Finally, some good news on the minorities’ front! Mere hours after news of Harmeet Singh, Pakistan’s first Sikh journalist, receiving death threats from Mardan Central Jail flashed on a news channel, the ruling PTI was quick to come to his rescue. First, Prime Minister Imran Khan took strict notice of the dreadful incident. This was followed by personal assurance by Inspector General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police that immediate action would be pursued against culprits as well as their facilitators in Mardan Jail. It was a delightful sight to see Singh in his signature cheery demeanour as he conveyed thanks to both media and the state for listening to his pleas. In his words, “Imran Khan’s words were to me like an assurance pat from a family elder; rendering much support!”
The past year had been unbearably hard for the journalist and his family. Last January, his brother Parvinder Singh, was cold-bloodedly murdered by hitmen hired by his fiance, Prem Kumari, when he was taking care of last-minute wedding errands. Adding to the injury was a well-orchestrated Indian campaign to paint the killing with religious hues to malign Pakistan for supposed persecution of minorities. Thankfully, the diplomatic office was quick to respond with a categorical denial of such fabricated allegations and an extensive murder investigation. Fast forward one year and the bereaving Singh was subjected to death threats from Kumari’s accomplice for pursuing the murder case. The fact that jail’s landline was used to pressurize the journalist to reconcile if his family did not wish to suffer further.
The state’s assurance has glimmered as much-needed hope for the troubled family repeatedly calling for protection as well as immediate pursual of Parvinder’s murder case proceedings. This appreciation is, however, not to make light of the murderer using the official number to carry out his nefarious design. How could the Mardan Jail administration let this dismal occurrence slip under their noses? The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government needs to answer some tough questions. Police officers, including deputy inspector-general, stepping up to find the black sheep within are a good start. Still, only an extensive departmental review can lay bare the impunity criminals enjoy inside the four walls of the prison. If a murderer can join hands with his warden to threaten someone, who knows what else he is capable of.