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Pakistan orders behead probe

Feb. 22: Pakistan today ordered a high-level inquiry into the beheading of at least one kidnapped Sikh in the restive frontier tribal belt, an act India described as “barbaric”.

The decapitated body of Jaspal Singh, a Pakistani national, was found yesterday in the tribal district of Orakzai. Singh was kidnapped in late January along with two other Sikhs in Bara town of Khyber, the main supply route for Nato troops operating in Afghanistan.

PTI, however, reported that another abducted Sikh, Mahal Singh, had also been beheaded. Pakistan has denied the report.

A senior Pakistani government official in Khyber said two other Sikhs were still in the custody of the militants and efforts were being made for their release. He said the extremists had wanted the ransom to be paid by Saturday, February 20, but killed Jaspal the same day.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered a high-level inquiry into the beheading.

“The President strongly condemned the incident and has directed security agencies to investigate the matter, secure the release of the remaining two captives and bring to justice perpetrators of the crime,” a senior government official said in Islamabad.

Taranjit Singh, a relative of the slain Sikh, has left for Pakistan through the Attari border checkpost to be present for the last rites.

Pakistan Minority Council chairman Sardar Bishon Singh said the extremists had demanded a ransom of (Pakistani) Rs 3 crore in exchange for the freedom of Jaspal. He said the Sikhs had secured the release of another member of the community who was kidnapped about six months ago by paying Rs 1.2 crore as ransom to the Taliban in Orakzai.

Hukam Singh, a Sikh who recently shifted to Peshawar from Khyber, said under a deal, every Sikh family had to pay Pakistani Rs 1,000 per adult person to the Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) headed by Haji Mangal Bagh as annual protection fee.

India’s foreign minister S.M. Krishna said such “barbaric acts” would take “us back to the medieval times”, but skirted questions on whether the issue would feature in Thursday’s talks between the foreign secretaries.

“All issues concerning the relations between the two countries depending upon time will be taken up,” Krishna said.

Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee leader Paramjit Singh Sarna said the killing was “mindless”.

“Sikhs living in the interiors of Pakistan did not suffer any loss of life or property during Partition mainly because the people there did not want to migrate to India. It was a relationship built on mutual trust through centuries. Unfortunately, that trust has been broken by the senseless killing of the Sikhs,” Sarna said.

Sarna said all Sikhs living in Pakistan could be relocated to Nankana Saheb, the birthplace of Guru Nanak near Lahore. “There are only about 25,000 Sikhs living in Pakistan and if the government cannot provide security to them, they can be brought together to one place,” Sarna said.

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