Ranjit Singh and Suljeet Singh are the latest victims who fell prey to the latest scourge of terrorism in the country. Both members of the minority community, who were traders by profession, were shot dead in Sarband area, Peshawar. The killings sparked protests in Peshawar as the incident is not the first in nature. No one has claimed responsibility for the murder. But speculations are high that it is part of a conspiracy hatched by anti-Pakistan forces, who want to sabotage peace and inter-faith harmony in the country. Already, Sikhs are a small minority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. According to community estimates, at least 500 Sikh families are living in Peshawar and its surrounding northwestern regions. The incidents of target killings and attacks by militants on the members of minority community have been reported in the past that has forced hundreds of Sikhs to migrate to other parts of Pakistan or neighbouring India in recent years.
Keeping in view this scenario, the militants are following the policy of strike where it hurts most. They are conducting attacks on the members of minority community to further tarnish the image of Pakistan, which is already notorious for poor treatment of minorities in society.
While grief and resolve are the right mix of response to the tragedy, some sober reflection may also be called for. In our society, there is a lack of tolerance especially for non-Muslims. It is another sacrifice paid by members of the minority communities who sacrifice their lives in the war against terrorism almost daily. The members of minorities are often subjected to torture and violence as faith-based killings are rampant in Pakistan. In this scenario, there is a need for a crackdown on the enemies of humanity.
In the past, such incidents have brought a bad name to the image of the state, where high profile personalities like Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, became victim to the atrocious attack of extremists. Over the years, the minority Shia, Christian, Ahmedi, Hindu communities have faced discriminatory treatment. Starting with General Zia’s manipulation of religion for political purposes, state and society have become increasingly polarised, intolerant and violent on the basis of the ‘othering’ of faiths other than mainstream Sunni Islam. But there is no getting away from the urgent need to recast Pakistan’s state and society away from one bogged down in confessionalism and towards the kind of open, democratic and tolerant country Mr Jinnah had envisaged. The killing of Sikh traders must make us conscious of the ongoing discrimination against minorities, their rights and other atrocities. We as a whole nation have to stand up against this ill treatment of the minorities. Security agencies need to clamp down against extremists who want to impose their misplaced agenda. Sikh and Christian minorities in KPK province are always under threat of extremists. They have bombed Churches and worship places of Hindus and Sikhs and killed hundreds. Minorities need to be treated as equal citizens and it is high time, the government took adequate security measures for them.