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150 Sikhs and Hindu families moved to Punjab

150 Sikhs and Hindu families moved to Punjab

Author: PTI
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 3, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/173486/150-Sikhs-and-Hindu-families-moved-to-Punjab.html

More than 150 Sikhs and Hindu families displaced by violence and fighting between militants and security forces in Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province and tribal areas have moved to the Punjab province for shelter.

"So far, over 150 Sikh and Hindu families have arrived at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal and Rawalpindi from places like Buner, Swat and Aurakzai Agency," Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman Asif Hashmi said on Saturday.

"We have made arrangements for accommodation, food and security for the displaced Sikh and Hindu families in all five major gurdwaras in Punjab," Hashmi told PTI in Lahore.

Hashmi said he was personally monitoring the arrangements and would ensure that all facilities are provided to the Hindus and Sikhs till normalcy returned to their respective areas.

"We will not ask them to leave until peace is restored in their areas," he said.

The ETBP is responsible for looking after Hindu and Sikh holy sites across Pakistan and facilitating visiting and local pilgrims during religious events.

Sikh and Hindu families had to leave their homes and properties in Buner and Swat in the NWFP after a military operation was launched last week to flush out the Taliban.

The small Sikh community in Aurakzai tribal region left the area after they failed to pay jiziya or a tax levied on non-Muslims by the Taliban.

The family of Sardar Surang Singh is among those that shifted to Gurdwara Panja Sahib. Talking to PTI on phone, Singh said his native town of Buner was peaceful before the arrival of the Taliban.

"Though the Taliban did not levy any tax on minorities in Buner, everyone, including Muslims of the area, was intimidated by their presence. It is not just the issue of minorities as thousands of Muslims of Buner and Swat are also fleeing to save their lives," Singh said.

"Like other residents of both towns, my family too wants the early completion of the army operation so that we can return to our homes," he said, expressing concern at leaving his property at the mercy of the Taliban.

"I don't know whether our property and homes will be safe when the military operation will be over," he said.

India on Friday raised the issue of the demolition of houses of Sikhs in Aurakzai Agency with Pakistan, which responded by saying the Sikhs were its citizens and the issue was of "no concern" to New Delhi.

Dozens of Sikh families have left Aurakzai Agency in the past few days after failing to pay the jiziya of Rs 50 million demanded by the Taliban.

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