In Peshawar, a Sikh school is the latest example of interfaith harmony

Inside computer classroom two Sikh students are looking at computer screen, 15, November 2019. (AN)
Updated 20 November 2019

In Peshawar, a Sikh school is the latest example of interfaith harmony

  • Purpose of the school is to make all members of society able to compete in the international market
  • Computer academy will change the lives of Sikh students, says community member

PESHAWAR: A model Sikh school established in the heart of Peshawar City is the latest example of interreligious unity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Located near Peshawar's Mohalla Jogan Shah neighborhood, inside the historic walled city, the school is the first of its kind in the province. Run by the Sikh community, it has a Muslim principal and staff members. This pluralist and inclusive approach informs the foundation of the Rising Hope School, as levels of trust between Muslims and Sikhs are high in this area.

With the support of KP government Baba Guru Nanak School of Steam has inaugurated in Peshawar, 15 November, 2019. Inside Gurdawara Bhai Joga Singh, Sikh Community elders welcome government officials on 15 November 2019. (AN)

Bilal Ahmad, a watchman in his mid-fifties, warmly welcomes arriving students and chats with them. He says that guarding the children gives him solace. When the school was established in 2014, the security situation in the city was not good, but it did not dispirit Ahmad, who says he is there for the sake of education and protecting those who receive it. “I am here to protect the beacon of education and kids from any barbarism,” he said, explaining that the school represents “the true Pakistan,” where students of different faiths and backgrounds come to learn. Keeping them safe is to him “safeguarding the nation.”
The Rising Hope, is the only Sikh community-based school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where 300 Sikh and Muslims pupils study up to the eighth grade. As the school building is already too small to accommodate them all, the provincial government has allocated Rs 20 million to construct a new one.
On Friday, November 15, while inaugurating Baba Guru Nanak School of Steam, a computer academy at the school, the adviser on elementary and secondary education to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief minister, Zia Ullah Bangash, told Arab News that works on the building will start soon and there are plans to expand it to the grade 10 level.

Government representatives with Sikh elders inside Gurdawara Bhai Joga Singh on 15, November, 2019. (AN)

The special assistant to the chief minister on science and information technology, Kamran Khan Bangash, said the government had provided an IT teacher, furnished computer classrooms, and will bear all the expenses related to running IT classes. He added that the purpose of the school is to improve computer literacy to make all members of society able to compete in the international market.
“Our religion and constitution ensure the rights of minorities, and with this objective we are providing equal opportunities to every citizen,” Bangash said.
The development was welcomed by the Sikh community.

Sikh Community elders are with Chief Minister adviser for education Zia Ullah Bangasha and Special Assistant for Information Technology Kamran Khan, 15 November 2019. (AN)

“The Kartarpur Corridor, Baba Guru Nanak University, the Rs 50 coin and now the School of Steam are historical acts and symbols of unity and harmony among all communities,” Gul Charan Singh member of Sikh community said. “This computer academy will change the lives of Sikh students and will also make them able to compete for IT-related jobs in the future. Although the Sikh community is not educated, we play a role in the country’s economy,” he added.
“This is a great long-lasting gift from the KP government on the great occasion of the 250th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak,” Baba Gorpal Singh, an elder of the Sikh community told Arab News. “Now our children will be able to compete in the IT field.”
“Diverse Pakistan is the real image of pluralism and inclusiveness,” Balbeer Singh, a young member of the Sikh community said. “Actually, the inclusion of students of different backgrounds sends a strong message to propagandists outside the borders. Pakistan is our land and we have taken the oath of protecting it and living here till our last breath,” he said.
For centuries, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been home to thousands of Sikh families. There are 7,500 adherents of Sikhism in Mohalla Jogan Shah alone.
Harmeet Singh runs his cellphone business in Peshawar without fear, as he also participates in social and cultural events. “I attend the wedding ceremonies of Muslim friends, as I am a part of this society and follow its culture,” he told Arab News. “Together with Muslims, we arrange blood donations, free medical camps, and take part in other social activities.”

US blacklists former Karachi cop for ‘serious human rights abuse’

Updated 11 December 2019

US blacklists former Karachi cop for ‘serious human rights abuse’

  • Former district police chief Rao Anwar was granted bail in the Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case in July
  • Young Mehsud’s family welcomed the US decision, hoping he would also get justice in his own country

KARACHI: Family of Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring model who was killed in a staged police encounter in January 2018, applauded the United States on Wednesday for adding former police officer Rao Anwar to its list of individuals responsible for committing human rights abuses in different parts of the world.

“During his tenure as the Senior Superintendent of Police in District Malir, Pakistan, Rao Anwar Khan (Anwar) was reportedly responsible for staging numerous fake police encounters in which individuals were killed by police, and was involved in over 190 police encounters that resulted in the deaths of over 400 people, including the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsood,” a handout circulated by the US Department of Treasury said.

Anwar, it further noted, led a network of police and criminal thugs that was allegedly involved in extortion, land grabbing, illegal drug trade, and murder.

“Anwar is designated for being responsible for or complicit in, or having directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuses,” the statement added.

The US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, took action against 18 individuals based in Burma, Pakistan, Libya, Slovakia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan for their roles in serious human rights abuses.

“The United States will not tolerate torture, kidnapping, sexual violence, murder, or brutality against innocent civilians,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “America is the world leader in combating human rights abuse and we will hold perpetrators and enablers accountable wherever they operate.”

“Treasury’s action focuses on those who have killed, or ordered the killing of innocents who stood up for human rights including journalists, opposition members, and lawyers,” said Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich.

Mehsud’s family said they were happy with the US decision and hoped they would also get justice in Pakistan.

Malik Hashim Mehsud, a member of the family, said the American move to sanction Anwar was commendable.

“The US sanctions against Rao Anwar or anyone violating human rights should be appreciated,” Mehsud told Arab News, adding that the case of Naqeebullah’s extra-judicial murder was pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and it was his family’s hope that justice would ultimately prevail.

“The sanctions imposed on Rao Anwar by the US treasury department should embarrass our criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies who have failed to provide justice so far and not launched an investigation into the killings of 444 individuals who were murdered by him,” a prominent activist and lawyer, Jibran Nasir, told Arab news.

Senior Superintendent of Police Rao Anwar claimed on January 13, 2018, that he had killed four terrorists who were associated with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Daesh.

Four days later, on January 17, friends of Nasimullah Mehsud, popularly known as Naqeebullah Mehsud, claimed on social media that one of Anwar’s victims was known to them, adding that the 24-year-old man was an aspiring model, not a terrorist.

Later, the Supreme Court of Pakistan decided to take a look into the matter, prompting Anwar to abscond.

He surrendered to the court in March 2018 and remained under house arrest until he was granted bail in July 2019. Soon after that, Mehsud’s father, Muhammad Khan Mehsud, who passed away earlier this month, requested the country’s judiciary to cancel the bail.