Killing of Sikhs, Hindus in Daesh attack angers Afghans

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Avtar Singh Khalsa, second right, with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Khalsa was the only non-Muslim candidate running for parliamentary elections in October this year. (Via Social Media)
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Rawali Singh with his daughter. Singh was killed in the terrorist attack by Daesh on Sunday. (Via Social Media)
Updated 02 July 2018
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Killing of Sikhs, Hindus in Daesh attack angers Afghans

  • There is an outpouring of sympathy and mourning from people across the country
  • Avtar Singh Khalsa’s death is ‘a big loss for Afghanistan,’ says Aryan Youn

KABUL: The people of Afghanistan have expressed much anger and angst over the killing of 19 minority Hindus and Sikhs in a Daesh terror attack in Jalalabad on Sunday.

There has been an outpouring of sympathy and mourning from people across the country, including former President Hamid Karzai and other government officials, over the attack which took place in the eastern city of Jalalabad when a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus was heading to a compound to meet President Ashraf Ghani.

Among those killed was Avtar Singh Khalsa — the longtime leader of the Sikh community and the only non-Muslim candidate running for the country’s parliamentary elections set for October this year.

Karzai, who led Afghanistan for more than 13 years after the fall of the Taliban regime, said: “I learned with great sadness about the death of Avtar Singh Khalsa, our dear compatriot and dynamic leader.

“He was a patriot Afghan who desired to represent our Sikh community in the next Parliament. I mourn his loss.”

Afghanistan has lost a large number of its Muslim population, both from the public and its senior leadership, in a spike of violence in recent years but Sunday’s killing of a group of its minority Sikh and Hindu communities has drawn far more condemnation and anger from the local Afghan populace.

The amount of sympathy shown by Afghans indicates that despite decades of bloody conflict, the country wants diversity, respects non-Muslims, and can live in harmony if allowed to by those who sponsor chaos and war in Afghanistan for their vested interest.

The recent attack is the deadliest for the two communities in a single incident since the current war began with the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack but it did not say what its target was.

Rawali Singh, a civil society activist, was another Sikh leader killed in the attack.

Both Khalsa and Singh served for a long time as top leaders for the Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan. Their loss is seen as a blow not only for the Sikh and Hindu communities who existed in Afghanistan long before the arrival of Islam, but for the country as a whole.

Acquaintances and common Afghans have taken social media by storm, expressing deep shock and sympathy over the horrific attack.

Several people wrote on their Facebook pages: “I am Singh. We love you! RIP,” while a good number replaced their profile pictures with Khalsa’s image.

“Your pain and mourning is mine. Our Sikh and Hindu countrymen need sympathy!” Waheed Paikan, an Afghan journalist, wrote on his Facebook page.

Khalsa, in an interview with Arab News, said he would struggle for “justice for all” if he were to make it to Parliament. He was pushing to encourage the return of Hindus and Sikhs from abroad where they have lived like millions of other Afghan diaspora, and to work for the unity of all Afghans should he have won a seat.

Aryan Youn, a female lawmaker from the east, termed Khalsa’s death as “a big loss for Afghanistan,” and urged the government to allocate his seat in the Parliament to another Sikh.

“He had Afghanistan’s nationality, was brave and a patriotic person,” she told Arab News.

Ashraf Haidari, a government official, described Singh as a dedicated leader. “Rawali Singh … was one of those silent leaders, a true son of Afghanistan from a minority community most fail to notice, let alone recognize,” he said.

“Our Sikh, Hindu and Jewish compatriots in Afghanistan constitute an integral part of the multi-ethnic diversity that underpins the Afghan identity. Sad to see them leaving Afghanistan and thriving elsewhere, away from their homeland they love.”

Massoud Hossaini, another journalist, wrote: “We lost our great and lovely friend Rawail Singh … He tried a lot for peace and was a great social activist. I hope other Sikh activists follow his path. You will never be forgotten, my friend.”

Amrullah Saleh, a former Afghan spymaster, said in a tweet: “Targeting Sikhs and Hindus is like massacring pigeons and doves in our backyard….”


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.