Pakistans Sikh Refugees

Sikhs_fleeing_Taliban_tak_003.jpgGurdwara Panja Sahib, located just outside Pakistans North-West frontier province, has become the temporary home for about 3,000 Sikhs who have been displaced by the presence of the Taliban in the region. Gurdwara Panja Sahib is one of the most notable Sikh shrines in Pakistan and has been transformed into the ultimate role of a gurdwara. With help from community donations, the gurdwara has a clinic, a 24-hour kitchen and a temporary school for children. For the past two months, Sikh families have been living at the gurdwara, afraid to return back to their homes. Some of the regions refugees have started to return back to their homes in military-protected convoys. However, many Sikhs feel they may never be able to move home,

Two months ago, long-haired Taliban fighters stormed into Orakzai, a tribal agency near the Afghan border, brandishing AK-47 rifles and bringing a harsh demand: that the area’s 40 Sikh families should pay jazia, an ancient tax on non-Muslims living in an Islamic state. To encourage the payment of 12m rupees (90,000), they kidnapped and tortured one of Singh’s neighbours. The Sikh community banded together to pay half the money, secured his release, then fled. “The Taliban are still demanding the money,” said Singh, a sprig of orange visible under his blue turban. “They recently rang me looking for the rest of the money. We are afraid they will find us, even here.” [link]

Sikhs_fleeing_Taliban_tak_009.jpgAn estimated 10,000 Sikhs live in the Frontier where they have succeeded as traders, civil servants, doctors and farmers, often providing a middle-class backbone to poor societies. The Talibans presence and the jazia demand highlights the dismantling of years of social harmony that existed between the Pashtun communities and the regions religious minorities. The problem was greatest in Orakzai, where the Taliban razed the homes of 11 Sikhs after the community fled last May. However, not all communities were displaced the sense of brotherhood seemed to flourish above the Taliban ideology.

The Taliban in Buner, which is home to a large Sikh community, did not demand payment, said Dr Soren Singh, a community leader. “They were mostly locals so we knew them personally. In fact they told us to come to them if we had any problems,” he said.

Still, many feared they would be pushed out sooner or later. Bansri Lal, a shrine guardian from Mingora, recalled how the Afghan Taliban required non-Muslims to wear yellow clothes. “In Muslim governments they give three choices leave the city, convert to Islam and fight with us, or pay the tax,” he said. [link]

If the Pakistan government can assure their safety, the Sikhs – who are currently residing in Gurdwara Panja Sahib -plan to return home in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, the Gurus home will continue to be their refuge.


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22 Responses to “Pakistans Sikh Refugees”

  1. Harinder says:

    Given our track record we will soon be listed as "NOMADS" by UN

    One kick in 47 and we landed from Lahore to delhi.

    One kick in 84 and we landed from Delhi to Canada.

    Let us see where the next kick takes us?

  2. Harinder says:

    Given our track record we will soon be listed as “NOMADS” by UN

    One kick in 47 and we landed from Lahore to delhi.
    One kick in 84 and we landed from Delhi to Canada.
    Let us see where the next kick takes us?

  3. amjad iqbal says:

    I think it is negative proganda against Pakistan. 2 million mulsim displaced from Buner and swat due to Taliban threats. why u alos not talk about the threat to them. minorities are safe and no even single minortiy is heart, injured or killed while thousands of mulsims died while hundred of soldiers killed while safeguarding them. plz do not be part of negative proganda, plz also highlighet the efforts of the peopel of Pakistan who have extended every type of support and help to their minortity brothers. as Sikh himself said that FIRST THEY ARE PAKISTANIS THAN SIKH. hats off to the people who do not become part of this proganda. why the west not concern about the state of minorties in India. Do u have some article also about that?

  4. amjad iqbal says:

    I think it is negative proganda against Pakistan. 2 million mulsim displaced from Buner and swat due to Taliban threats. why u alos not talk about the threat to them. minorities are safe and no even single minortiy is heart, injured or killed while thousands of mulsims died while hundred of soldiers killed while safeguarding them. plz do not be part of negative proganda, plz also highlighet the efforts of the peopel of Pakistan who have extended every type of support and help to their minortity brothers. as Sikh himself said that FIRST THEY ARE PAKISTANIS THAN SIKH. hats off to the people who do not become part of this proganda. why the west not concern about the state of minorties in India. Do u have some article also about that?

