Footprints: A community under attack | Nabeel Anwar Dhakku

Source: Dawn

By  NABEEL ANWAR DHAKKU

CHAKWAL: Much time has elapsed since Dec 12, which registered as the most critical in Dulmial, a sleepy village some 37 kilometres from Chakwal city. But life has yet to return to normality. That was when a place of worship belonging to the beleaguered Ahmadiyya community was attacked by a furious mob; the venue is now sealed and under police guard, while police personnel are deployed at every entry and exit point to the village.

The area’s shops, more than a dozen of them, mainly remain closed — of the only two that are open, one is run by an old man and the other by a youth who has distanced himself from the Dec 12 attack. Almost all the Ahmadi families living here, numbering between 70 to 80, fled the village during the night of Dec 12 and 13, while the young men that are not from this community have also fled, fearing arrest. The main square of the village is filled with policemen, with nary a resident in sight.

In this tense atmosphere, a 68-year-old Ahmadi woman walks the streets. Maqsood Begum refused to flee with her family members, despite their pressure. “Death is bound to come,” she says, talking to Dawn at her house. “Why flee it? I told my family members that I could not leave my village as it is very dear to me. However, I sent my ailing husband even though he did not want to go.” She spends her day tending her cattle, while her grandson — the 28-year-old does not share her faith — stays in her house during the night.

Maqsood Begum represents a reality out of which is woven the very social fabric of Dulmial. She was born Sunni-Muslim, but was married into an Ahmadi family at a time when there was no conflict between the two communities. But things changed drastically during the Zulifkar Ali Bhutto government, when Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim via a constitutional amendment. A cleric in the village started a campaign against the village Ahmadi community, but Dulmial survived thanks to its strong social fabric: the close blood relations between Muslim and Ahmadi families.

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