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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Sikh Leader Shot Dead In Pakistan

A Pakistani Sikh leader, Sardar Sooran Singh was shot dead last Friday near his home in the country’s dangerous northwest region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Sardar Sooran Singh, the Special Assistant to Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP) on Minority Affairs, was assassinated in Pir Baba area of Buner district in the province. Police said that Singh had no guard at the time of attack.

“Gunmen riding on two motorbikes came in front of the car and started indiscriminate firing which killed the minister on the spot,” Khalid Hamadani, district police chief told AFP. He was shifted to the hospital immediately after the incident, where he succumbed to his wounds. “Soran Singh was shot in the head and eye,” Pir Baba SHO Mir Ghazab confirmed.

Singh was a doctor, TV anchor and politician. Before joining cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in 2011, Singh was a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan for nine years. He was also member of Tehsil council, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee and Evacuee Trust Property Board.

Islamist Group ‘Pakistani Taliban’ Claims Responsibility

On Saturday, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the assassination of Singh who was shot dead on Friday. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a statement said that sharp shooter of Special Task Force of TTP “successfully” targeted Sardar Sooran Singh in his home district Buner.

The TTP is a Sunni Islamist militant group active in KP province & FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas ) within Pakistan, besides some provinces in South Afghanistan. It has ties with Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network , Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other Islamist terror groups. Its stated ideology is Deobandi fundamentalism.

Starting from 2004, the Pakistani State has been fighting a fierce battle with various Islamist terror groups in the country’s Northwest, with Swat valley in KP province being one of the main battlegrounds. Between 2007-09, the Taliban was in control of large parts of Buner (the place where Sooran Singh was shot dead) & Swat valley, where they had implemented harsh Sharia rule. After a bloody battle, the Pakistani state called for a ceasefire and were forced to concede to the Islamist demand for complete Islamic Sharia law in the Malakand region of Pakistan.

On November 2, 2012, TTP was behind a bomb attack which killed local anti-Taliban politician Fateh Khan, an ex-leader of the secular Awami National Party and three of his guards. In 2011, TTP had assassinated federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti for being a ‘blasphemer of Muhammad’. On 16 December 2014, seven gunmen affiliated with the TTP conducted a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar – the militants killed 141 people, including 132 schoolchildren, ranging between 8 and 18 years of age.

Pakistani Police Says Singh Killed Over Political Rivalry

Dismissing the TTP claim, Pakistani police have come up with a different theory altogether. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Malakand Azad Khan in a press conference claimed that a fellow PTI leader Baldev Kumar was behind the murder of Soran Singh as he wanted to avenge political rivalry.

“Baldev Kumar wanted to contest the election instead of Singh… after failing to get the party ticket, Kumar planned the murder,” said DIG Khan. The officer said police had arrested six people in connection with the murder including Baldev and the assassins hired to kill the PTI lawmaker, and registered cases against them.

Contrast between coverage of police claim in Pakistani Media vs Bharat’s media

One of the most relatively unbiased media outlets in Pakistan is ‘Dawn’ newspaper. A quick look at the headlines which have appeared in ‘Dawn’ versus coverage in mainstream media of Bharat (NDTV, Indian Express etc) is quite revealing.

Sikh politician murder Pak Paper
Pakistani Paper ‘Dawn’ headlines on police claim over Sooran Singh murder

Key points to note in Pakistani media coverage of the police version of events –

  • In all the reports by Pakistani media that HinduPost scanned, not a single report says that Baldev Kumar is a Hindu. In fact, a report in ‘Dunya News’ says that Baldev Kumar is a Sikh!

“In a press conference today, DIG Azad Khan refuted TTP‘s claim, revealing that rival Sikh politician, Baldev Kumar paid around $10,000 to have Soran Singh killed.” 

  • Any rational Pakistani will tell you that Hindus are severely persecuted in Pakistan – and they will also tell you that Pakistani police & State have zero credibility, especially when it comes to solving crimes related to minorities. In fact, the Pakistani state often abets crimes against minorities, especially the rampant abduction, conversion and forced marriages of Hindu girls like Rinkle Kumari, 12 year old Anjalee Bai and countless others. Tragic cases such that of 30 year old Emmi, forcefully converted from Hindu Dharma to Islam, and sexually exploited for 8 years (including by the police official she had approached for help) abound.

Hence one would expect the seasoned Pakistan watcher to be extremely skeptical about the official stand emanating from Pakistan regarding any serious crime. There is a high probability that Pakistani police have found a convenient scapegoat in Baldev Kumar to silence the rising international criticism of minority human rights violations within Pakistan.

But the media in Bharat had a field day when Baldev Kumar was arrested – instead of being skeptical of Pakistani police claims, each and every headline appearing in mainstream outlets of Bharat made it a point to assert that the man accused of killing Sardar Sooran Singh is a HINDU.

Sikh politician Pakistan Murdered Bharat media
Media propaganda about ‘Hindu’ link to Sikh Pakistani politician’s murder

The subliminal message to their Hindu audience in Bharat is – see, Hindus of Pakistan are not the victims they are made out to be; or let us not judge Pakistan for the actions of ‘few extremist Muslims’. Or is this ‘Hindu’ angle being played up keeping in mind the upcoming Punjab assembly elections, where the psuedo liberal-secular brigade that dominates media is desperate to help their new messiah AAP win the election? Driving a wedge between Hindus and Sikhs is part of their ‘all is fair in love and war’ mindset…so what if the separatist Khalistani movement is revived in the process!

This episode again attests to the fact that media in Bharat is an enemy within, which is surreptitiously eating away at our national strength and which runs contrary to the basics of human rights and justice.

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