  5. Rajinder Singh says:

    Minorities are very vulnerable in modern conflicts – regardless of region/country. It really is a duty of the majority controlled State to take care of minorities. Special care needs to be taken to protect rights of minorities from bullies and thugs – who tend to take advantage of lawlessness.

    India for example is vulnerable to such failures. Many times police protection of minorities is withdrawn for brief periods, while "faceless mobs" conduct killings/retributions.

    Typically after such criminal violations- the state conducts a "Cover-UP" campaign, justifying what happened, calling it "spontaneous" or trying to show that somehow minorities are protected, and everything is "now under control". Mobs are difficult to prosecute after all. A lot of honest, brave people are working towards bringing the involved criminals to justice.

    Since all this happened in India doesnt mean that Sikhs and Hindus are NOT a minority in Pakistan, and vulnerable because of it…

  6. Rajinder Singh says:

    Minorities are very vulnerable in modern conflicts – regardless of region/country. It really is a duty of the majority controlled State to take care of minorities. Special care needs to be taken to protect rights of minorities from bullies and thugs – who tend to take advantage of lawlessness.

    India for example is vulnerable to such failures. Many times police protection of minorities is withdrawn for brief periods, while “faceless mobs” conduct killings/retributions.

    Typically after such criminal violations- the state conducts a “Cover-UP” campaign, justifying what happened, calling it “spontaneous” or trying to show that somehow minorities are protected, and everything is “now under control”. Mobs are difficult to prosecute after all. A lot of honest, brave people are working towards bringing the involved criminals to justice.

    Since all this happened in India doesnt mean that Sikhs and Hindus are NOT a minority in Pakistan, and vulnerable because of it…

  7. Bhullar says:

    well to the comment of Amjad, I want to say that it is true that pakistani sikhs are pakistanis first and then they are sikhs. that doesn't negate the fact how minorities are treated in pakistan. You can ask any minority in india if they ever had to pay any kind of minority-tax (jazia). Again, I am not bashing pakistan or india here. but the plight of sikhs (and even hindus) is pretty bad in pakistan and this article just brings that up. That doesn't mean that anything outside the walls of this articles is a euotopia. Everywhere there are problems. We just have to see the degree of problems. And the fact is that sikhs and hindus are in a bad shape in pakistan (and no one can deny that). I haven't seen a sikh (or hindu) priminister (yet alone any senior person in pakistan. After 60 years, we have only one sikh army officer in pak army. Ask any indian army guy and they can rattle hundreds and thousands of army generals who are muslims (or chistians, or any other minorities …. even anglo-indians and parsis too)… i am afraid, pakistan can not boast of any such record.

  8. Bhullar says:

    well to the comment of Amjad, I want to say that it is true that pakistani sikhs are pakistanis first and then they are sikhs. that doesn’t negate the fact how minorities are treated in pakistan. You can ask any minority in india if they ever had to pay any kind of minority-tax (jazia). Again, I am not bashing pakistan or india here. but the plight of sikhs (and even hindus) is pretty bad in pakistan and this article just brings that up. That doesn’t mean that anything outside the walls of this articles is a euotopia. Everywhere there are problems. We just have to see the degree of problems. And the fact is that sikhs and hindus are in a bad shape in pakistan (and no one can deny that). I haven’t seen a sikh (or hindu) priminister (yet alone any senior person in pakistan. After 60 years, we have only one sikh army officer in pak army. Ask any indian army guy and they can rattle hundreds and thousands of army generals who are muslims (or chistians, or any other minorities …. even anglo-indians and parsis too)… i am afraid, pakistan can not boast of any such record.

  9. I went to Pakistan late May from Khalsa Aid to offer assistance to the Sikh and Hindu refugees at Panja Sahib. I am a "normal" Sikh who wears a turban and has a long flowing beard.

