On May 28, 2010, two Ahmadi worship places were attacked by suicide jacket-wearing terrorists who came with guns and grenades and the worshipers were sprayed with bullets. More than 90 people were killed. Both worship places were targeted just minutes apart. I was heading home with an Ahmadi friend when she received a call from her mother that her chacha (uncle) was severely injured in the attack. He was present at the Model Town worship place and received bullet injuries. She naturally became distressed upon hearing the news and wanted to visit his uncle in the hospital. I told her that I will accompany her and tried to reassure her that it will be fine.
But none of what I said could compensate for the horror that was inflicted upon her community that day.
What made it worse was that most politicians preferred not to name the victims i.e. Ahmadis. I opened the livestream of a news channel on my phone to get a sense of the situation. The condemnations were halfhearted. Most TV channels did not mention that it was an Ahmadi worship place. One channel that did mention the identity of the community under attack, referred to them as ‘Qadiyani’ — which is generally used as a derogatory term against the persecuted community.
We had almost reached the hospital when my friend got another call from her mother. She told her not to visit the hospital as the authorities were not allowing visitors because they feared another attack targeting the hospitals where the wounded were taken. It took a few minutes to process it all. First they target a worship place, then they plan to attack a hospital to ensure that those who managed to survive the carnage are targeted once again.
I was horrified, but certainly not more than my friend who was just barred from visiting her injured uncle in the hospital because some people wanted her and each member of her community dead. The fear and helplessness that I saw in her eyes made me hang my head in shame. As she called her other relatives to check on them, I remembered how our local cleric in the mosque was spewing venom against Ahmadis in a sermon. Just a week before the incident, my brother had told me that the mosque Imam incites violence against the Ahmadi community. Hate speech against this ill-fated community is the norm in Pakistan. How can a local Imam be told to avoid such venom when politicians of our country practice the same? It was one of those days when I lost all hope in the future of Pakistan.
As I saw my Ahmadi friend off, I could not help but feel ashamed of how much impunity these blood thirsty monsters were given by our government. In those days our politicians would openly advocate for ‘talks’ with the Taliban, ignoring all their crimes. But in case of Ahmadis, it was not just a handful of terrorists, but a majority of the population thinks that they deserve this persecution.
The nightmare was not over. Just a few weeks after the massacre, ICU of Jinnah Hospital, Lahore was attacked. The victims of the attack were recovering there. 12 more people fell victim of the attack and lost their lives, while the terrorists managed to escape.
I called the same Ahmadi friend of mine to check on her, as her uncle was under treatment at the same hospital. Luckily he had survived. But her voice shook as she spoke to me. There was a sense of fear in her voice, as if she trusted no one — not even me.