Thinking about the big move: The Sikh way of life changing in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Published: March 22, 2014
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File photo of Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan. PHOTO: ONLINE/FILE

File photo of Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan. PHOTO: ONLINE/FILE

SHABQADAR: Ranjit Singh’s court was one of the most magnificent in the world. The Raja had scarlet tented pavilions set up on gold and silver poles near the river.

His courtiers walked around like glittering jewels. He created an atmosphere of religious tolerance in which Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lived together in harmony.

They settled in Peshawar, Orakzai, Kurram Agency, and North and South Waziristan and since then, have made a name for themselves in the fields of herbal medicine and cloth.

This year, the Sikhs of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa feel that the harmony has been disturbed. Harjeet lost his brother, Paramjeet, also a hakim, in a target killing incident on March 13.

“We have been living here forever,” he said. “Our ancestors died here and while we never wanted to leave the area, we might have to because of the security concerns.”

He added that they did not want to leave the land of their grandfathers, and while it breaks their hearts, if the situation remains miserable for them, they will have to do so.

Paramjeet Singh was gunned down in Shabqadar in the middle of the bazaar by unidentified men. His employee was also killed. This led the Sikhs of K-P to stage a silent protest against target killings.

On March 14, they carried black flags and demanded the government should protect them and other minorities. Before Paramjeet, there was Baghwan Singh, a Sikh hakim who was shot dead by unidentified men in Charsadda’s Tangi Bazaar on January 22.

The police said that he was a resident of Dabgari and ran a medicine shop in the bazaar. He was on his way home in the evening when two men opened fire at him. A few weeks later, two Sikh hakims were kidnapped from DI Khan.

They were in the area for business when the incident took place and are still missing. According to Hardyal Singh, the situation was alarming. “We are a minority,” he said.

“Last month, Bhagwan Singh was shot by target killers, and then two Sikhs were kidnapped from DI Khan in the same month.” He added that incidents of Sikh kidnapping and killings were on the rise and had become more so in the last few months.

In the past, he said, Sikh families from Kurram and Orakzai agencies were forced to flee the tribal region because of unrest.

Many families sought refuge at Punja Sahib in Hasanabdal, Punjab. Right now in Peshawar there are about 200 Sikh families. The chief minister, for his part, asked the police to find the culprits.

When contacted, an official from the Tangi police station told The Express Tribune that they had registered an FIR against an unidentified person for Bhagwan Singh’s murder and had to close the case as they did not know the identity of the killer and no progress was made in the investigation.

In a conversation with the Shabqadar police, it was learnt that the chief minister had given them three days to find those responsible for killing Paramjeet.

But so far the police have had no luck.

Haider Khan, an official from the Shabqadar police station, said the DPO had put together a special team for the case and they had traced some suspects but he was not in a position to share the information.

He did, however, add that the hakim did not have any personal enmity and he might have been killed because of his faith. Mahmood Khan, who has worked with Paramjeet, said that he had enjoyed his time with the man as he was peace loving and would never hurt anyone.

He added that Paramjeet’s patients would really suffer and those who had made progress would now have to find another doctor for their ailments. Paramjeet’s brother, Harjeet said that he was not satisfied with the police investigation.

He added that there was no positive response from the government. The district police official of Charsadda, Shafiullah said the deadline set by the chief minister had passed and they had traced a suspect and would reach the main culprit.

He refused to share further details. According to Dr Soran Singh, the adviser to the CM on minorities, there are about 25,000 Sikhs in the province – mostly in Buner, Swat, DI Khan, Bara, Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai agencies.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Shail Arora
    Mar 22, 2014 - 2:55PM

    Deepest condolences for the lost lives.

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  • csmann
    Mar 22, 2014 - 6:26PM

    When the majority remains silent on such issues,it is tacitly approving it.This has been the major cause of problems facing Pakistan.Hope people of all faiths start coming together to protest when atrocities happen to members of any faith.

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  • Ali
    Mar 22, 2014 - 6:33PM

    The claim that Ranjit Singh had created an atmosphere of religious intolerance is completely wrong rather it was his repression and fearRecommend

  • Ali
    Mar 22, 2014 - 6:40PM

    But the Muslims should also have joined them in the protest as they are equal citizens of this country…

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  • Jamal
    Mar 22, 2014 - 9:42PM

    At least they refuge in hasanabdal. Pakhtun have no where to go for safety .

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  • Ahmad Khan
    Mar 22, 2014 - 11:04PM

    Pashtuns tradionally have protected minorities in their areas. Now, these evil extremists are violating this important code of the Pashtun people and harassing non-Muslims. The ideology of these evil extremists comes from outside, it’s not local. The local Pashtuns cannot protect the non-Muslims in their areas as they can even not protect themselves.

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  • Komal S
    Mar 23, 2014 - 8:52AM

    @Ahmad Khan:
    But remember before these evil terrorists came to the scene the minority numbers were shrinking by the minute. This happens only when the society as a whole has intolerance to other faiths(which drives people away or converts them) and the Government either is an active participant or a silent spectator.

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  • Shamsher Singh Dhillion
    Mar 23, 2014 - 9:00AM

    @Ali:
    Good, now you know what the 1000 year Muslim rule felt like.

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  • Shamsher Singh Dhillion
    Mar 23, 2014 - 9:03AM

    Give us our Hindus and Sikhs, and you can have your Kashmiris.

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  • Abdul Mannan
    Mar 23, 2014 - 7:07PM

    Our Pakhtoon brothers have always been mostly tolerant people with good be havier with all ethnic and religious groups living in this province. Inhuman and discriminatory treatment with our Sikh Pakistanis and killing them must be condemned by all .Let our these noble Pakistanis have never to leave their ancestral home land . Our government,provincial as well as federal should make sure that no person from minority community is wronged…Those killed can not be brought back but efforts could be made to make sure that such killing is not repeated and that families of those killed are compensated .It is unfortunate that these extremest groups resort to killing Muslims and non Muslims alike without any fault.No human being leave alone a Muslim should commit such a crime.

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  • MAO
    Mar 24, 2014 - 12:13AM

    Peshawar and KPK + FATA in general was home to many zoroastrian, buddhist, sikh and hindus (like the kapoor family) who have been living there for centuries. Many were also given refuge from violence before and during partition especially the christians in Peshawar many of whom trace their roots back to Goa in India. Also, don’t forget Peshawar had two medium sized synagogues, one of which I can confirm has been sadly demolished by army for military building.

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