Saturday was yet another day of mourning for Sikhs in the city when one more member of the religious minority was killed in a targeted attack by unidentified assailants in Nothia, Gulberg. While previous target killings of Sikhs have seen silent and even violent protests, this last attack left many fearful and frustrated by the sense of helplessness following each unresolved case.
Thirty-year-old Harjeet Singh was tending to business in his general store in Nothia Bazaar when the assailants entered the shop and opened fire at him. They then fled, leaving Harjeet severely injured. Locals took the shop owner to Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) where he breathed his last.
According to CCPO Ijaz Khan, the attack was carried out by two men and the pistols they used were fitted with silencers. It is an incident of target killing, said Khan.
“We will trace and arrest the culprits responsible for the murder,” he added.
A member of Harjeet’s family, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune the deceased had three children and was a resident of Mohallah Jogan Shah. “The attackers came to his shop, ordered something from the shelf and then shot him dead,” he said.
“Harjeet’s father Harban Singh used to help with the shop and was usually there, but today Harjeet was alone,” the bereaved relative added.
Silenced in rage
The cold-blooded murder, yet another in a series of violent attacks on Sikhs in the past few months, left the community enraged. Harjeet’s family even refused to allow an autopsy of his body.
“The police is trying to convince us that an autopsy is a legal requirement but we don’t care about such things,” said an elder on condition of anonymity. “So far, four Sikhs have been killed in targeted attacks and the murderers are still at large.” He added younger members of the community tried to hold a protest and take Harjeet’s body to Islamabad where the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is holding a sit-in, but elders decided against as it they feel it will have no effect.
Harjeet’s body will be taken to Attock in the evening (Friday) for his last rites and cremation, said the elder.
Silenced in fear
“These continued attacks have spread a wave of fright among us. No one is willing to issue any statements to the media out of fear for their lives,” he added. “We feel insecure and the provincial government and police have failed to protect us.”
The subdued response of the Sikhs after Harjeet’s death is in sharp contrast to the last such attack.
Earlier this month, when 19-year-old Jagmohan Singh was gunned down outside his shop in Hashtnagri by unidentified assailants, enraged Sikhs took to GT Road carrying Jagmohan’s body. They blocked the road for over an hour and set fire to tyres. They then proceeded to the provincial assembly but after not being allowed to protest there, the rally headed to the CM House. The protest only came to an end after Khattak met the protesters and announced compensation.
The murder of Harjeet is the third such attack in the province of late.
On September 3, Amarjeet Singh was stabbed to death in his shop in Shaheedan Bazaar, Mardan, while on August 6, armed men opened fire at Jagmohan Singh, Paramjit Singh and Manmit Singh in Khushal Bazaar, Hashtnagri, killing Jagmohan and injuring the other two.
Words of condemnation
Khattak condemned Harjeet’s murder and gave a three-day deadline to catch the culprits. In a statement issued late Saturday, Khattak announced Rs500,000 in financial compensation for the slain shop owner’s family. Adviser to the CM on Minority Affairs Sardar Soran Singh also condemned the incident. Surendar Valasai, minority affairs adviser to PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, also condemned the attack and urged Khattak to provide security to Sikhs who have been living in K-P peacefully for centuries.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2014.