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Archive for July, 2018

Eurasia Review

By Dr. Bawa Singh and Dr. Jaspal Kaur

The safety and security of minorities have always been remained in question, particularly in the war-torn and highly terrorism infested countries. Recently, Afghan minorities such as Hindus and Sikhs had undergone the horrible experience of a terrorist attack in which 19 people were killed and about 20 injured. The responsibility of the same was claimed by the Islamic State. Given this terrorist threat, the population of these communities has been decreasing substantially (from estimated seven lac to only a few hundred families). The recent terrorist attack (1 July 2018), in which Awtar Singh Khalsa (only one candidate of these communities running for the parliamentary election 2018) was killed. It has further created panic in the community.

Seeing the exponentially declining the population of such communities, perhaps make us convinced that these people are on the brink of extinction. Many media reports indicated that they used to feel at sea and one question is pestering them how to face/come out of this challenge? In this dire straits, how Afghanistan can assure the safety and security of the affected minority, is a major question to be taken into account?

Despite the civilizational and geo-cultural relations of Hindus and Sikhs with Afghanistan, these minorities had been remained eclipsed and invisible for the scholarly attention for a long time. However, when these communities had come under security threats, then only the communities started getting the attention of the media, scholars and policy makers etc.

The beginning of the Afghanistan and Punjab relations started with the visits of Sikhs’ first Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the 15th century way from Mecca to Jalalabad and Ghazni. However, all the Sikhs have not been of the Punjabi origin, rather a small number of locals, whose ancestors adopted Sikhism during Guru Nanak’s visits to Afghan cities, had become part of the same. Sikhs and Hindus were sent by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) as part of missions (the 1820s) to promote trade, who in due course of time had settled in Jalalabad and Ghazni provincial towns. As per the study of anthropologist Ballard (2011) the Hindu Khatri merchants settled in Afghanistan, and since then they have been enjoying a substantial share in the regional trade.

The Taliban rule (1996–2001) had spelled doom for the lives of minorities. Afghanistan’s economy and infrastructure have been devastated. But Bansal (2012, 4 March) had contested this argument who was of the opinion that during the Taliban regime, the Sikhs and Hindus had not been suffered any discrimination, rather their businesses grown by leaps and bounds. This community used to share good terms with the Taliban and many members of the same used to make frequent visits to Sikh shrines as well. Rather, with the outbreak of civil war in the post-9/11, the Hindu and Sikh have been caught in the crossfire of violence. Their gurdwaras and temples have been destroyed. Most of the remaining Gurdwaras (65) and temples (21) have been taken over by the local authorities given their misuse by the terrorists as ammunition warehouses.

Currently, these communities are passing through the cycle of violence and many other serious challenges haunting their lives in Afghanistan. Protection of ethnic identity has become a major question for these minorities given the compulsion of paying Jizya, (a religious tax), generally imposed on the non-Muslims. These people have been asked to put on the yellow bands by the individuals on their arms and have to hoist yellow flags on the rooftops of their homes and businesses shops for public identification purposes. They lost the meaning of freedom due to some restrictions on their religious practices as well. The forced conversion, the imposition of strict Islamic laws, staged public executions, forbade the practice of cremation, harassment, atrocities, violence, beating, looting, land grabbing, and banning girls from schools etc. are part and parcel of their day to day lives.

The prevailing hostile environment had forced these people to leave Afghanistan. As per the report of Ehsan Shayegan (Afghan Researcher with Porsesh Research and Studies Organization-Kabul), which is studying minority religions, is of the opinion that, “In the 70s, there were around 700,000 Hindus and Sikhs and now they are estimated to be less than 7,000.” During the Karzai administration (2004-14), these communities had felt more ostracized than ever. As per the report of UK Border Agency Report COI (16 November 2009), “There were approximately 500 Sikhs and Hindus in the country. Although those communities were allowed to practice their faith publicly, they reportedly continued to face discrimination, including intimidation; discrimination when seeking government jobs….”

