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

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….”

UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

Updated 12 min 42 sec ago

UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

LONDON: Negotiators from Britain and the European Union have struck a proposed divorce deal that will be presented to politicians on both sides for approval, officials in London and Brussels said Tuesday.
After a year and a half of stalled talks, false starts and setbacks, negotiators agreed on proposals to resolve the main outstanding issue: the Irish border.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said the Cabinet would hold a special meeting Wednesday to consider the proposal. Its support isn’t guaranteed: May is under pressure from pro-Brexit ministers not to make further concessions to the EU.
Ambassadors from the 27 other EU countries are also due to hold a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
May told the Cabinet earlier Tuesday that “a small number” of issues remain to be resolved in divorce negotiations with the European Union, while her deputy, David Lidington, said the two sides are “almost within touching distance” of a Brexit deal.
Britain wants to seal a deal this fall, so that Parliament has time to vote on it before the UK leaves the bloc on March 29. The European Parliament also has to approve any agreement.
Negotiators have been meeting late into the night in Brussels in a bid to close the remaining gaps.
The main obstacle has long been how to ensure there are no customs posts or other checks along the border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
Irish national broadcaster RTE said the draft agreement involves a common customs arrangement for the UK and the EU, to eliminate the need for border checks.
But May faces pressure from pro-Brexit Cabinet members not to agree to an arrangement that binds Britain to EU trade rules indefinitely.
May also faces growing opposition from pro-EU lawmakers, who say her proposed Brexit deal is worse than the status quo and the British public should get a new vote on whether to leave or to stay.
If there is no agreement soon, UK businesses will have to start implementing contingency plans for a “no-deal” Brexit — steps that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods and relocating production and services outside Britain.
Even with such measures in place, the British government says leaving the EU without a deal could cause major economic disruption, with gridlock at ports and disruption to supplies of foods, goods and medicines.
On Tuesday, the European Commission published a sheaf of notices outlining changes in a host of areas in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They point to major disruption for people and businesses: UK truckers’ licenses won’t be valid in the EU, British airlines will no longer enjoy traffic rights, and even British mineral water will cease to be recognized as such by the EU.
The EU said Tuesday it was proposing visa-free travel for UK citizens on short trips, even if there is no deal — but only if Britain reciprocates.
“We need to prepare for all options,” EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said. On a deal, he said: “We are not there yet.”
Meanwhile, official figures suggest Brexit is already having an impact on the British workforce.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of EU citizens working in the country — 2.25 million— was down 132,000 in the three months to September from the year before. That’s the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.
Most of the fall is due to fewer workers from eight eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said the prospect of Brexit “has clearly made the UK a much less attractive place for Europeans to live and work.”