Lahore: Pakistan`s minorities are feeling more vulnerable than ever before after the deadly attacks on Ahmedis and want the government to deal with Taliban and hardline religious elements with an "iron hand”, an organisation representing them has said.
"We urge the government to take effective measures to check the increasing influence of Taliban in Pakistan, especially the province of Punjab where they are targeting any sect at their will," the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance said in a statement.
The APMA condemned in the strongest terms the "cowardly attack" by terrorists on two mosques of the minority Ahmedi sect in Lahore that left 95 dead and over 100 injured last week.
"Minorities today in Pakistan are more vulnerable than ever before," it noted.
APMA office-bearers Naveed Amir Jeeva, George Paul, Akmal Bhatti and Shamoon Raheel demanded that an immediate operation should be launched to eliminate centres where Taliban are training terrorists.
"Taliban have become a threat for the solidarity of Pakistan. (We urge) followers of all faiths and religions in the country to join hands to resist Talibanisation and foil the nefarious designs of terrorists who are out to destabilise Pakistan," APMA said.
Jeeva regretted that successive incidents at Bamniwala, Kasur, Gojra, Sambrial and Lahore in Punjab had proved that the government is not serious about discharging its constitutional obligation to provide security to the life and property of minorities in the province.
Paul said gruesome acts by terrorists have caused loss of precious human lives, promoted a sense of insecurity among minorities and provided an opportunity to the anti-state lobby in the West to ruin the image of Pakistan across the globe.
APMA said provincial government should ensure that all worship places of minorities have adequate security in order to avoid occurrence of any untoward incident in the future.
Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyyah Pakistan spokesman Saleemuddin said: "The brazen attacks were not just acts of terrorism but the deadly culmination of years of sectarian hatred, violence and odious campaigning aimed squarely against the Ahmadiya Jamaat".
He said Ahmedis have been declared `Wajjibal Qatal` (fit to be killed) and reviled in public and civil life.
"Popular sentiment has been so forcefully positioned against Ahmedis in Pakistan that it is considered an Islamic obligation and an act of great merit to kill and murder members of the Jamaat," he said.
"The prevalence of such anti-Ahmedi sentiments made it only natural that an attack like the one in Lahore last week would eventually take place.”
"The true perpetrators of this crime are those groups and individuals who bow to the demands of hardliners and fuel sectarian hate," Saleemuddin said.
Vehemently denying reports that these attacks might have been the result of an internecine dispute, he said this "complete and utter lie" was fabricated by those who have ties which hardline militant groups to divert the attention of authorities from investigating the crime.
"The protection of life, property and honour is the principle obligation of any good government. Sadly it seems this is not applicable in the case of Ahmedis in Pakistan.”
"Religious extremists have always been allowed to incite the general public against members of the Jamaat.”
"It is high time for the government to either openly declare that they will continue to allow this persecution or to put an end to it once and for all," Saleemuddin said.
He said the Jamaate-e-Ahmadiyya does not believe in violent protest and has never reacted to such assaults with civil unrest.
"It has always been our practice to show patience in times of distress and submit to the will of God and we will continue to do this," he added.