    The security in and around Islamabad was very very tight but i was greeted with great respect and warmth by the members of the public and the para-military forces.

    I was stopped by many members of the public who were extremely happy to see a Singh and warmy greeted in Panjabi.

    I agree with Bhai Rajinder Singh that minorities suffer in almost every conflict. I feel its important to remember that the Pakistani government and the public has been very supportive of the Sikh and Hindu refugees during the Swat conflict.

    The Jazia tax has been imposed by the Taliban who are hated by most Pakistanis so its not fair to paint all of the Pakistanis with the same brush.There isnt another Islamic country in the world that has preserved the so many historical Gurdwaras,so we mustnt forget this when we dig into the Pakistani politics.The creation of Pakistan in 1947 could have easily led to the destruction of these historical Sikh Gurdwaras but everything was done to safeguard them !!

    Its also unfortunate that the some media has been very negative about the plight of the Sikhs in Pakistan and have made it into Sikh – Muslim issue and failed to mention the suffering of the other minorities.

    There are 2m other Muslim refugees suffering in camps under severe heat, we must also remember these unfortunte people and offer our support for them too.

  10. I went to Pakistan late May from Khalsa Aid to offer assistance to the Sikh and Hindu refugees at Panja Sahib. I am a “normal” Sikh who wears a turban and has a long flowing beard.
    The security in and around Islamabad was very very tight but i was greeted with great respect and warmth by the members of the public and the para-military forces.
    I was stopped by many members of the public who were extremely happy to see a Singh and warmy greeted in Panjabi.
    I agree with Bhai Rajinder Singh that minorities suffer in almost every conflict. I feel its important to remember that the Pakistani government and the public has been very supportive of the Sikh and Hindu refugees during the Swat conflict.

    The Jazia tax has been imposed by the Taliban who are hated by most Pakistanis so its not fair to paint all of the Pakistanis with the same brush.There isnt another Islamic country in the world that has preserved the so many historical Gurdwaras,so we mustnt forget this when we dig into the Pakistani politics.The creation of Pakistan in 1947 could have easily led to the destruction of these historical Sikh Gurdwaras but everything was done to safeguard them !!
    Its also unfortunate that the some media has been very negative about the plight of the Sikhs in Pakistan and have made it into Sikh – Muslim issue and failed to mention the suffering of the other minorities.
    There are 2m other Muslim refugees suffering in camps under severe heat, we must also remember these unfortunte people and offer our support for them too.

  11. Sikh Activist Networ says:

    To the author of the article, the article has failed to mention that their are ways that Sikhs in the Diaspora can help.

    I believe their are 2 groups collecting funds. UNITED SIKHS and KhalsaAid.

    Please make the sangat aware of this.

    Videos from Pakistan can be found here courtesy of UNITED SIKHS and money can be donated via http://www.unitedsikhs.org/donate

  12. Sundari says:

    Ravinder, Thank you for sharing with us the work you did with Khalsa Aid in Pakistan. Many non-profit and humanitarian organizations are often under threat in areas of conflict, so it is a positive thing that Khalsa Aid was welcomed to the region. I agree that the Taliban not only oppress minorities, but much of the majority in Pakistan also feel threatened by their presence.

    SAN, When the article was penned, it wasn't clear what organizations were on the ground in Pakistan. However, since then we have learned that both Khalsa Aid and United Sikhs are doing much needed work in the region. Thanks for the links.

  13. To the author of the article, the article has failed to mention that their are ways that Sikhs in the Diaspora can help.

    I believe their are 2 groups collecting funds. UNITED SIKHS and KhalsaAid.

    Please make the sangat aware of this.

    Videos from Pakistan can be found here courtesy of UNITED SIKHS and money can be donated via http://www.unitedsikhs.org/donate

  14. Sundari says:

    Ravinder, Thank you for sharing with us the work you did with Khalsa Aid in Pakistan. Many non-profit and humanitarian organizations are often under threat in areas of conflict, so it is a positive thing that Khalsa Aid was welcomed to the region. I agree that the Taliban not only oppress minorities, but much of the majority in Pakistan also feel threatened by their presence.

