India summons Pakistani deputy high commissioner over targeting of Sikhs
India summoned the senior-most Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi on Monday to lodge a strong protest over incidents targeting Pakistan’s Sikh minority and to demand immediate action against the perpetrators of such “heinous acts”.
Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner Syed Haider Shah was summoned to the external affairs ministry hours after Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and other Sikh leaders wrote a letter to external affairs minister S Jaishankar demanding that India should seek action against those targeting Pakistani Sikhs.
Shah, currently the senior-most Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi following Islamabad’s decision to send back the Indian envoy and to downgrade diplomatic ties in August last year, was told about “strong concerns raised by members of civil society, parliamentarians and others at the continued persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan”, including recent “despicable and heinous acts” against Sikhs.
According to a statement from the external affairs ministry, a strong protest was lodged over the “vandalism and desecration” of Gurdwara Janamsthan at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak in Pakistan, on Friday and the “targeted killing” of a Sikh man in Peshawar on Saturday.
“Government of Pakistan was called upon to ensure safety, security and welfare of the members of the minority communities in Pakistan, including their places of worship, and take immediate measures to expeditiously bring the perpetrators of such despicable and heinous acts to justice,” the statement said.
India has already condemned the incident of Friday, when a mob had threatened to storm the gurdwara in Nankana Sahib, and the murder of the 25-year-old Sikh man named Ravinder Singh.
In their letter to Jaishankar, the Sikh leaders referred to these two incidents and said “multiple atrocities are being unleashed” on Pakistani Sikhs. The letter noted that Imran Chisti, the Pakistani man who led the protest in Nankana Sahib, had threatened to throw out all Sikhs from the area and to demolish the gurdwara.
These acts “were clearly indicative of how unsafe” Pakistan’s minorities are and they had “sent a wave of deep shock in the Sikh community around the world”, the letter said.
The letter asked Jaishankar to demand strict action against those responsible for targeting Pakistani Sikhs, especially Chisti and the killers of Ravinder Singh. The persecution of Pakistan’s minorities should be raised at the UN and other international bodies, the letter said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office rejected what it described as “Indian propaganda” about the treatment of the country’s minorities. It said the Indian government’s was portraying “isolated law and order incidents in Peshawar and Nankana Sahib as alleged ‘persecution’ of minorities” to divert attention from the situation in Kashmir.
In a statement, the Foreign Office also criticised the “fallout of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC)” and said Pakistan attaches the highest respect to all places of worship, including those belonging to Sikhs.
Pakistani authorities have arrested Chisti and set up a high-powered committee to investigate the murder of Ravinder Singh.