The minority leaders of Sikhs and Hindus communities have also been expressing their concerns over declining their population. Dr. Anarkali Kaur (Honorary Senator in the Afghan Parliament) said, “The number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus has dwindled over the years with only about 1000 Sikhs remaining in the country as they migrated, leaving their successful businesses in Kabul, Kandahar and other cities, to safer places in India, Europe, and Canada.” Awtar Singh Khalsa, Head of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu Council (recently killed in the attack), has also substantiated the same argument by saying that given the decades of war, instability, and intolerance, our community had just reduced from lacs to 372 families nationwide. It means once the thriving community, is on the brink of extinction in Afghanistan, raising a serious question for the host country and government, Indian government, international human rights protecting organizations in general and the countries which are engaged in fighting against Taliban in particular.

On the unfortunate day of July 1, 2018, a suicide bomber attacked the convoy of Awtar Singh Khalsa (An Afghan Sikh Politician from Jalalabad), who was going to meet President Ashraf Ghani, the latter was going to speak in the governor’s residence in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Avtar Singh Khalsa was about to be elected unopposed for the lower house of Afghanistan Parliament in the coming election (October 2018). He had made a very special and important place in the hearts of not only Sikhs and Hindus given his selfless service, rather of the local people as well. During his interview with BBC Punjabi, he expressed his dreams how he would love to work for Afghanistan where, each one of the Afghans either Sikhs, Hindus, Uzbek could enjoy a peaceful and respectful life.

Along with Avatar Singh Khalsa, about 19 other people including the activist Ravail Singh, Sikh Community spokesman Iqbal Singh and peace activist Anup Singh was killed. As per the report of public health officials, about 20 people were wounded in the same attack.

Since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), these communities have frequently been exposed to life threat vulnerabilities. Once these communities are believed to be the most prosperous but now the spurt of the violence and discriminations against them, made their lives bad to worse. In the 1970s, the share of the Afghan population stood at estimated seven lac, which is currently declined to 350 families only. In this backdrop, the extinction of such minorities in Afghanistan seems within the realm of possibility. In the dire straits, how these minorities could be kept safe in the highly terrorism infested country like Afghanistan, has been worrying not only the stakeholders rather the humanistic thinkers and scholars as well?

Since the end of the WWII, several human rights protective mechanisms at the international level have been put in place to protect and promote the same. The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (18 December 1992) is one of them. Its article 1 says that “ the states shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.” Despite given several such mechanisms in place, still, the lives of these minorities have been exposed to the vulnerabilities. Declining of the population along with always hanging the sword of Damocles have been putting them in panic, how to face violence, discrimination and life threats at the moment.

Under Article 1 of the Declaration(1992), it is obligatory for Afghanistan to take some steps to ensure their safety and security. However, given its limited capacity particularly from defence forces side, it seems to be very difficult for Afghanistan to take care of these communities. India has been sharing good terms with Afghanistan. Using its good office and influence, it may urge Afghanistan to take some strong steps and cooperate with the latter to find out some ways/means to ensure the safety and security of these communities. The future of peacebuilding also seems very bleak given the divergent interests of the geopolitical players engaged in Afghanistan. Trump’s South Asia Policy did not show any concrete results. Along with the safety and security of such communities, peacebuilding would remain major strategic concerns. If these people are not protected and left them to leave the country, it would emerge as a major set back for Afghanistan. It would also prove as a major set back for Trump’s South Asia policy, by exposing its hollowness.

Violence and use of military are not the means to sort out any ethnic issue/s. Dialogue is only can become a pathfinder. The Taliban should understand that they are killing only their own innocent people, which is of no use and would take them nowhere. Afghans people including these minority communities would be on their side provided they should become part of the mainstream national/international social and political norms along with the shunning of violence. Being in the mainstream, world, Afghanistan and its people would become yours.

Going by such means, only Afghanistan and Taliban could check the role/intervention of the external powers. Until Afghanistan remains under the control of external powers, the same situation would remain prevailed. In this background, the minority communities likely to suffer extinction, which further torn the country. Therefore, the constructive role of Afghans including Taliban and other minorities only could turn Afghanistan into one of the best countries, peaceful and progressive provided the Taliban could part of the mainstream. No other countries/financial aids are the solutions of any ethnic/social/political problems, if it comes, it always comes with a lot of strings. In this way, only Afghans could sort out their political and ethnic problems and check the anticipated extinction of these communities. Alas! peace and prosperity should prevail in Afghanistan. The pluralistic fabric of Afghan society may remain intact!!

