LAHORE: A 70-year-old worship place belonging to Pakistan's minority Ahmadis has been demolished by the authorities in Punjab province, the community members said on Monday.
Pakistan's Parliament in 1974 declared the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims. A decade later, they were banned from calling themselves Muslims.
They are banned from preaching and even from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.
Ahmadi community spokesperson Saleemduddin said the worship place, which has been destroyed, was located in Bahawalpur district's Hasilpur village, some 400 kms from here.
"The assistant commissioner of Hasilpur along with Baldia workers attacked the 70-year-old Ahmadi place of worship in Murad district and destroyed parts of the building without notice," Saleemduddin said in a tweet.
"It is important to note that this place of worship is built on property owned by the community. It has remained the same over past many many decades," he said.
The minority community lamented the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for arresting one of its members who filmed this demolition.
"Instead of initiating action against those involved in its demolition, police have arrested an Ahmadi who filmed this attack under baseless charges," Saleemduddin said, asking "how on earth filming something on a public space falls under this law?" Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan often boasts about his government's commitment regarding protecting the rights of minorities in the country.
"It is a shameless act by Pakistan's govt. Where is your naya Pakistan. This is the naya Pakistan. Shame on you. @ImranKhanPTI," Ahmadi activist Namatulla Nawaz said in a tweet.
The Ahmadi community has repeatedly been targeted by Islamic extremists, who view them as heretics.
Last year, the government cancelled the appointment of US-educated economist Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council after it surfaced that he belonged to the Ahmadi community.
In Pakistan, around 10 million out of the 220 million population are non-Muslims.
According to the 2017 census, Hindus constitute the largest religious minority (5 million) in Pakistan. Christians make up the second-largest religious minority, with almost the same number (4.5 million) and their concentration is mostly in urban Sindh, Punjab and parts of Balochistan.
Ahmadis, Sikhs and Parsi are also among the notable religious minorities in Pakistan.