Dilemma for Sikhs Who Escaped Tribal Areas

July 19, 2009

Author: Isambard Wilkinson

Source: The National


The Sikh community of north-western Pakistan faces an uncertain future after fleeing fighting between security forces and the Taliban.

Sikhs from across the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the tribal areas have taken refuge over the past three months within the high walls of Hasanabdal’s Gurdwara Panja Sahib, one of the most sacred temples in Sikhism.

Reeva Kor, a mother of three children and one of 3,000 Sikhs who has made the shrine a temporary home, comes from Buner, the district into which militants encroached from neighbouring Swat valley after flouting a peace agreement they had struck with the government.

Unidentified gunmen killed Mrs Kor’s husband, Ram Singh, four months ago as he left for home from a small hospital, which is owned by his brother in Buner’s capital, Daggar, and where he ran the medical store.

“He had no enmity with anyone. But we could not find out who committed the murder because we were forced to leave by the fighting,” said Mrs Kor.

Like many of the Sikhs who have taken refuge at Hasanabdal, she said that although there are still reports of militants lurking in Buner – despite the military’s announcement of an end to the operation – she will return home.

“If the situation returns to normal we will go back. Local people have not been involved in the militancy, so we should have no fears to return,” she said.

Many of the Sikh men, like their Muslim counterparts, have returned to Buner to ascertain if the area is safe enough for their families to go home.