*Dr Bawa Singh is teaching at the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India and Dr.Jaspal Kaur (AP), teaches in the Department of Law, Regional Campus Jalandhar, Guru Nank Dev University (Amritsar).

 

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The Week

By Rekha Dixit

The Afghanistan government had reserved a seat in the lower house for a member of the miniscule minority Hindu/Sikh community to contest elections. This was the country’s valiant effort at maintaining its multicultural identity. Awtar Singh Khalsa, an Afghan Sikh, and a former Senator (nominated to the Upper House) was likely to win unopposed from this seat. But with his death in the targeted blast in Jalalabad a few days ago, will this seat remain vacant? The blast had killed 20 people, including 10 from the Hindu/Sikh minority.

The preliminary procedures of the election process have already begun. The elections are scheduled for October, but the last date for filing nominations was June 14. For a minority seat like this one, the process in Afghanistan is that the candidate has to get the support of at least a thousand people. The candidate has to furnish their consent before the election commission. Awtar Singh had cleared this process. It is now being reported that his son, Narender, is keen to contest in his father’s lieu. But the election commission will have to agree to allow him to furnish the letters of support, past the deadline.

Even if Narender, or any other candidate, does clear the requirements of the election commission, the sad truth is that there is hardly anyone left to represent. The Sikh community, while always small in terms of numbers in Afghanistan, was an important aspect of the country’s multicultural identity.

Sikhism came to Afghanistan early, with Guru Nanak himself having visited the Afghan lands twice. Bhai Gonda, a disciple of the seventh guru, Har Rai, was sent to Kabul to preach the faith there, later. There are a number of gurudwaras across Kabul, Kandahar and Nangarhar, of historical importance, and part of the Sikh pilgrim circuit.

Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, a senator in the Upper House | Sanjoy Ghosh
Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, a senator in the Upper House | Sanjoy Ghosh

The Sikh/Hindu numbers, however, have depleted so rapidly that during a visit to Kabul this January, this correspondent met only a handful of Sikh families and none at all from the Hindu community. Because even the few who are left behind go over to India for months at a stretch, specially during winter. According to Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, 30, a senator in the Upper House, there were just 1,300 member of the community left in all of Afghanistan.

After the latest attack, perhaps the numbers will go down even further, as more and more seek safer lands. Harender Singh, who teaches Sikh children at the Gurudwara Har Rai in Shor Bazar in the old quarters of Kabul, had said that the threat was not just from the Taliban and the ISIS, but also from the locals. Sikh and Hindu cremations cause problems with the Muslim majority in a city pressed for space, where encroachments to settle the internally displaced mean that the smells and sights of a funeral of the minority community offends the sensibilities of the majority. So much so that Honaryar said they had asked for an electric crematorium to be imported. Till January that was not installed.

sikh-afghan-sanjoy2There were just 1,300 member of the Sikh community left in all of Afghanistan | Sanjoy Ghosh

While the more affluent Afghan Sikh disapora has moved to Europe, Canada and Australia, the bulk looks towards India, the spiritual homeland of the faith. While India grants long-stay visas to them, there are problems accessing several civic amenities. A delegation of the Afghan Sikhs met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj some days after the Jalalabad attack, where she assured them that they would be looked after in India. She is also keen that a bill the NDA government moved, which seeks to give citizenship to six persecuted minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists , Parsis and Christians) from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh countries, who came to India before 2014 get legislated in this session of the Parliament. The bill has been cleared by the Lok Sabha. However, it may have to face several hurdles as people, like in the northeast, are not too happy to give up their land and space to accommodate refugees.

Granting citizenship to these persecuted Sikhs is one matter. However, with their exodus from Afghanistan, a unique and rich culture will disappear. A culture where the people revered the Granth Sabhib, but spoke Pashto.

