Among the tens of thousands who have fled their homes in Swat Valley and the adjacent Buner district of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are about 2,000 Sikhs who have taken refuge in a Sikh shrine in Hasanabdal, a town about 50 kilometers from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. According to Gulbeer Singh, head priest at the Sri Punja Sahib shrine, about 207 families from Buner District and 96 from Swat had taken refuge there. The number of Sikh internally displaced persons (IDPs), he said, is roughly 2,000.
Some 20,000 Sikhs live in Pakistan, according to the US Department of State, and a study on Swat’s Sikhs by the Islamabad-based Quaid-i-Azam University in 2005 estimated the Sikh population of Swat to be about 2,000.
Manisha, a 14-year-old girl who fled on foot from Swat Valley with her 16-member extended family, said: “I saw a woman wailing with the dead body of her 15-day-old baby. The baby had been dead for two days but she was unable to give him a proper burial.” Sukhvinder Kaur, who fled Swat with her two daughters and husband, wondered what would happen to her home. “We just came to this gurdwara [Sikh temple] with the clothes we are in,” she said. (IRIN, May 12)