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18 Dec 2017

Pakistan: Sikhs reportedly under pressure to convert

Pakistan: Is freedom of religion under threat?

Sikhs in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtuwa are reportedly under pressure to convert.

The representative of a Sikh body in the Hangu district has alleged that a police official told the Sikh people who approached him that they should convert to Islam, if their problems are to be solved.

"When such things come from a government-official, it becomes really serious," Singh stated while speaking to a newspaper.

In context

Pakistan: Is freedom of religion under threat?

Details

Are Sikhs in Khyber-Pakhtunwa under pressure to convert?

The allegations were made by Farid Chand Singh, representative of a Sikh body in the Hangu district against Yaqoob Khan, assistant commissioner of Tall tehsil.

In a complaint filed with the district commissioner, Singh alleges that "the residents of Doaba area are being tortured religiously."

Speaking to the Express Tribune, he stated that the government official was "forcing Sikhs to convert to Islam."

Singh urges authorities to defend Sikhs constitutional freedoms

"The constitution empowers us to defend our religious beliefs against anyone and we want you to inquire into the issue," the complaint said. It added that the issue "should be investigated so that the community could live in Pakistan with love, peace and harmony."

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About

Sikhs in Pakistan

There is a substantial Sikh population in pockets of Pakistan's north-west region, including the restive tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Most of them are small traders.

In his complaint, Singh states that Sikhs have been living in harmony with other religions in Hangu since 1901.

"Sikhs have friendly relations with Muslims, who have always stood up for the community in times of need," he added.

Hangu district authorities respond

Shahid Mehood, the district commissioner clarified that the assistant commissioner Khan hadn't meant to "insult" the members of the Sikh community who met him. "There was no such issue of converting someone forcefully to Islam. Rather, the district administration ensures religious freedom," he added.

Are religious minorities threatened in Pakistan?

Analysis

Are religious minorities threatened in Pakistan?

There have been numerous instances in Pakistan of Sikhs getting kidnapped for ransom in recent years.

In early 2017, a public prosecutor conveyed to a group of 60 Christians under trial that he would help them get acquitted if they convert to Islam.

The group was being tried for participating in mob violence which was mistakenly directed at two men suspected of being militants.

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