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Tolo News

Narinder Singh, the son of slain Afghan Sikh leader Avtar Singh Khalsa, said on Friday he wants to contest the October parliamentary elections in Afghanistan from the seat apportioned to minority community.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said this week the Hindu and Sikh community could nominate another candidate in the wake of Khalsa’s death.

Khalsa, who was among those killed in last Sunday’s bombing in Jalalabad, had been the only Afghan Sikh member running for election.

The Indian Express reported that an official said there were a number of voices, including two MPs, calling for Narinder to participate in place of his late father.

“Everyone has been telling me to contest. (Sikh leader in India) Sukhbir Singh Badal and other leaders have expressed solidarity with us (Afghan Sikhs). I will run for the elections. My father attained martyrdom while fighting for the community. We will follow the footsteps of the Guru,” Narinder Singh told The Indian Express on Friday.

Asked about sections of Sikhs declaring that they would leave Afghanistan after the suicide attack, claimed by Daesh, Narinder Singh said, “Majority of those who are here will stay here only. Sikhs definitely want to move out, but no other country is giving them any concrete assurance about their rehabilitation if they move out.”

Last week Reuters reported that many among Afghanistan’s dwindling Sikh minority are considering leaving for neighboring India after the suicide bombing killed at least 14 members of their community.

At the funeral of one of the victims, one Sikh member Tejvir Singh said: “I am clear that we cannot live here anymore.”

“Our religious practices will not be tolerated by the Islamic terrorists. We are Afghans. The government recognizes us, but terrorists target us because we are not Muslims,” added Singh, the secretary of a national panel of Hindus and Sikhs.

The Sikh community now numbers fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, which has only two gurdwaras, or places of worship, one each in Jalalabad and Kabul, the capital, Singh added.

Although almost entirely a Muslim country, Afghanistan was home to as many as 250,000 Sikhs and Hindus before a devastating civil war in the 1990s.

Even a decade ago, the US State Department said in a report, about 3,000 Sikhs and Hindus still lived in the country.

Despite official political representation and freedom of worship, many face prejudice and harassment as well as violence from militant Islamist groups, prompting thousands to move to India, their spiritual homeland.

Reuters also reported that following the Jalalabad attack, some Sikhs have sought shelter at the city’s Indian consulate.

“We are left with two choices: to leave for India or to convert to Islam,” said Baldev Singh, who owns a book- and textile shop in Jalalabad.

India has issued long-term visas to members of Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities.

“They can all live in India without any limitation,” said Vinay Kumar, India’s ambassador to Afghanistan. “The final call has to be taken by them. We are here to assist them.”

 

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Read the article here from The Times of India

 

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Foreign Policy

BY RUCHI KUMAR

Rawail Singh believed in a peaceful future for Sikhs like him in his homeland — and died for it.

Sikh community leader Rawail Singh lights the Diwali lamps with his daughter Komal on Oct. 18, 2017, in Kabul. (Ruchi Kumar for Foreign Policy)

Sikh community leader Rawail Singh lights the Diwali lamps with his daughter Komal on Oct. 18, 2017, in Kabul. (Ruchi Kumar for Foreign Policy)

KABUL — When I saw the news of the brutal suicide attack on Afghanistan’s Sikhs and Hindus on Sunday, my first instinct was to call my friend and regular source Rawail Singh for more details. I didn’t realize until his phone went unanswered that the Kabul-based peace activist had been among the 19 people killed, 17 of them Sikhs or Hindus, while waiting to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Jalalabad.

Singh was one of the kindest and most recognizable faces in Kabul’s nascent civil society and one of the most active members of his community. He’d had many offers to help him and his family leave Afghanistan, but he insisted that he was a son of the Afghan soil and refused to depart a country where he still saw tremendous potential.

“Why would I leave? This is my land, my country, my culture. Historically, we belong to Afghanistan. One of the founding leaders of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, visited Afghanistan in 1520. We’ve been his followers since then,” he told me last year.

The loss of Singh, who was in his late 40s, isn’t just a tragedy for those who knew him; it may be the final deathblow to a community that was once a symbol of a very different Afghanistan.

