my brother-in-law called me, I fell to the floor and wept. God knows how many hours I wept for.”

Irum immediately left for Pakistan. The journey home was wretched.“For many nights which followed, I had haunting nightmares that I was in there too, and that a bullet had hit my leg,” she stated, “A few times I dreamt that I was in there and that I had covered my father and the bullet had hit my back instead of his foot, and that he was safe.”

In the days, weeks and months that have followed after the incident, Irum and her family, in their grief, gain strength from the fact that along with them, eighty-five other families suffer the loss of their loved ones. It is in this grief that they have sought some resilience and patience to endure their personal tragedy.

“After my father’s death,” Irum said, “My first reaction was that I didn’t want to live here anymore. Lahore has always been my favourite place in the world. But now it has become a place where my father was brutally killed. And no one came to help. Imagine how the mother of those two brothers killed in Sialkot must be feeling about her city and her fellow citizens. That’s how I feel. No one helped; they all gathered around their TV sets and watched the show – just like the mob in Sialkot.”

After speaking with an uncle, who was in Darul Zikr at the time of the attack, Irum informed me that there were five to six terrorists in the building. “They first burned the cars outside,” she said, “Then they came inside, opening fire on anyone in sight. One guy climbed up on the minaret and remained there till the end – he would shoot anyone he saw below in the courtyard.”

In the hall where her father was, two men broke in, spraying bullets. Then, one of them went to the hall on the first floor and started throwing hand-grenades from above, into the hall below. At one point, one of the attacker’s placed a grenade at the feet of an old man. “He was sitting on a chair,” Irum said, “My uncle watched from a distance as the grenade went off.”

“This entire incident has scarred us badly,” Irum stated. “Three Ahmadis have been killed since the attack on the May 28. One in Narowal, and two in Sindh. So you can imagine how unsafe we feel.”

After the tragedy, Irum and her family have begun to follow strict safety measures. “There are many Ahmadis in Lahore who are getting threatening phone calls and their homes have been marked with red ink as targets,” she said, “Basically every Ahmadi in Pakistan is practicing his/her faith under the dark shadow of terror, at the risk of their lives…but we’re holding on.”

sonya.rehman

Sonya Rehman

A graduate from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism who works as a freelance journalist for The Express Tribune and various publications in Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    Not only Ahmadis, but the minorities are going throught the same. Ahmadis are at a bigger attack….Thanks to the Ordinance 1984 for all this today….That simply shuns out the promise for every minority and its religious places..“There is no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all equal citizens of one State.”

    Does Almighty ever stop its people and creatures from giving food, even if they are Ahmadis, Parsis, Hindus or Sikhs? About 500 Ahmadi families were been hit by floods, they were rejected food items and they were forced to leave the relief camps by the local administration. They were given refuge only by their fellow Ahmadi people.

    …and look at the hypocritical standards of ours:
    There is an Ahmadi family who shared their story with me. People didn’t want to marry their sons since they were Ahmadis some years ago. They used to criticize them openly for being Ahmadis and asking other people to boycott them. Now the same people, who have been criticizing them for decades, now have not been able to find matches for their daughters. So they are asking the mother of those Ahmadi boys again and again to marry their daughters. The same story applies to a girl whose late grandfather was an Ahmadi. But she brought a lot of money and dowry with her; people were ready to marry her, despite being an Ahmadi’s daughter. Here comes the greed, lust and materialism where intolerance simply goes away.Recommend

  • abc

    @SadafFayyaz: Seee, you ALWAYS talk about marriage and relationships no matter what the issue :P Though i see you took my advice and got your fullstop key changed on your keyboard, the key that got stuck :) and no i dont hate you, nothing personal here, just having fun. :) lol

    On a more serious note, i personally think we are all responsible for this prejudice. I know this has been said in the press for some time now, and more so recently, but i feel it in myself now. We are a part of the Sialkot mob, we are bystanders who will stand silently until an atrocity is committed that directly affects us. Yes i feel sympathy for all the victims, and im not saying i would go out and kill them if i had a choice, but i do condemn some sects in my head. I have friends amongst Shias, (best friend included), Hindus and even a Jew. But as a Sunni, I feel I am superior to other sects, and i am ashamed to admit that i feel that way, since even im not a perfect muslim, a perfect Sunni. I am nothing, and yet i feel this sense of superiority, of pride.

