25 Sikh families return home in Orakzai agency

The Sikh families, who were escorted by officials of the political administration and security forces, returned to the Utmankhel and Feroze Khel areas of Orakzai Agency, which has witnessed an upsurge in violence since last week.

The Political Agent of Orakzai Agency, Riaz Khan Mehsud, and the Pakistan Army's local commander, Col Habib-ur-Rehman, received the Sikh families in Chamjana area. Forty more Sikh families will be repatriated soon, an official told PTI.

A delegation from the Sikh community has asked authorities to make arrangements for their safe return, officials said. A delegation of Sikh elders from the troubled tribal belt had earlier denied news reports that 65 families of the minority community had refused to return to their homes in Orakzai Agency though the area has been cleared of Taliban fighters.

A six-member group of Sikh leaders assured the Political Agent of the community's full support in the repatriation of internally displaced persons from Orakzai Agency. In addition to a month's rations, non-food supplies and transportation facilities will be provided to the returning Sikh families, the Political Agent said.

Newspapers had reported that members of the Sikh community were reluctant to return to their homes in Orakzai Agency due to fears of being punished by militants. The reports said they had refused to return even though the government has claimed that 95 per cent of the area of Orakzai Agency had been secured by troops.

The Sikhs had fled their homes in the tribal region along the Afghan border after receiving threats from the Taliban. In some areas, the Sikhs fled after security forces launched operations to flush out militants. The northwestern city of Peshawar and the tribal belt have a sizeable Sikh population. The Sikhs have been living in the region for centuries and many of them are petty traders.

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