“Within a few minutes, a significant part of our fraternity was wiped out: our leaders, elders, and mentors,” said Sachdeva Omprakash, an Afghan Hindu attending the mass funeral on Monday at the Bagh Bala Gurdwara in Kabul, one of a handful of temples left in the city. Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan closely identify with each other’s communities, both politically and socially, as non-Muslim minorities.

As in Iraq and Syria, the long war in Afghanistan has been particularly harsh on religious minorities. Afghanistan once had thriving Sikh and Hindu communities, but today, the numbers have been reduced to only the most determined and persistent. On Monday, the Gurdwara was filled with sounds of women and children wailing for the martyred leaders and muted sniffles from the men, who refused to allow themselves the luxury of mourning amid preparation of last rites and filing documentation to identify their compatriots.

“It’s not as if we haven’t suffered enough already,” Omprakash said, referring to the persecution at the hands of every Afghan government since 1992. “There were 400,000 families here once,” he said, “Now there are not even 400.” Most estimates put the community at a high of about 250,000 people at its peak. Today, while there are no official records, community leaders believe there are just 1,400 Sikhs and Hindus remaining in all of Afghanistan. Two years ago, I was told this figure was closer to 3,000.

He could be phlegmatic about the persecutions his community faced. “Believe it or not, the Taliban government was more tolerant of us than the mujahideen government before them,” Singh told me in 2016, referring to the brief-lived Islamic State of Afghanistan government of 1992 to 1996. “Of course, they did discriminate, and we also had to wear certain pieces of clothing that identified us, but they also had court hearings [in case of disputes within communities] and were often fair in their judgement, even if it was prejudiced toward non-Muslims,” he recalled.

“It was a different society before 1992. Hindus and Sikhs lived in prosperity and harmony in Afghanistan,” he told me. “Our community members were mostly business owners, and finance and trading in Afghanistan was largely operated by Hindus and Sikhs. When the mujahideen came to power, this community became a target for criminals controlled by them. There was widespread kidnappings, extortion, and banditry, as well as religious persecution.”

Singh helped smuggle his own relatives to India via Pakistan in the 1990s, hidden in trucks transporting goods over the border. But he soon returned, newly married and unwilling to give up on his homeland. Yet even after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, there was little hope for the community. “Our children were harassed in schools during the mujahideen years — many of them were forced to drop out, affecting a whole generation. Things didn’t improve during the Taliban, and even today, little has been done to accommodate our children,” he explained.

The new Afghan government that formed after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 attempted to build a more tolerant and inclusive system of governance. Under then-President Hamid Karzai, one seat in the upper house of the Afghan parliament was allotted to Sikhs and Hindus. However, despite Karzai’s best attempt to allow the Hindus and Sikhs to contest the lower house, the move was blocked by parliamentarians. In 2016, though, President Ashraf Ghani, by a presidential decree, made it possible for the minority community to elect a representative to the new parliament in the upcoming elections. That candidate, Avtar Singh, died alongside Rawail Singh on Sunday.

Despite government efforts, life was hard for the Sikhs and Hindus who returned in the 2000s. Most found their property had been seized. “They returned to find their homes occupied by strangers, their lands captured by warlords,” Rawail Singh told me in 2016. “My own cousin’s house was taken over by a notorious strongman, who refused to hand over the house even after the courts ordered him to leave. We spent nearly 12 years between courts and officials, and paid a collective bribe of $35,000 to various officials.” Singh noted that he was often challenged by officials who told him he couldn’t be both non-Muslim and Afghan.

“They [Muslims] keep asking me to convert to Islam because they consider our religion as something less. It’s not always forceful, but it’s there everywhere,” he said, recalling conversations with even government officials and ministers who have “strongly suggested” he convert to live a better life. “Some of them [Afghans] think we are from India and they tell us to ‘go back.’ There’s a limit to how much one can tolerate. After a while, people will leave, and those who could afford it have already left,” he said in another interview in 2017.