    I know, having said this i will have a flood of criticism directed towards me, as it rightly should be, but then again before attacking me, think what you personally feel. Maybe some of you are better than i am, not racist, not so full of yourself as i am, but the only point im trying to make here is that, what i feel, i bet (confidently) a lot of other people feel as well, regardless of sect. Be it Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi etc. I guess the reason behind this is that we are all led to believe that as Muslims we are the best community in the world. But are we?

    Just my two cents. Put in your thoughts, criticise me, i dont mind, but before doing, take a look in the mirror thats gathering dust since so long.Recommend

  • abc

    Plus you’re a beautiful woman. Yes you know who you are :PRecommend

  • Manahil

    This piece was close to what I felt that day.
    Thanks for writing this.Recommend

  • Touseef Ahmad Rehan

    It is very sad how Ahmadis are targeted in Pakistan by the so-called mullahs, although there have been lots of deaths in Pakistan but case of Ahmadis is a bit different as attacks against have legal sanction of the Government. It shows how rigid and intolerant as a society we have become.

    The grief and anger on such brutuall murder of so many Ahmadis at once was felt all across the Ahmadiyya Community spread in 198 countries. But the reaction here we saw was very different to that we see in may other such situations.

    I personally want to thank the author for showing some courage and writing something in favour of Ahmadis. Usually people who take a stand in favour of their ahmadi friends are criticised as much as ahmadis themselves. For Example Nawaz Sharif’s calling Ahmadis brothers and sisters ignited violence among many so called religious groups.Recommend

  • Manahil

    @abc:
    I concur with you. In my view, the problem with the Muslim world is that most of us think being born to Muslim parents is enough to call ourselves righteous and point fingers to all other.
    That is what has bring about the armed and unarmed Islamic extremist groups and the misled jihad phenomena (which is used as an excuse), in my view; They Kill, bomb anyone who shares a different ideology because according to them, their belief is the only right one and that somehow makes them superior to the others and gives them the responsibility of rectifying the whole world, hence treating them in whatever way they like without an iota of guilt, is the result.Recommend

  • Amaar

    True and tragicRecommend

  • Why am I not surprised!

    @abc “But as a Sunni, I feel I am superior to other sects, and i am ashamed to admit that i feel that way, since even im not a perfect muslim, a perfect Sunni. I am nothing, and yet i feel this sense of superiority, of pride.”

    To abc:

    You expose yourself and your belief system for the wise to see and learn. God help you.Recommend

  • Why am I not surprised!

    A proof of humanity lies in standing up against intolerance, bigotry, violence, and injustice. You are free to apply any other label for yourself like Sunni, Shia, whatever. However, stop calling yourself a human, if you choose to look the other way, while standing knee deep in innocent blood. You simply abrogate the right to be classified as a human by being indifferent to cruelty or by sympathizing with the murderers of humanity.Recommend

  • Dennis Dey

    Let me remind the readers that the only Nobel prize winner in the whole “Muslim world” was an Ahmediya: Dr Abdus Samad, whose gravestone has been defaced to erase references to his being a Muslim.Recommend

  • Anoop

    The Irony is Pakistan was meant for the safety of Muslims. Recommend

  • shy

    Due to clerics and 1984 amendment.Recommend

  • LALIT

    until pakistani media refers the ahmadi mosques,as ”places of worship”(though taking refuge behind law) and signs the heinous lines declaring ahmadis non-muslims for their passports,they have no right to stand on a moral high ground.
    @abc every person irrespective of his or her religion has a right to consider him or her faith superior to other religion.but it doesnt mean that the fellow should spread venom against other faiths and go on a killing spree as in case of the ahmadis in may.your so called superioriity doesnt give you a right to kill others,who in your view may not be as superior as you….Recommend

  • Dennis Dey

    Interesting article on how Dr Abdus Salam was treated by the Pakistani authorities; if they can do this to their Muslim minorities, how much worse they must be towards the Hindus http://www.dawn.com/weekly/cowas/20061126.htm Recommend

  • abc

    @LALIT

    Who said i wanted to go on killing spree or instigate people against other sects?
    When you bother to criticise someone atleast bother to read properly what they’ve written. Im not killing anyone nor am i asking others to do so. I believe in freedom of religion, and they can practise it. I am not raising objections to that. i believe in live and let live.Recommend

  • BinYamin

    @abc
    Followers of all Muslim Sects have this superiority complex; that’s why we are tearing each other apart. Holy Quran tells us that only our good deeds make us superior to others but prohibits us to express it otherwise our good deeds are wasted for Takabbur. Unfortunately we have forgotten this basic teaching.

