Two Sikh businessmen were shot dead by the Islamic State terrorists in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, the latest targeted attack against the minority community members in the restive province bordering Afghanistan.
Kanwaljeet Singh, 42, and Ranjeet Singh, 38, died on the spot after being attacked by two bike-borne assailants in the morning in Bata Tal bazaar of Sarband, Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to the police.
The attackers fled after carrying out the attack.
The victims were in the business of spices and had shops in the Bata Tal bazaar in Sarband, about 17 kms from Peshawar.
The Islamic State's Khorasan unit (ISKP) claimed via its propaganda news service 'Amaaq' that it carried out the attack targeting two Sikhs in Peshawar. The ISKP is an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) active in South Asia and Central Asia.
The Counter-Terrorism Department registered a case of murder of the two Sikh men, Saddar Superintendent of Police Aqiq Hussain told Geo News.
"The incident appears to be a terrorist attack. The CCTV footage will be acquired and the suspects will be arrested soon," he said.
A large number of angry Sikh protesters blocked the Peshawar-Islamabad road in front of Qila Bala Hissar to register their protest against the killing. They were holding placards against the brutal killings and raising slogans - "Stop target killings", "We want justice."
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the incident and directed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to ensure immediate arrest and punishment of the culprits. He also ordered a high level inquiry into the incident.
"Strongly condemn the killing of our Sikh citizens in Peshawar, KP. Pakistan belongs to all its people. Have ordered a high level inquiry to ascertain facts. The killers will be arrested & meted out exemplary punishment. My most sincere sympathies to the bereaved families," he tweeted.
He urged the chief minister to ensure steps for the protection of the lives and properties of the citizens, particularly of non-Muslims.
He observed that enmity with Pakistan was the reason behind this "act of terrorism" and resolved to eliminate the enemies of the country, the report said.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah criticised the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for the attack and sought a report from the provincial chief secretary and inspector general of police.
"The KP government has terribly failed at protecting the minorities," Mr Sanaullah said, indicating past incidents of violence against Sikhs in the province.
He urged law enforcement agencies and the provincial government led by Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to ensure the security of minorities.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan condemned the attack and directed the police to take immediate steps to arrest the culprits.
He said that the incident was a conspiracy to disrupt the inter-faith harmony in the province.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called for the immediate arrest of those involved.
"No one will be allowed to disturb inter-faith harmony in the country and harm national unity," he said in a statement, adding that the Pakistan Peoples Party was the country's real representative party and would not abandon the Sikh community.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the killing.
"This is not the first time that the Sikh community in KP has been targeted and we demand that the KP police identify and arrest the perpetrators promptly," it said.
It also called on the government to "make it clear that violence against religious minorities will not be tolerated".
The All Pakistan Ulema Council (APUC) also condemned the killing.
APUC head Tahir Ashrafi said that the Peshawar administration should ensure protection of non-Muslims citizens and arrest the murderers of Ranjeet and Kanwaljeet.
"The continuing attacks on our Sikh community are an example of the fall out from Pakistan's suicidal policies in Afghanistan. Be it TTP, Afghan Taliban or ISKP, they are all the products of a terror supporting mindset who have used the resources of the state to nurture terrorism," said Mohsin Dawar, Member of the National Assembly, North Waziristan.
About 15,000 Sikhs live in Peshawar, mostly in the Jogan Shah neighbourhood of the provincial capital Peshawar. Most of the members of the Sikh community in Peshawar are involved in business, while some also have pharmacies.
In September last year, a well-known Sikh 'hakeem' (Unani medicine practitioner) was shot dead by unidentified gunmen inside his clinic in Peshawar.
In 2018, Charanjit Singh, a prominent Sikh community member, was killed by unknown men in Peshawar.
Similarly, news channel anchor Ravinder Singh was killed in 2020 in the city.
In 2016, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf National Assembly member Soren Singh was also killed in Peshawar.
According to the 2017 census, Hindus constitute the largest religious minority in Pakistan. Christians make up the second largest religious minority.
The Ahmadis, Sikhs and Parsis are also among the notable religious minorities in Pakistan.