Sacred cremation grounds in Kabul were seized. “Even the land around it belonged to us. But the areas around it have been grabbed by Afghans with the help of local warlords. Now, the residents living close to it complain about our cremation practices. They throw stones and garbage at us,” he said. In 2012, Singh campaigned successfully for Hindu and Sikh burials to be provided with police escorts for protection. At his own funeral, armed security officers accompanied the funeral procession.

Rawail Singh had already lived in a kinder, more tolerant Afghanistan. He was hopeful that things could change. He wanted to raise his three children as close to their heritage and culture as possible, and they helped in his peace activism. A mural of his youngest daughter Komal’s eyes graces the walls outside the National Directorate of Security — Afghanistan’s intelligence agency — at a busy checkpoint in central Kabul, carrying an anti-corruption message.

For all of Singh’s message of hope, there was little of it to be found at the funeral, as one community member told me: “Many of us aren’t sure if we will stay in Afghanistan anymore. Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t afford to leave right now, but we are going to try. If we don’t, we will all perish here.”

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Same article in Pashto.
Bomber defies tight security to launch deadly strike on communal leadership

Afghanistan’s tiny community of Hindus and Sikhs have been questioning their future in the country after a suicide attacker targeted a group of dignitaries travelling to meet President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the July 1 attack in which 17 people were killed and seven more injured.

Among the dead was Awtar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

One survivor, Gorbit Singh, said that he had been among some 25 Hindu and Sikh representatives due to meet the president at the governor’s office that morning to discuss community concerns. That meeting had been cancelled, and they were asked to return at 3.30 pm.

“When we got together once again later, we were attacked,” he said. “The soldiers just watched while our friends were burning. They didn’t help us with medical evacuation.”

Another delegate, Guljit Singh, from the Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, also criticised the security services for their response.

“Our friends were in flames, but no one came to help,” he said. “The police did not even not allow other civilians to lend a helping hand.”

Awtar Singh’s son Narinder Singh called for a rigorous government investigation into how a suicide bomber had managed to reach the site of the attack despite numerous checkpoints and the tight security measures in place that day.

“We lost all our elders in this incident, and we don’t have any leaders in Afghanistan now,” he said, adding that if the perpetrators were not arrested, the community would launch a series of public demonstrations.

Other community figures said that the Sikh and Hindu leaders had been planning to discuss issues including land appropriation. They had brought a number of title deeds with them, which had been destroyed in the bombing.

Hindus make up the smallest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Having lived in the country for centuries in relative peace, problems began with the establishment of the Mujahiddin government in 1992. Their lands were seized, children were excluded from education and they faced religious persecution.

Many left for India, while life got even worse under the Taleban regime for those who remained when their freedom to practice their religion was hugely restricted.

Now, the community numbers around 1,000. Discrimination remains rife, even though the Afghan constitution guarantees their religious rights as full citizens and under Islamic law, the state must safeguard those non-Muslims that it has pledged to protect.

Naweed Ahmad Hamim, a religious scholar, told IWPR, “According to Islamic teachings, it is obligatory on Muslims to treat such non-Muslims well.”

He continued, “The prophet Mohammad has said that whoever kills an infidel who has been granted protection shall not smell the fragrance of paradise.”

Iqbal Singh, who was injured in the July 1 attack, said that although it was IS who claimed the responsibility for the suicide bombing, his community was targeted in multiple other ways on a daily basis.

He said that their homes, shops and other properties had been appropriated, and they faced routine prejudice and abuse.

“If the situation continues this way, all Sikhs and Hindus may leave Afghanistan,” Iqbal Singh continued, calling for the Afghan government to intervene.

The attack was widely condemned both inside and outside Afghanistan, but the local government’s reaction angered some in the community.

Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar province, said that no meeting had been scheduled between the president and the delegation, adding, “The president and the governor of Nangarhar were saddened by the incident and have asked the security bodies to investigate the issue.”

Some social media users debated whether the local government was trying to evade responsibility for their security failure.

Given the tight security in place that day, many observers were surprised that the attackers had managed to penetrate the cordon.

Nangarhar’s police chief Ghulam Sanayee Stanikzai said that invesitgations had begun and  “ later we will share more information with the media on how the suicide attacker reached the place”.

