Peshawar: In the second attack on the Sikh community in two consecutive days in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial capital, a victim was shot dead after unidentified armed men opened fire at him, The News International reported.
The victim was identified as Manmohan Singh, who unidentified assailants murdered in Kakshal locality on June 24. “Manmohan Singh, 34, was on his way home in an auto-rickshaw on June 24 evening when unidentified armed men opened fire on him near Guldara, Kakshal,” a spokesman for the capital city police said on June 24 night. He was taken to hospital, but he succumbed to injuries. The official said senior police officials and investigation teams have rushed to the spot to collect CCTV footage and other evidence. Besides, a search operation was also launched in the vicinity to arrest the culprits, reported The News International.
The inspector general of police Akhtar Hayat Khan said he had tasked the capital city police to arrest the culprits at the earliest. A day earlier, another Sikh was shot and injured in the Dabgari area of the provincial capital. The second incident in two days triggered concerns among the locals.
The victim was identified as Tarlug Singh, son of Makhan Singh was shot in the leg by unidentified armed men in Dabgari. He was taken to hospital, where his condition was out of danger. In recent months, a Sikh was shot dead in his shop in Dir Colony. Also, attacks on Sikhs were reported near Kohat Adda and Sarband last year.
It’s the third attack on a Sikh community member this year in Pakistan. Last month, assailants gunned down Sardar Singh in a drive-by shooting in the eastern city of Lahore. Singh, 63, received a fatal gunshot to the head. Police officer Asad Abbas said the bodyguard was wounded in the attack, according to Pakistan Today.
In April, gunmen shot and killed Dayal Singh in Peshawar. In the same city in May 2022, gunmen killed two members of the Sikh community. Last year, in May, 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’ incident, which was reported between 2014-2022 when extremists in KP province alone targeted Sikhs. 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.
Religious minorities in Pakistan are currently engaged in a battle for their very survival as the nation continues to lean towards Islamic conservatism. Shockingly, hardly a day passes without an attack being launched against those belonging to minority communities within Pakistan. Over the course of just two days, three targeted incidents led to the deaths of individuals hailing from minority communities in different parts of the country.
In Peshawar, a Sikh shopkeeper, Dayal Singh, was gunned down by an unknown assailant on March 31, while on April 1, a Christian man by the name of Kasheef Masih was similarly shot dead by unidentified gunmen. In Karachi, the prominent Hindu Scheduled Castes (SCs) member, Dr Birbal Ginani, was deliberately targeted and killed on March 30.
The failure of law enforcement agencies to apprehend the perpetrators of these murders has left religious minorities in Pakistan feeling frustrated, angry, and increasingly helpless. Both religious and political motives have prevented Islamabad’s ruling governments from addressing the concerns of minorities who continue to endure daily persecution and humiliation at the hands of members of the majority community.
Last December, Pakistan was designated by the United States as a “country of particular concern” under the Religious Freedom Act due to its flagrant violations. The Act mandates that countries be designated as such if they are found to breach religious freedoms systematically and consistently.
Furthermore, the 2021 US Report on International Religious Freedom stated that local law enforcement in Pakistan failed to protect religious minorities and individuals accused of blasphemy. The Center for Social Justice (CSJ), an NGO, reported that 84 blasphemy cases were filed in 2021 and 199 in 2020. The drop in cases was attributed to the Covid-19 lockdowns rather than an improvement in law enforcement efforts in Pakistan. The CSJ’s previous reports highlighted four key issues contributing to the subjugation of religious minorities in Pakistan:
- Misuse of blasphemy laws
- The prevalence of forced conversions
- The Underrepresentation of Minorities in the national population census
- Issues with education reform
The rising targeted killings, such as in Peshawar and Karachi, prove that little has been done to address these concerns to protect the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. Ranveer Singh, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s minority Sikh community, told the media that the deceased Dayal Singh had no issues with anyone from the majority community. Ranveer also expressed that Sikhs feel increasingly unsafe in the country, as 11 community members have been killed in recent years.
It is important to note that Pakistan attempted to take all credit for the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor in November 2019 to disturb India’s internal religious environment. Islamabad has since positioned itself as a saviour of the Sikh faith, permitting extremist groups to operate from its borders and jeopardising Indian interests. On the contrary, members of the Sikh community and their religious places are getting targeted for practising their religion in Pakistan.
In a recent incident, two Sikh businessmen were shot dead by the “unidentified armed men”, reportedly belonging to the Islamic State, in Peshawar last May. Statistics from the 2017 Population Census reveal that while Muslims constitute 96.2 per cent of Pakistan’s populace, Hindus account for just 1.6 per cent, Christians 1.59 per cent, Scheduled Castes 0.25 per cent, Ahmadis 0.22 per cent, and other minorities 0.07 per cent.
Despite such small numbers and hardly any threat to the majority community, religious minorities in Pakistan continue to suffer from rape, forced conversions, murder, and destruction of their properties. As per the CSJ figures, the religious minorities in 2021 were affected by the abuse (over 46 per cent) more than their share in the population, which is 3.5 per cent. Many analysts posit that religious conservatism in Pakistan has intensified following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, is experiencing a surge in targeted attacks against religious minorities, such as the killing of Masih on April 1 by “unknown assailants” and the assassination of a prominent Christian priest in Peshawar last January. Notably, the safety and security of religious minorities in Pakistan have become even more precarious after former Prime Minister Imran Khan proposed transforming the country into a utopian “Riyasat-e-Medina”.
His conservative Islamic policies only compounded the hardships experienced by religious minorities and fuelled an uptick in attacks motivated by false blasphemy allegations or simply belonging to a minority community. According to the 2022 Amnesty International yearly report on Pakistan, “Blasphemy allegations continued to spark violence against both religious minorities and Muslims.”
Similarly, the 2021 US State Department report on International Religious Freedom averred that throughout the year, unidentified individuals and mobs targeted and killed Christians, Hindus, etc., in attacks “believed to be motivated by religion or accusations of blasphemy.” Furthermore, perpetrators of such violence against religious minorities often face no legal consequences due to a lack of follow-through, bribes, and pressure on victims. Consequently, religious minorities in Pakistan will continue to face persecution and targeted attacks in the future. (With Inputs ANI)