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India concerned over harassment of Sikhs in Pak

Last updated on: May 01, 2009 18:22 IST

Taking serious note of Sikhs being driven away from their homes by the Taliban in Pakistan's northwest region, India on Friday conveyed its concerns to Islamabad over the treatment meted out to the minorities in that country.

The Ministry of External Affairs summoned a diplomat of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to register its unhappiness over the development. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad also conveyed similar views to the Pakistan Foreign Office there.

"On seeing reports about Sikh families in Pakistan being driven out of their homes and being subjected to Jaziya (protection tax imposed on non-Muslims under Shariah law) and other such impositions, the government of India has taken up with Pakistan the question of treatment of minorities with the government of Pakistan," External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

Reports from Aurakzai said Taliban had imposed Jaziya and destroyed the houses of 11 Sikh families who failed to pay the huge tax of Rs 50 million each till April 29, when the deadline expired.

Sources said that India has conveyed its concerns over the treatment meted out to Sikhs by Taliban in Pakistan's troubled Aurakzai tribal region, saying it was a 'serious matter'. The Pakistan government has the responsibility of ensuring safety and security of Sikhs, who are a minority community in that country, they said.

 

Avtar Singh Makkar, the president of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, seeking permission to visit the Taliban-dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, to assess the condition of the Sikh families residing in those areas. Makkar's request comes in the wake of reports about the residences of Sikh families being razed for the non-payment of jazia -- the tax imposed on minority communities.

"We have also written to the Pakistan government to seek permission to visit these areas," Makkar told rediff.com.

He added that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had also requested Dr Singh and Mukherjee to look into the issue of harassment of Sikh families by the Taliban in Pakistan.

"Badal sahib has requested the PM to give top priority to this matter and take it up with his Pakistan counterpart to ensure that Sikhs are not harassed by the Talibans or any other religious groups," the SGPC chief said.

The Taliban have reportedly levied a hefty tax of Rs 50 million on members of the minority community who are living in areas controlled by them.

With inputs from PTI

Onkar Singh in New Delhi