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The Noble 'Servant' Of Peshawar


Khurshid Khan (in yellow head-covering) shining shoes to help show brotherhood with the Sikh community in Peshawar.

Khurshid Khan (in yellow head-covering) shining shoes to help show brotherhood with the Sikh community in Peshawar.

Khurshid Khan, an eminent 60-year-old lawyer and deputy attorney general of Pakistan, wants to "heal the wounds" of the terror-stricken minority Sikh community in that country.

So he does an extraordinary thing at a temple in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Every day, once he's handled his work as a legal expert, Khan visits a Sikh temple in the center of the city, wraps a piece of cloth around his head to show his respect, and sits in the doorway to shine the shoes of Sikhs, whose community has come under frequent attack by Taliban militants.

Two months back, militants in Khyber Agency abducted three Sikhs and demanded a huge ransom for their release. Two were eventually freed. But one, Jispal Singh, was killed in brutal fashion and his corpse left on the roadside in the tribal area.

"I went to offer my condolences to the family of Jispal Singh and that was a turning point in my life," Khan tells RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal. "I realized that as a Pashtun I should work to 'heal their wounds' by becoming their sewadar (servant). I want to give them a message of love and brotherhood, and that's why every day I am here to shine their shoes."

Khan says he is himself a landlord and doesn't even shine his own shoes at home. But his cause inspires him to sit on the ground on a daily basis and shine 70 to 80 pairs of shoes.

"I can see the light of love in their eyes for me and my people," he maintains.

He adds that Sikhs have lived in the area with the dominant Pashtun communities for centuries, pay taxes, and play an important role in the economic progress of the region. But still, he laments, we fail to protect their lives and property.

They are being killed and kidnapped by the Taliban in Orakzai, Kurrum, and Khyber tribal regions, Khan says, adding that other Pakistanis must stand by them in these critical hours and give them a sense of oneness and brotherhood.

An estimated 28,000 Sikhs live in Pakistan, including about 10,000 who live in the tribal region and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of the conflict-ridden country. In May 2009, Taliban militants destroyed 11 Sikh homes in the Orakzai tribal district after accusing them of failing to pay "taxes." The ongoing conflict in the Buner and Swat districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has displaced more than 200 families.

-- Shaheen Buneri

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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