    SAN, When the article was penned, it wasn’t clear what organizations were on the ground in Pakistan. However, since then we have learned that both Khalsa Aid and United Sikhs are doing much needed work in the region. Thanks for the links.

  15. I have been carrying out Seva in many disaster zones since 1999, through the grace of Waheguru and the generosity of the Sangat. I have seen many things on my relief missions and the one thing the Sangat must be aware of is that videos and photographs doesnt really mean that actual work is being carried out.

    Its very easy for Khalsa Aid to make a dozen videos of the Pakistan refugees, especially of the Sikhs and raise thousands of dollars/Pounds.We only appeal for the relief work we CAN actually do and we also have to keep in mind that the refugees may be moving back into their homes at anytime, so long term planning in temporary camps would be misleading.

    Khalsa Aid actively encourages any donor who has a substantial sum of money to donate to visit the camps where we will assist them to purchase the relief materials needed.

  16. I have been carrying out Seva in many disaster zones since 1999, through the grace of Waheguru and the generosity of the Sangat. I have seen many things on my relief missions and the one thing the Sangat must be aware of is that videos and photographs doesnt really mean that actual work is being carried out.

    Its very easy for Khalsa Aid to make a dozen videos of the Pakistan refugees, especially of the Sikhs and raise thousands of dollars/Pounds.We only appeal for the relief work we CAN actually do and we also have to keep in mind that the refugees may be moving back into their homes at anytime, so long term planning in temporary camps would be misleading.

    Khalsa Aid actively encourages any donor who has a substantial sum of money to donate to visit the camps where we will assist them to purchase the relief materials needed.

  17. Herdyal Singh says:

    I belong to Orakzai Agency.My father Kalyan Singh was kiddnaped by Taliban and hostaged for sixteen days.During this time the taliban placed three condtion to sikh community in oakzai agency.

    1 Accept Islam

    2 Fight with us

    3 Pay Islamic tax

    The Sikks refused the above conditions first, but taliban told them you have to accept one option other wise we will kill all the sikh community in orgzai agency and will zaba kalyan singh and all the sikh women of orakzai agency will be our slave.So by conpulsion the sikhs accept jazia because taliban punpiont on head of sikhs. After paying some amount to taliban then taliban released kalyan singh on bail. On next day sikhs received a message from some source to leave this place other wise taliban will kill all, so at 2am sikh left thier houses full of luggage and shops at 6 am taliban attcked on thier houses auctioned all the items of thier houses and shopes.

    The sikh community appeal to internation community to put pressure on pakistani government to compensate thier losses.

    thanks

  18. Herdyal Singh says:

    I belong to Orakzai Agency.My father Kalyan Singh was kiddnaped by Taliban and hostaged for sixteen days.During this time the taliban placed three condtion to sikh community in oakzai agency.
    1 Accept Islam
    2 Fight with us
    3 Pay Islamic tax

    The Sikks refused the above conditions first, but taliban told them you have to accept one option other wise we will kill all the sikh community in orgzai agency and will zaba kalyan singh and all the sikh women of orakzai agency will be our slave.So by conpulsion the sikhs accept jazia because taliban punpiont on head of sikhs. After paying some amount to taliban then taliban released kalyan singh on bail. On next day sikhs received a message from some source to leave this place other wise taliban will kill all, so at 2am sikh left thier houses full of luggage and shops at 6 am taliban attcked on thier houses auctioned all the items of thier houses and shopes.

    The sikh community appeal to internation community to put pressure on pakistani government to compensate thier losses.
    thanks

  19. Roop Dhillon says:

    LAST POST PUT HERE AS I KNEW NOT WHERE TO…I AM NOT ADVOCATING TALIBAN, OR PRO ISLAM..JUST COULD FIND NO WHERE ELSE

  20. Roop Dhillon says:

    LAST POST PUT HERE AS I KNEW NOT WHERE TO…I AM NOT ADVOCATING TALIBAN, OR PRO ISLAM..JUST COULD FIND NO WHERE ELSE