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Editorial: Diversity under attack

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In the past three decades, close to 99 percent of Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan have left the country. An investigation by TOLOnews reveals that the Sikh and Hindu population number was 220,000 in the 1980’s. That number dropped sharply to 15,000 when the mujahideen took power during the 1990’s and remained at that level during the Taliban regime. It is now estimated that only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs remain in the country. But this could further turn down after a suicide bomber struck a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus arriving to meet President Ashraf Ghani in Jalalabad, the capital city of eastern Nangarhar province. Hope it won’t happen. We lost 17 Afghans, including 13 members of our Sikh countrymen. Atvar Singh Khalsa, the only Sikh candidate running in elections this year, is among those killed. This is indeed a great blow to the country’s celebration over diversity that has been affected by decades of war and bloodshed. Khalsa candidacy has earned widespread attention across the country and even abroad. This had opened new chapter in Afghanistan and immense dedication of our Sikhs to the country in the face of spiteful times. No more Singh is among us, and no longer runs for the parliament. Terrorists killed him along others. He stood up to fight for the rights. His main reason behind racing was to practice democracy in its true letter and spirit. He was a patriot Afghan citizen of Sikh faith. Our hearts are broken at the loss of our proud and resilient Sikh Afghans and the rest. It was a tragedy and an attack against diversity in Afghanistan. “This country is my motherland. There are 14 people in my family and I will sacrifice them all for Afghanistan. The day I get a bullet in my chest for the sake of Afghanistan will be the proudest day of my life,” Singh said to BBC a week before his death. All Afghans, including Hindu and Sikh citizens are the victims of terrorism from one source. Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh extremist group claimed responsibility, and its source of feeding is Pakistan—a state sponsoring terrorism. “The ISI backed terrorists killed Mr. Khalisa, a patriot Afghan citizen of Sikh faith running for parliament whose ancestors have been owners of this land for thousands of years. Targeting Sikh and Hindus is like massacring pigeon and doves in our own backyard. A stain on forehead of Taliban,” ex-NDS chief, Amrullah Saleh twitted. Must stand together to fight terrorism and its sponsoring Pakistan in a bid to be freed from menace of terrorism. The attack again underlined the need for united global fight against international terrorism without discrimination and accountability of those who support terrorists in any manner.