5th October 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Police in Peshawar said no arrests have been made yet in the murder of a Sikh herbalist as a banned militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility for his killing.
On September 30, Satnam Singh was shot dead in his herbal medicine store in Peshawar by unidentified assailant(s). In a statement on 1st October, the militant group said Satnam Singh, 45, was a polytheist and shot dead by its members.
A police investigator said several people have been questioned in the murder investigation but no arrests have been made yet. “We have questioned more than 20 people, mostly of whom were neighbouring shopkeepers of Satnam Singh, but no arrests have been made in the murder case,” Hamayat Khan, investigation officer of Faqirabad police station told Voicepk.net.
Khan said the investigation so far has not determined the number of the assailants. “None of the neighbouring shopkeepers claim to have heard gun shots on the day of the murder,” he said.
The police investigator said they were utilizing all resources to apprehend the assailants. Asked whether the police team were also looking into the claim of responsibility by the IS, Khan said the murder investigation was on going but the IS claim did not look credible.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Manmohan Singh, brother of Satnam Singh, said his brother’s family was still in shock and grief over the murder. “Satnam Singh did not speak of any threat to him prior to his gruesome murder,” Manmohan Singh said in response to a question whether his brother had been threated by militant groups.
Singh said police officials have told him that they were very close to arresting the murderers. He said government leaders have assured Satnam’s family of justice during visits and calls for condolences. However, the murder has spread fear and panic in the small Sikh community in the province.
According to Manmohan Singh, his brother was running his herbal medicine shop in the city for about 20 years. “The family migrated to Peshawar from the Tirah valley,” he said. Satnam leaves behind a widow, three married daughters and two teenaged sons, Singh said, adding that he had moved his family to Hasan Abdal about two years ago. “Satnam operated his shop in Peshawar while his sons and wife lived in Hasan Abdal,” Singh said.
The senate chairman has also called a report from the provincial police chief over Satnam Singh’s murder, according to Gurdeep Singh, Pakistan’s first senator from the Sikh minority community. Speaking on the floor of the Upper House, the senator said a fresh wave of target killings of minority community members has begun in the country. Referring to the Sikh herbalist’s murder in Peshawar, the senator said 10 members from the Sikh community had been murdered in the provincial capital in targeted attacks in recent years. He called on the federal interior minister to constitute a special committee, headed by the provincial police chief, to investigate the targeted killing of the Sikh community member.
Following the murder, Inspector General of Police Moazzam Jah Ansari had visited Gurdawara Jogan Shah in Peshawar and offered condolences to the victim’s family and the Sikh community. He assured the Sikh community that those involved in the murder would be apprehended and punished, calling it a test case for the Peshawar police.
The provincial government has denied presence of the militant group IS in Khyber Pakhtunkwa. According to analyst Mubasher Bukhari, splinter factions from Tehrik Taliban Pakistan had announced their joining the IS militant group. “Most of the Pakistani Taliban members who joined the IS as operatives were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Shahid Ullah Shahid, a former spokesperson of the Pakistani Taliban,” Bukhari said.
There are number of Taliban splinter cells still present in Khyber Pakhunkhwa that have pledged support to the IS militant group, Bukhari said. “It’s quite possible that the IS could be behind the killing of the Sikh community member,” he said.
In the past, the IS has claimed responsibility for killings and attacks carried out by splinter groups supportive to their cause in Pakistan. If no other militant outfit is claiming the attack other than the IS makes it more credible,” he added.