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Sikh community faces ‘existential crisis’ in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan

Islamic outfits have made an unlivable environment for religious minorities in Pakistan through targeted killings, abductions and forced conversions. Attacks on Sikhs have become a regular affair in the country and it has triggered tension among communities.

In a brutal incident on May 15 recently, two Sikh traders–Kuljeet and Ranjit Singh- – were murdered on the outskirts of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, Asian Lite International reported.

This was the ‘twelfth’ such incident since 2014 when Sikhs were targeted by extremists in KP province alone. Moreover, in September last year, Satnam Singh, a Sikh Unani medicine practitioner was shot down inside his clinic in Peshawar, the report added, citing the local community.

The Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) took the responsibility for the attack.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also strongly condemned the murders and said in a statement, “This is not the first time that the Sikh community in KP has been targeted and we demand that the KP police identify and arrest the perpetrators promptly.”

The Sikh population in Pakistan is in a vulnerable state and has seen a massive decline in the last two decades amid rising cases of forced conversions and targeted attacks by the Islamic outfits because of their unique religious identifications and their population accumulation in unsafe areas of KP.

World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) also condemned the Peshawar killings and expressed deep concerns for the safety of Pakistan’s Sikh community. In their statement, the WSO stated that Sikhs in Pakistan are “feeling vulnerable and unsafe.” Moreover, “they do not know if they will return home safely, if they go out.”

Most of the Sikhs in KP come from a financially weak background and run small grocery shops or work as Hakeems. Migrating to a safer place is becoming a compulsion for them as Pakistan does not guarantee their security in the region anymore, Asian Lite said.

According to Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, there are just 15,000-20,000 Sikhs estimated to be left in Pakistan of which some 500 Sikh households are in Peshawar.

In January 2020, a violent mob attacked one of the holiest Sikh shrines, Nankana Sahib Gurudwara, in Punjab province, and the horrific attack terrorized Sikhs across Pakistan because it made them realize that Punjab was not safe anymore.

Amid the growing demands of imposing ‘Sharia Law’ in the country and the constant ascent in atrocities against Sikh minorities has shrunk space for them to survive in Pakistan, growing disenchantment among minority communities in Pakistan, especially among Sikhs, who thought that they could co-exist peacefully along with majority Muslims.

Pakistan is witnessing a new wave of terrorism with several incidents of target killings of Sikh and Shia minorities reported in the Peshawar region in recent years

The previous governments in Pakistan abandoned the execution of the National Action Plan (NAP) which was meant to be put in place to carry out a crackdown on terrorism giving rise to horrific incidents taking place against minorities in the nation.

Religious minorities in Pakistan are often treated as ‘second-class’ citizens, Asian Lite International reported.

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