    @Dennis Dey
    Correct name is Dr Abdus Salam

    @LALIT
    Law does not prohibit anyone except Ahmadis from calling Ahmadi Masjid as Masjid or calling them as non-Muslim. In this case, if we read Section PPC 298-B carefully, it states:

    Any person of the Quadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name who by words, either spoken or written, or
    by visible representation-…
    (d) refers to, or names, or calls, his place of worship a ‘Masjid’;
    shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

    It is only fear of Mullah and extremist organizations which force media to use words like ‘places of worship’, ‘ibadat gah’ etc for Ahmadiyya Mosques.emphasized textRecommend

  • Ahmad

    Ahmadis are at greater risk than ever in Pakistan. Four Ahmadis have been killed after May 28, one each in Narowal, Karachi, Sanghar and Faisalabad.Recommend

  • Talha

    Slowly the truth shall reveal itself but I want people to write more about Ahmadi’s and their role for Pakistan.

    Refer to Jinnah’s right hand man, Shaukat Hayat Khan who in his memoir details how the Ahmadi’s lend all their support to Pakistan from just hearing about it. They went further by spending time with Jinnah and also persuading him through Mr Ibrahim Dard to come back to India for the cause of Pakistan.

    How Mirza Basheerudin Ahmed with Allama Iqbal initiated Kashmir Committee to help Muslims in Kashmir.

    How Sir Zafarulla Khan wrote the Lahore Resolution and later fought for Palestinians and Kashmiri’s at the UN.

    How MM Ahmed become the most influential civil servant of Pakistan and hepled Pakistan achieve its rapid industrialization in the 60′s.

    How the majority of best Pakistani soldiers were Ahmadi when chosen for ‘The cell’ by Musa.

    How General Akhtar Hussain Malik fought in Kashmir, the way Iftikhar Janjua defeated Indian forces at Rann of Kutch and how Abdul Ali Malik faced the Indian onslaught at Chawinda.

    Abdus Salam won Pakistan its first Nobel.

    I could write many things but seems to me if Pakistan does not want to recognize this group.Recommend

  • Nusrat Mahwish Javaid

    As an Ahmadi Muslim living in Canada, I feel extremely privileged to be able to practice my religion in peace and without fear of my life. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many parts of the world, such as Lahore. It’s really sad and heartbreaking to see that Ahmadis are being targeted by the so-called mullahs, for practicing their religion – Islam – a religion that preaches peace. Our community has felt the pain and grief of every single son, brother, and father that was martyred on that horrendous day and even the individual attacks that took place after. This pain will stay with us forever. We can only pray that those who have gone astray and are shedding innocent blood, come to their senses and see the wrongness of their actions. In the Holy Quran it says, “There should be no compulsion in religion (2:257).” Then why are Ahmadi Muslims being persecuted around the world? Why aren’t we allowed to declare ourselves as Muslims? In the end it all comes down to the fact that we are all part of the human race and we should all treat each other with the respect and kindness that we want for ourselves. Everyone should be allowed to practice any religion, faith, or belief they want without prejudice, without hatred and without discrimination of any kind.Recommend

  • basharat

    Four months have passed since the attack and killings in the Ahmadiyya mosques, nothing is heard about the progress of the investigation
    Two culprit were captured and handed over to the police which could make the investigation easy and successful . The Ahmadis are peaceful people, a reality , recognised all over the world , even after this brutal attack they remained composed , peaceful , self possessed and did not resort to any untoward activity . Such miracle of discipline , unity and self control , seldom happens any where in the world.

    It is duty of the government to protect life , dignity , and property of its subjects , as far as Ahmadis are concerned , the Government , becomes itself a party to the persecution of Ahmadis.

    Mullahs in mosques, some Anchors on T V chennels incite the society to violence against Ahmadis and declare that Ahmadis are liable to be murdered , many mindless fanatcs , instigated by such edicts, have murdered innocent Ahamdis . It is the time now that peace loving people of Pakistan come forward and put the country on the course set by the Founder of Pakistan before it becomes too late.Recommend