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S Asia Sikhs Panic After Target Killings, Plan To Flee Peshawar


May 10, 2010
Ancient Greece
Pakistan: First they had to flee their homes in frontier tribal areas of Pakistan because of growing militancy. And now, Pashto-speaking Sikhs who have been living in Peshawar for over a decade are thinking of migrating even further in the face of militant hostility.

There has been a surge of attacks against Sikhs in Peshawar. Harjeet Singh ran a textile shop along with his father in Nauthia, a bustling market in Peshawar, the main city in north west Pakistan. On September 6, he was killed by militants who arrived at his shop on a motorcycle. The incident spread a wave of panic among the Sikhs. Like other marginalized groups, they are easy targets for extremists.

As for party leaders, they claim that the political climate in the country is too hot for them to focus any attention on the problem.

The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), which is also the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is busy protesting against the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad and the entire government machinery has come to a standstill. "We are trying our best to resolve the problems of the Sikhs but political tensions are so high," senator Amarjit Malhotra, who is part of the panel inquiring into the attacks on Sikhs, said.

A month earlier, three Sikh businessmen were targeted similarly at their Peshawar shops. Of them, two survived the attack.

Gagan Singh, another trader, was found murdered in his shop in the district of Mardan, some 40km from the provincial capital of Peshawar. Investigating officers say the attacks were not random, but communal.

But none of them has a clue about the exact identity of the attackers. "Not one militant group has claimed responsibility," Japinder Singh, a local Sikh, said.

"We haven't received any threats either and that is even more troubling because we don't know who is behind the attacks," he added.

Around 600 Sikh families had migrated to Peshawar from Orakzai Agency and Khyber Agency, two of seven quasi districts of the Federally Administered Tribal areas (Fata). Sikhs have been living in Fata for centuries and are part of the social fabric, they speak Pashto and their elders were even part of the 'Jirga' (the decision-making body in the tribal area).

However, as the events of 9/11 unfolded, the tribal areas became home to several militants organizations. The Sikhs were threatened and made to pay a tax imposed on non-Muslims by Mangal Bagh, a wanted militant commander in the area.

In the face of hostilities, the entire Sikh community migrated out of the region. Some have managed to go back after the massive military operation, but a majority stayed back. For one, the security situation in Fata remains volatile and secondly, the Sikhs have invested in businesses in Peshawar.

All the Sikhs who have been killed so far in Peshawar and other districts are those that had migrated from Fata. Jasmeet Singh, a community leader, said that Sikhs are now thinking of leaving the city.

"We can't up and leave because we have businesses in the area but we are thinking of moving to India or Afghanistan if the situation worsens," he said. Another Sikh leader, Baba Amarjit Singh, said that some Sikhs had already left for India.

In May this year, Sikhs from Sindh province had forcibly entered the premises of the parliament in Islamabad to protest attacks on gurudwaras there. There were also reports of Granth Sahab being desecrated in the region.

(Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...lan-to-flee-Peshawar/articleshow/42410964.cms)
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