PESHAWAR: Police have not got any clue sofar of killers of local Sikh hakim Sardar Satnam Singh but in the meantime, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, dubbed Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, has claimed responsibility for this heinous and gruesome murder by shooting four bullets.
‘Hakeem’ Sardar Satnam Singh (Khalsa), 45, was at his clinic on Thursday (30th September 2021) when unidentified gunmen barged into his cabin and opened fire at him, police said. The killers managed to escape from the crime scene. Singh, who practised Unani medicine, received four bullets, died instantly, police said.
In a message posted on social media late on Thursday, the ISIS-K claimed the killing of Singh. The ISIS-K, which has stepped up attacks in several Afghan cities since the Taliban seized power in Kabul on August 15, had also claimed the deadly suicide attack at Kabul airport on August 26 that killed nearly 170 Afghans and 13 US military personnel.
According to Punjab Police, Singh had arrived in Peshawar from Hassan Abdaal a day earlier. Singh, a well-known figure in the Sikh community, was running his clinic ‘Dharmandar Pharmacy’ on Charsadda Road in Peshawar. He had been living in the city for the past 20 years. Satnam Singh is survived by his wife, three daughters and two sons.
About 15,000 Sikhs live in Peshawar, mostly in the Jogan Shah neighborhood of the provincial capital. Most of the Sikh community members in Peshawar are involved in business, while some also run pharmacies.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan strongly condemned the killing of Singh and directed the police to take immediate steps to arrest the killers.
In 2018, Charanjit Singh, a prominent Sikh community member, was killed by unknown men in Peshawar. Similarly, news channel anchor Ravinder Singh was killed in 2020 in the city. In 2016, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s National Assembly member Soren Singh was killed in Peshawar.
According to the 2017 census, Hindus constitute the largest religious minority in Pakistan. Christians make up the second largest religious minority. The Ahmadis, Sikhs and Parsis are also among the notable religious minorities in Pakistan.
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.
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. (ANI)