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Sikh News Sikh Leaders in America Press President Obama

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Admin Singh, May 8, 2009.

  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Washington: Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of Sikh Council on Religion and Education and Amrit Kaur, Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, both based in Washington, have communicated in a letter to President Barack Obama, saying:

    “We bring before you our deepest concern about the safety of lives and property of Sikhs in Pakistan. Recently their religious freedom has been threatened and various happenings around them are troublesome. They are being harassed and their property damaged and plundered by Taliban. This barbaric act of Taliban has been in practice since mid-April and the Pakistan Government’s reaction has been too little too late.”

    President Obama is meeting President Zardari of Pakistan today at the White House. There are 500,000 Sikhs in the United States. Sikh Leaders have also conveyed their concerns to the White House officials. They plan to meet officials at NSC, the State Department and congressional leaders.

    The letter also said, “The Pakistan government has already rejected Indian concerns about the plight of Sikhs living in the Pakistan tribal area, saying the issue was being over exaggerated. However, the fact is that so many Sikh families have been displaced by the Taliban militants unfortunately, this number keeps growing by the hour.

    Majority of the displaced families of the Orakzai agency were living in Peer Baba, Daggar, Dewana Baba, Jhangi, Gogga, Sawari, Changli and Ghourgohsti areas. They are hoping to return to their homes after the situation there improves.
    Pakistani Shrines Evacuee Trust Property Board has made some arrangements to assist the displaced Sikh families but the efforts are minute. Money offered to them is not adequate.

    It is important that Pakistan Government reimburse them for any Jazia tax they might have paid and compensate them for their loss of property. Until peace and stability prevails in the area they need to be given a safe passage to protective areas. They should get adequate food and shelter. Its’ failure to do so would simply indicate failure of legitimate Pakistani government. We urge you to please expedite your efforts in guaranteeing protection to the victims of Taliban carnage.

    It is the primary duty of the Pakistan government to intervene on behalf of the Sikhs and other minorities and protect them from any atrocities committed by Taliban or any other group. We have not heard President of Pakistan come out clearly on national media to condemn these outrageous acts of the Taliban. Taliban demand of Jazia is appalling and more outrageous than this is Government‘s silent treatment.

    We have received number of calls and emails from Sikhs all across America expressing their outrage about the situation in Pakistan. As American citizens, we request you to express our sentiments to President Zardari.

    It is important that U.S. government convey our deepest concerns to the Pakistan Government. This issue cannot be comprised at any cost and we must ask for security and well being of all communities.

    Pakistan is home to many Sikhs and most revered shrines of Sikhism are situated in that nation. Previous Pakistan regime had shown many kind gestures to the Sikhs in preserving the holy shrines and they had also declared Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak (Founder of Sikhism), a district. A Sikh university is also been promised in that region. We truly appreciate these initiatives.

    We would like to see a prosperous Pakistan and a nation where people of all religions can live peacefully and practice their faith without any threat or intimidation. We are eager to assist you or the Pakistan Government to achieve these goals.”
    Sikhism is a very small minority religion in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but has many cultural, historical and political ties to the country, and to the historical region of Punjab. The largest Sikh population in Pakistan is found in Peshawar, in Northwest Frontier Province.

    Recent situation in the Swat valley and adjacent areas have become dangerous for Sikhs. The Taliban has expelled over 100 Sikh families from the Orakzai Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) after they failed to pay ‘Jazia’or tax that minorities pay in Islam to a Muslim state in exchange for state protection and security of life and property. From several reports that have appeared of late, first in the Pakistani press, and now in the foreign press, the situation comes across as most startling and worrying.

    The Sikhs of Orakzai have lived in the agency for decades and and have never faced any problems or harassment from the local tribes. However, for the past few months, and especially after Hakeemullah Mehsud and his men descended on Orakzai and established their own rule, the Sikhs of the agency have lived a terrified existence. A good number of them have been veritably held at gunpoint and forced to pay extortion money. The Sikhs were reportedly told either they all convert or they pay the tax. And this is reinforced by published accounts of some of the Sikh family elders, one of whom was kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban. However, the state of Pakistan has chosen to do nothing to take the Sikhs of Orakzai from the clutches of the Taliban.

    Taliban militants had taken over the shops and homes of the 35 Sikh families and arrested community leaders Kalyan Singh and Sewa Singh in the Ferozkhel area of Lower Orakzai Agency. Following this, a local jirga ruled that the Sikh community should annually pay Rs.15 million ($187,000) as protection money. Earlier reports had said the Taliban had demanded Rs. 50 million but that this had been reduced. When the Sikh community expressed their inability to pay, the Taliban then auctioned their houses and other belongings. There are reports the militants had demolished the houses 11 houses of the Sikh community. They have also occupied dozens of houses and shops of Sikhs in Qasimkhel and Ferozkhel areas. Since most of the Sikh families were impoverished, they decided to leave the area to avoid a possible Taliban action against them. Hundreds of them have left the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and have moved to the adjacent NWFP province. According to reports, many Sikh families have started migrating to different parts of Hangu and Kohat out of fear of the Taliban action.

    Over 300 Pakistani Sikhs have taken shelter at the Gurdwara Punja Sahib, one of their holiest Sikh sites, located in the Hassanabdal town of the Pakistani Punjab.

    Dr. Rajwant Singh
    National Chairman, Sikh Council on Religion and Education
    202 460 0630

    Amrit Kaur,
    Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation
    Guru Gobind Singh Foundation > Home
     

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