Sikh homes razed by the barbaric Taliban after they refused to pay 'Jazia'
(Photo : AP)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (KP)—While the wider Panth has turned a blind eye to the plight of Pakistani Gursikhs, the Pakistan Government has allegedly decided to take action on behalf of the 128 Sikh families which have been displaced due to Islamic Fundamentalism. The refugees who have barely escaped conflict are currently staying at Gurdwara Panja Sahib (Hassan Abdal) and Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh (Peshawar). The Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, has assured Sikh refugees and Sikh minorities that their right to exist as an religious minority within a democratic Pakistan will be preserved.
In a press conference last week Minister Bhatti stated, "The present government believes in the principles of tolerance, human equality and peaceful co-existence." The press conference was arranged as an attempt to address and inform the general public on the recent turmoil that Sikhs experienced in Swat, Buner and Orakzai Agency.
In an attempt to reconcile with the displaced and emotionally distraught Sikh refugees, the Minister visited the historical Sikh Gurdwara Panja Sahib located in Hassan Abdal, where the 128 Sikh families have currently taken refuge after undergoing extreme violence at the hands of the Taliban.
During his visit, the Minister expressed that nobody has right to alter the state system which is based on tolerance and acceptance. In addition, he condemned the Jazyia (tax) by the Islamic Fundamentalists. He stated, "minorities in Pakistan are not conquered communities, rather they are sons of the same soil and the government will not allow any faction of society to trample the constitutional rights of the minorities."
He further added that the Jizia not only violates the law, but it is a burden on the judicial process. He elaborated and mentioned that the law of the land as Article 20 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan protects the right for every Pakistani to practice any religion without any discrimination.
While consoling the displaced Sikhs, the minister mentioned that the government will create a relief package for the refugees. The package will include residence, provision of food items, medical and educational facilities—as well as emergency financial assistance of Rs10,000 for each family.
In addition, the government will ensure that displaced Sikhs will be allowed to re-enter their previous residences as soon as the territory is safe and free from terrorism. To assure that the Sikh refugees will not be neglected, a committee of Ministry officers have been created to cater to the displaced refugees. In addition, the Minister has allegedly written a letter to the Governor and Chief Minister for the protection of minorities within these Taliban provinces.
Whether these promises will be kept by Pakistan officials remains obscure. Many skeptics have stated that the Government is making promises to save themselves from embarrassment and avoid the consequences from the American Government. The US has provided the Pakistani Government with millions of dollars to combat the Taliban within the country. If the Sikh community report these atrocities to international agencies, the American Government will eventually find out their money has not been put to use adequately as Taliban are roaming free and imposing Islamic Law on religious minorities.
Sikhs are not the only minority victims of Taliban violence. Christians, Shiite Muslims and others have also witnessed the wrath of the fanatical Taliban. If the Pakistan Government knows the Taliban are roaming in certain regions, why have they not taken swift military action? We cannot expect the Government to help the Sikhs in times of need.
Unfortunately, the wider Panth have not shown much concern towards these Sikh Pakistani Refugees. Many people have mentioned that if this situation would have taken place in Punjab, then there would be more concern. But since the place is in Pakistan, The Panth seems less interested. Pakistani Sikh Brothers and Sisters need our help in these times of turmoil. They have committed a brave act in risking their lives for the sake of not converting from Sikhi. The affluent SPGC should make an attempt to support these refugees as Pakistani Gurdwaras are not as affluent as Gurdwaras in Punjab.