But local activist Asadullah Zamir said that police checkpoints had been set up everywhere in the city in the three days prior to the president’s arrival. The day before, all offices and shopping malls had been closed. But despite these precautions, the suicide attackers had managed to strike so close to the governor’s office.

“They must get to the bottom of this case because on that day, only police were there and all roads were blocked,” he said.

Following the attack, dignitaries visited a local Sikh gurdwara, where Nangarhar provincial council secretary Zabihullah Zmari told IWPR, “We are following this case to make sure that the investigators do their job honestly.”

At the same event Nangarhar governor Hayatullah Hayat said, “We will respect all the rights of our Hindu and Sikh countrymen, and not allow anyone to harm them. By killing our Hindu fellow citizens, the enemy of our country, IS showed that they neither follow any religion nor respect any kind of values.”

Since the sole candidate from the Sikh and Hindu community was killed in the attack, the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC), announced that it would allow them time to find a replacement.

IEC commissioner Sayed Hafizullah Hashimi, told reporters, “Taking into consideration the rights of Sikhs and Hindus, the IEC plans to give another chance for people to nominate themselves for the upcoming elections.”

But reeling from the attack, some Hindus and Sikhs feel that the government has little interest in protecting them or assuring their future in Afghanistan.

A Sikh resident of Jalalabad city, who asked to remain anonymous, wept as he told IWPR, “Now we have to go to the presidential palace, and tell them that since you are neither paying attention to us nor providing us with security, we are leaving this country.”

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Sikh 24

NEW DELHI—The Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal has said that the party’s parliamentarians will try to get passed a Bill during the Monsoon session of the Indian Parliament for the permanent citizenship of immigrating Afghan Sikhs in India. He further said that the terrorism has no religion and all of us need to stand in unity against Terrorism.

Highly appreciating the few Sikhs living in Afghanistan for the look after of Sikh shrines, Sukhbir Badal said that the Afghan Sikhs didn’t bow before the terror outfits despite extremely dangerous circumstances. “Our party’s parliamentarians will try to get passed the Citizenship bill unanimously in the Indian Parliament by taking the parliamentarians of opposition into confidence” he added.

Meanwhile, the DSGMC is going to begin a Sri Akhand Path Sahib on July 7 for the spiritual peace of Afghan Sikhs died in a bomb blast in Jalalabad. Sri Akhand Path Sahib will be culminated on July 9.

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News 18

Kabul: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday said the deadly attack targeting Sikhs and Hindus in the eastern city of Jalalabad will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators will face trial as he visited a Gurdwara in Kabul and offered condolences to the minority community.

President Ghani visited the Gurdwara in Kart-e-Parwan area of Kabul city and offered condolences to the Sikh Community members, the Office of the President, ARG Palace, said.

An ISIS suicide bomber targeted a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus on their way to meet the Afghan president in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Sunday.

At least 20 people, including 17 Sikhs, were killed in the attack. Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community who had planned to run in the parliamentary elections set for October, was also killed in the blast.”President Ghani called the attack a catastrophe and promised that the incident would be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators would face trial for the crime,” the ARG said in a statement.

Calling the Sikh and Hindus communities the pride of the nation, President Ghani said the government remains committed to support the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.

At the Gurdwara, Surpal Singh thanked President Ghani on behalf of the Afghan Sikh community for offering condolences. On the occasion, Narendara Singh was appointed as new representative of the Hindus and Sikh minority in Afghanistan, Pajhwok reported.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai also visited the Gurdwara to offer condolences for Sikhs who lost their lives in the terrorist attack.

“Visited our Sikh Gurdwara to offer condolences for our Sikh brothers who lost their lives in a terrorist attack in Jalalabad. Remembered their lasting community services and love for our country. Prayed for their eternal rest,” Karzai tweeted along with the pictures of his visit.

Meanwhile, residents in Kabul staged a protest against the killing of Sikhs in Jalalabad.

The protesters carried banners and posters depicting the pictures of those killed in the attack. They slammed the Afghan government and demanded that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

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