Kamran Chaudhry and Zahid Hussain, Lahore
Updated: May 30, 2018 10:47 AM GMT
Peace activist Charanjeet Singh was known for promoting religious harmony and discouraging violence. (Photo from Twitter)
Unknown attackers shot dead a veteran Sikh peace activist known for his active contribution to interfaith harmony in Pakistan's militancy-hit northwest.
Charanjeet Singh, 44, was in his grocery shop on May 29 when gunmen on motorcyclists opened fire at him and sped away in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He died on his way to Lady Reading Hospital.
The slain activist regularly conducted interfaith programs and had hosted iftar (evening) meals for Muslims since the start of fasting month Ramadan at two locations in Peshawar.
Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the killing, but provincial police chief Salahuddin has ordered the immediate arrest of those involved.
Around 60,000 Sikhs live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including 15,000 who live in Peshawar alone. According to Professor Kalyan Singh, general secretary of Guru Nanak Ji Mission, none of them are safe.
"Six prominent leaders of our community have been killed in the past two years in this region. The voice of interfaith has been silenced, but security is one of the many problems they are facing," he told ucanews.com
"Hindu and Sikh families are forced to bury dead ones in Peshawar because the nearest crematory is 45 kilometers away in Attock city. Many families have fled to Punjab province and now their identity cards have been blocked."
In a press statement released a few hours after Singh's death, the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation, a Catholic group, condemned "this extremely tragic incident in the strongest possible manner."
"The peace activist was known for promoting religious harmony and discouraging violence. Such blatant acts of violence against religious minorities in Pakistan, which more often than not are carried out with impunity, have left us saddened and angry," it stated.
"It is imperative to make every possible effort to root out this scourge of faith-based violence from our society. It is about time the authorities took concrete measures to ensure protection of all citizens regardless of their faith. This bloodshed has to stop."
AGHS Legal Aid Cell of the late iconic lawyer and rights activist Asma Jahangir paid tribute to Singh.
"We are deeply saddened by Charanjeet Singh's death. His input and work with AGHS on reforming discriminatory laws against religious minorities were emblematic of his contribution towards the minority community. His killers must be held accountable and dealt with in accordance with law," it tweeted.
The left-wing Awami Workers Party also condemned the murder.
"It is our collective shame that he was killed while organizing iftars for the Muslim community. We are allowing the best among us to be consumed in the fire of religious hatred," it said.
In 2016, Minority Affairs Minister Sardar Soran Singh, the first Sikh to sit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's assembly, was killed in front of his home in Bacha Killay village in mountainous Buner district.