Interview with a survivor from Lahore mosque attacks

‘There were about 20 of us in a small congested room; the longer we were in there the more we felt we were suffocating.  As we sat in there we heard the terrorists scream ‘Allah ho Akbar’ as they detonated their vests, killing worshippers in their wake.’

These were the words of Abdul Ala, 42 from Lahore. Speaking to him from Pakistan, he told his harrowing story of survival, the connection of our call may have been shaky but his words were clear. Mr Ala is a follower of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and nephew of Nobel Prize winner, Abdus Salam.

Mr Ala is lucky to be alive. During Friday’s  attacks on Ghari Shahu’s Darl Zikr mosque, he came in to contact with a grenade, which left shrapnel lodged in his right shoulder and leg.

“I was hit as a group of us tried to take shelter under a Mehrab. I was bleeding heavily. We then began rushing out of the prayer hall as the terrorists began firing indiscriminately- everyone was terrified as we rushed to get out.

 “We ran across the mosque courtyard as the men continued to fire guns and grenades in the main prayer hall.

“We found a small empty house that belonged to one of the Murabis at the mosque; we crammed ourselves in and closed the door, barricading it shut. We heard the blasts coming from the hand grenades, which were now getting louder and closer. There were a lot of us in that room, we were locked in for two hours. We heard one of the suicide bombers scream ‘Allah ho Akbar’ as they detonated their vests- the sounds were horrible.

“We heard them slowly make their way to our room. They must have heard or seen us hiding inside, as one of the men started screaming ‘there are people inside, there are people inside here.’ They then began to break open the door. Luckily they were unsuccessful and we were spared, but for those few minutes we were worried we might be next.

“We eventually took a chance and escaped the room by jumping out of the window. I rushed out to find paramedics at the door. By this time my wounds had shed a lot of blood. The police were outside for hours, they did not enter until one of the suicide bombers detonated his vests.  The terrorists were walking freely inside the mosque, they knew the police were not about to come in anytime soon.

“By the time we got to the hospital, the staffs were already inundated with patients. You have to remember they were not just trying to save the dying but were also trying to spare the injured. I saw family and friends step forward to give blood for those who had been injured.

“ A lot of the doctors treating us were also Ahmadi, I saw Dr Abas Bajwa rushing between patients as ambulances continued to bring in more survivors.”

Abdul Ala was eventually treated and sent home to recover. By this time the Pakistani press had begun broadcasting messages of condolences to those affected in the attacks. But for Mr Abdul the promise for change was an empty one.  

“How can we believe the government will change and help our community, they didn’t even have the decency to say the worshippers were martyred or even call our mosque a mosque- they kept on referring to it as a ‘place of worship.’ If the government is not willing to accept our community as a faction of Islam, then what chance will the rest of population accept us?”

 The police have been continuously praised throughout this ordeal, with those who were involved in Friday’s attacks now due medals for bravery.

“What are they getting medals for, for coming too late? For letting our boys apprehend the terrorists for them? For standing outside whilst we ran for our lives? They may have covered the mosque on the outside, but we needed them inside- taking the terrorists straight on- we had no weapons to defend ourselves, we needed their help.”

Despite his injuries Mr Ala has vowed to continue going to the mosque for prayers. Like many of those who have survived, they have taken comfort in the words of their spiritual leader.

“Huzoor [Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmed] has told us not to fear terrorists. I will keep going to offer my prayers and I will keep practicing my faith- I have done nothing wrong, my only crime is that I am an Ahmadi Muslim.”