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….”


Zimbabwe again forces ‘total Internet shutdown’ amid unrest

Updated 52 min 17 sec ago
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Zimbabwe again forces ‘total Internet shutdown’ amid unrest

  • MISA-Zimbabwe and local human rights lawyers challenged the shutdown in court
  • The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights says they treated more than 100 injuries

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s government has again forced a “total Internet shutdown,” a media group says, after a days-long violent crackdown on people protesting dramatic fuel price increases.
MISA-Zimbabwe shares a text message from the country’s largest telecom company, Econet, calling the government order “beyond our reasonable control.” The shutdown faces a court challenge from the group and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
On Friday, a prominent pastor and activist who faces a possible 20 years in prison on a subversion charge is set to appear in court, one of more than 600 people arrested this week. Evan Mawarire calls it “heartbreaking” to see the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa acting like that of former leader Robert Mugabe. Mawarire is accused of inciting civil disobedience online.
“Our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history,” the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a sweeping statement lamenting the government’s “intolerant handling of dissent” and its failure to halt economic collapse.
International calls for restraint by Zimbabwe’s security forces are growing, while Mnangagwa prepares to plead for more investment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He announced the fuel price increase on the eve of his overseas trip, leaving hard-line former military commander and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga as acting president.
Gasoline in the economically shattered country is now the world’s most expensive. Zimbabweans heeded a nationwide stay-at-home call earlier this week in protest. Rights groups and others have accused security forces of targeting activists and labor leaders in response, with the United States expressing alarm.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights has said it had treated 68 cases of gunshot wounds and 100-plus other cases of “assaults with sharp objects, booted feet, baton sticks” and more. Hungry residents of the capital, Harare, who ventured out seeking food reported being tear-gassed by police.
Death tolls have varied. Eight people were killed when police and military fired on crowds, Amnesty International said. Zimbabwe’s government said three people were killed, including a policeman stoned to death by an angry crowd.
The demonstrations amount to “terrorism,” Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said, blaming the opposition. State Security Minister Owen Ncube thanked security forces for “standing firm.”
Zimbabweans had briefly rejoiced when Mnangagwa succeeded Mugabe, who was forced out in late 2017, thinking the new president would deliver on his refrain that the country “is open for business.” But frustration has risen over the lack of improvement in the collapsed economy, which doesn’t even have a currency of its own.
The UK’s minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin, has summoned Zimbabwe’s ambassador to discuss “disturbing reports of use of live ammunition, intimidation and excessive force” against protesters.
The European Union in a statement late Thursday noted the “disproportionate use of force by security personnel” and urged that Internet service be restored.