Karachi: The members of the Sikh community in Karachi believe that the killing of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa MPA Sardar Soran Singh showed that nobody, particularly non-Muslims, was safe in that province and Fata.
“Soran Singh’s murder in Buner shows that everyone, especially non-Muslims, faces a security risk in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata,” said Sardar Sarabjeet Singh, 36, a Sikh hakeem (a practitioner of herbal medicine) who runs a clinic in a lower-income Pashtun neighbourhood of Landhi.
Sarabjeet originally belongs to the Tirah area of Khyber Agency but ran his clinic in Peshawar. He migrated to Karachi in 2010 over security concerns. He said there were more than 20 Pashto-speaking Sikh hakeems running their clinics in Pashtun-populated areas of Karachi.
“Since 2001, the Sikh community living in a significant number in Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai tribal agencies have been migrating to Peshawar and other parts of the country over security reasons,” he added.
“But now Peshawar itself has become a dangerous place for the Sikh community to live in and run their businesses.”
There are around 25,000 Sikhs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata – mostly in Buner, Swat, and Dera Ismail Khan, and the Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai tribal agencies.
Sarabjeet recalled that his relative, Jagmohan Singh, 19, was killed and two others were injured in an attack in August 2014 at Peshawar’s Shahab Market, where there are over 60 shops owned by Sikhs.
Earlier in that year, in district Charsadda, two Sikh hakeems, Paramjeet Singh and Baghwan Singh, were killed in attacks in March and January respectively.
He said the increase in killings and kidnappings for ransom have also compelled many community members to leave the country.
“Those Sikhs who can’t afford to leave the country have been migrating to other cities including Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Hasan Abdal,” he added.
Pakistan Sikh Council chief Sardar Ramesh Singh corroborated with Sarabjeet and said Soran Singh’s murder showed how vulnerable the community was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.
He said a small number of Sikh families in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata had migrated to Karachi in recent years.
“Most Sikhs prefer shifting to Hasan Abdal, where there is a significant number of community members live in and around one of our holiest sites, Gurdwara Punja Sahib, where every year thousands of devotees gather,” he added.
“Apart from Hasan Abdal, they also prefer moving to Lahore and Rawalpindi.”
Sikh hakeems in Karachi
Ramesh said the Sikhs who had migrated to Karachi were mostly hakeens by profession and were running clinics in the Pashtun areas of the city.
“They live in different parts of the South district because there are Gurdwaras there where they can worship. “
He said around 1,500 to 2,000 Sikhs live in Karachi and there are five Gurdwaras in the city.
In all major Pashtun-populated neighbourhoods of the city, one can find Pashto-speaking Sikh hakeems running clinics.
Sarbajeet said people of all ethnicities and faiths visited their clinics and never showed hatred towards them. “In fact, people respect us very much.”
Satisfied with the Rangers-led operation and restoration of peace in Karachi, he said he had planned to live in the city permanently because it offered good business.
In the Pashtun-majority Muzaffarabad neighbourhood of Landhi, Sardar Jagmohan Singh Peshawari successfully runs his clinic. Similarly, Hakim Sardar Manmohan Singh runs a clinic near Masaan Chowk in Keamari.
“Because we speak Pashto and grew up in the Pashtun society, our business is doing well in these areas,” Manmohan said. “It feels like we are in Peshawar.”
Their patients are also satisfied with them. “We used to go to Sikh hakeems and doctors at Pirbaba in our hometown Buner for treatment,” said Dawa Khan, a worker at a garment factory in Landhi, waiting for his turn at Jagmohan’s clinic. “We were happy that we have a Sikh hakeem here now.”