TORONTO — Canada sent a diplomat to a town in Pakistan last week to meet leaders of the Ahmadiyya minority whose mosque was stormed by a mob that allegedly included a Toronto-area man, an official said.
The visit by an envoy from the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad came three months after Rashid Ahmed of Mississauga, Ont., was spotted in the crowd during the storming of the mosque.
Ahmed has since returned to Canada, drawing complaints from Canadian Ahmadiyya leaders, who want him investigated. He has denied being a leader of the Dec. 12 assault in the Chakwal area.
Rashid Ahmed of Mississauga, Ont, in white cap, can be seen in videos of the Dec. 12 attack on a minority Ahmadiyya mosque in Chakwal, Pakistan.
During the March 6 visit to Chakwal, the Canadian diplomat watched videos of the incident, which came after local villagers warned police they would take “extreme measures” unless the Ahmadiyyas were evicted from the mosque.
“The visit to Chakwal in March by staff of the Canadian High Commission was part of regular outreach to a variety of communities in Pakistan,” Austin Jean, a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson, told the National Post.
“Canadian authorities are aware of allegations that a Canadian citizen was involved in the attack on Chakwal. While difficult and sad to see, the videos were shown by Ahmadiyya community leaders in the context of discussing the attack.”
Members of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam face regular violence in Pakistan, where they are prohibited from referring to themselves as Muslims, worshipping in mosques or openly propagating their faith. Thousands have fled to Canada.
The alleged involvement of a Canadian in one such incident has upset members of Canada’s Ahmadiyya community, who say they don’t want the religious intolerance they fled in Pakistan to spread to Canada.
Neither the RCMP nor Peel Regional Police have commented on the matter but the recent diplomatic visit to Chakwal suggests Canadian officials are making inquiries into what happened.
“We are encouraged by the continued action by the Canadian government in taking notice of the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan and visiting Chakwal where the terrorist attack against Ahmadi Muslims took place,” said Safwan Choudhry, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada. “We look forward to actions by the Canadian government in preventing hate-preachers attacking vulnerable communities.”
At least 1,000 people stormed the Ahmadiyya mosque in the Chakwal area three months ago. Video of the event shows Ahmed in the thick of the melee, in which police watched helplessly while the attackers scaled the walls and broke inside, setting fire to the mosque’s contents.
“Listen to me,” Ahmed is heard saying on the video, addressing the crowd in Urdu. “Have fear of God!” He then asked them to allow representatives to hold discussions. “Even if the army arrives, we are not afraid.”
Ahmed has said in an interview he was being investigated by Pakistani police for terrorism over the deadly clash. He said he had also been questioned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service but denied being an organizer.
“Canada is committed to the protection of the rights of religious minorities at home and abroad, including Ahmadiyya Muslims,” Jean said, adding that Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Omar Alghabra had raised this issue during a January visit to Pakistan.