Sikh community in Pakistan faces persistent discrimination. Pakistani Sikhs, who mainly live in the country's restive northwest, are a community that lives in fear. The 500-year-old religion was founded in Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev, and is now part of Pakistan. But targeted killings of minorities, including those from the Sikh community, continue in Pakistan. Another prominent Sikh voice was silenced forever as unknown assailants shot dead 'Hakeem' Sardar Satnam Singh.
Satnam Singh was at his clinic when terrorists barged inside his cabin and opened unprompted fire. The Unani medicine practitioner received four bullets, killing him instantly, the police said. The incident took place on Thursday in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar.
After killing Singh, the shooters fled the scene. The police reportedly arrived at the site and did a reconnaissance of the area, but to no avail. The reason behind the killing of Sinh is yet to be ascertained.
Satnam Singh was a prominent Sikh community member living in Peshawar, which is home to about 15,000 Sikhs. Singh used to run his clinic 'Dharmandar Pharmacy' on Charsadda Road.
PAK continues atrocities against Sikhs
In Pakistan, the Sikhs are instantly recognisable by the distinctive untrimmed beards and high turbans that distinguish them from their Muslim counterparts. Apart from the violence, there are instances wherein Sikh men have been persecuted for wearing the turban and kada.
In 2016, in a high-profile case, Sikh legislator Soran Singh, from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, was shot dead near Peshawar. Though the Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination, police arrested a political rival, a minority Hindu politician called Buldev Kumar.
As the police are afraid to take on the extremists, they try to cover up the killings as disputes within minorities or business rivalries.
Recently, Harmeet Singh, a Sikh news anchor of Pakistan, began to receive intimidating calls. Distressed over the threatening calls and police inaction, he is contemplating leaving."I will be left with no other option but to leave Pakistan," he said. In January 2020, Harmeet's younger brother Parwinder was shot dead in Peshawar.
Pakistan's track record on human rights has been less than enviable in general, and it continues to get disturbingly poor - particularly in the case of religious minorities. And in this the Pakistani Sikh community's persecution is especially overlooked. The day is not far when Sikhs in Pakistan will be an extinct minority group, figuring only in textbooks, that too only if permitted.
(Agency inputs included)