Sikh might be the next target of religious extremist in Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan: The Sikh community in Pakistan is not safe, specially after the 2014 killing. The Sikhs might be the latest target of the religious extremist, because of which it is very uncertain for the community to live there.

A spate of killings since 2014, has raised worries that Sikhs might be the latest target of Pakistan’s religious extremist groups, leaving community members uncertain of their future in the country.

Recently on September 30, Satnam Singh, a Sikh Unani medicine practitioner was shot down inside his clinic in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Peshawar. Later Islamic State (Daesh) had claimed responsibility for the killing. In January last year, Ravinder Singh, who lived in Malaysia and had returned to his home in Pakistan for his wedding. He was murdered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Mardan city.

Sikh rights advocates claim that the population of their minority community in the country has dropped dramatically since 2002, as forced conversions and violence against Sikhs have ramped up with little to no legal protections in place, Daily Sikh reported.

Professor Kalyan Singh, who is a minority rights activist and a teacher at Lahore’s GC College University said that one of the reasons behind this decline of the Sikh population is forced conversion.

“This is a fact the Sikh population in Pakistan has been consistently declining. One of the reasons behind this decline is, of course, forced conversion,” Professor Singh said.

According to Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), only 6,146 Sikhs were claimed to be registered in Pakistan.

According to a census conducted by NGO Sikh Resource and Study Centre (SRSC), about 50,000 Sikhs still live in Pakistan. Whereas, the US Department of State claims the Sikh population in Pakistan to be at 20,000.

However, in the 2017 population census, Sikhs were not included and there is no hard data on their numbers as well.

Most of the Sikh population is settled in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, followed by Sindh and Punjab.

The Sikh population also face other forms of violence in the country. Harmeet Singh, a Sikh news anchor received threatening calls.

He said, “I will be left with no other option but to leave Pakistan,” after being distressed over receiving threatening calls and police inaction, reported Daily Sikh.

In 2007, Sikhs living in the tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province faced Jizya, a tax levied on non-Muslims living in a Muslim state, imposed by the Pakistani Taliban.

In 2009, the Taliban destroyed the houses of 11 Sikh families in Orakzai Agency for refusing to pay jizya. In 2010, a young man named Jaspal Singh from Khyber Agency was beheaded after his family couldn’t pay Jizya, reported Daily Sikh.

Sikh minorities in Pakistan have regularly become a target of rampant violence stemming from personal enmity to professional or economic rivalry.

Religious minorities remain a soft target of non-state actors and religiously inspired extremists in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the dogged persistence of state policies has failed to reboot the judicial system and rule of law. Pakistan on several occasions has promised to safeguard the interests of minority communities in the nation. However, rampant attacks on the minorities narrate a different story.

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