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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Pakistani Sikh leader forced to flee after threats

A Pakistani Sikh politician Radesh Singh Tony from Peshawar is looking to flee Pakistan after he received death threats and was tortured by some unidentified people last month.

According to an ANI report

“Narrating out atrocities faced by Tony, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Manjinder S Sirsa said, “Radesh Singh Tony, who had contested the 2018 general elections in Pakistan from Peshawar as an independent candidate, was allegedly tortured by some unidentified people last month. He is receiving threats & is forced to leave the country”.

On Wednesday, Tony himself has also released a video statement from an unverified Twitter account and where he could be seen appealing to the Sikh community to help him and his family and take them out to “some safe place”.

“I appeal to my Sikh community those who are abroad, please help me and my family and take me out to some safe place at this world,” Tony tweeted along with a video on Wednesday.

The tweet was re-tweeted by Zar Ali Khan Afridi, a ‘Human Rights Defender working in FATA’ (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) in Pakistan. “Radesh Tony a known Human Rights Defender from Peshawar needs to be safe. He is at the highest risk. He and his family must be protected. Pakistani state operatives are killing him,” tweeted Afridi.

Tony had contested the 2018 General election from Peshawar’s PK-75 constituency as an independent candidate. As per the Dawn report, the PK-75 candidate was a “prominent member of the local Sikh community and the president of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Pakistan Minorities Alliance.”

This is not the first time that incidents like this have come to fore. Last year, a former MLA from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Baldev Kumar, had sought asylum in Bharat along with his family following the atrocities by the government.”

Sikh community had a sizeable presence in Peshawar until a few years ago. A ground report filed in 2018, had shown how  more than sixty percent of Peshawar’s 30,000 Sikhs had left for other parts of Pakistan or migrated to neighbouring Bharat in the last four years. The insecurity was created due to targeted killings of prominent community leaders like Charanjeet Singh, Sardar Sooran Singh etc. Incidents like recent attack on the holy Nankana Sahib gurudwara built at birthplace of Guru Nanak, have all added to insecurities of Pakistani Sikhs.

Interestingly, two of the major parties in Punjab, Bharat are opposed to the CAA passed by Modi Government which offers citizenship to persecuted minority refugees, including Sikhs, from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered Bharat on or before 31 December 2014.

Punjab’s ruling Congress party has asked for a total roll back of the CAA, with CM Capt. Amarinder Singh making the bizarre claim that CAA is akin to “ethnic and religious cleansing of Hitler’s Germany”. The CM plans to get Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf translated so people can understand the ‘dangers of CAA’. He seems especially perturbed that along with Muslims, Jews have not been included in the list of refugees eligible for citizenship.

Amarinder Singh has said, “the talk of camps and a national register to eliminate the Muslim and Jewish communities is ominous“! There are believed to be just 200 Jews living in Pakistan, all of whom will be welcomed with open arms in the Jewish homeland state of Israel. Amarinder Singh has also said that CAA can be used for ‘infiltrating into the country’.

Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of BJP, voted in favor of CAA  in Parliament but has since changed its stance possibly due to fear of losing Punjabi Muslim votes and is now asking for ‘Muslims to be included in the ambit of CAA’. As a sign of protest, SAD has decided not to contest Assembly elections in Delhi.

In the midst of all the scare-mongering and falsehoods being spread, one must remember that Bharat has not denied refuge to any victim of religious persecution but just offered a one-time concession to thousands of refugees already languishing in the country through CAA. Refugee of any community coming legally is still free to apply for citizenship as per laws of the land. We hope Radesh Singh Tony and his family remain safe and find the refuge they seek.

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