Pakistan rejects India’s concern for Sikh minorities (Lead)

May 2nd, 2009 - 8:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad/New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) Noting that Sikhs living in the restive tribal areas of the northwest were Pakistani citizens, Islamabad Saturday rejected New Delhi’s concerns over their welfare and said they were being looked after.
“India was told that Sikhs living in Orakzai agency were Pakistani citizens and hence of no concern to India,” Pakistan foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement.

“Pakistan was fully cognizant of the situation and looked after the welfare of all its citizens particularly the minority community,” the statement maintained.

India Friday expressed its concern over the targeting of Sikhs by the Taliban in Pakistan as 35 Sikh families that have been living for decades in the Orakzai Agency began migrating from the area.

“The government of India has taken up the question of treatment of minorities in Pakistan with the government of Pakistan,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said in New Delhi.

A diplomat in the Pakistan high commission was also called to the external affairs ministry, reliable sources said. India’s concerns over the targeting of Sikhs in parts of Pakistan were conveyed, the sources added.

India is viewing with concern the increasing Talibanization of Pakistan and the consequences of this for its security.

Quoting sources, Pakistani channel Geo TV said Taliban militants had taken over the shops and homes of the 35 Sikh families and arrested community leaders Klank Singh and Sewa Singh in the Ferozkhel area of Lower Orakzai Agency.

Following this, a local jirga ruled that the Sikh community should annually pay Rs.15 million ($187,000) as jaziya or protection money. Earlier reports had said the Taliban had demanded Rs.50 million but that this had been reduced.

When the Sikh community expressed their inability to pay, the Taliban then auctioned their houses and other belongings, forcing them to migrate from the area.

There are reports the militants had demolished the houses 11 houses of the Sikh community after they failed to pay the jaziya tax.

The Orakzai Agency is situated in the virtually ungovernable Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where the writ of the Taliban and Al Qaeda largely runs.

The militants in the area are led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, the deputy of Tehrik-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, one of the principal suspects in the Dec 27, 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a gun and bomb attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in South Asia |