Taliban militants have demolished 11 homes of members of the minority Sikh community in Pakistan's troubled Aurakzai tribal region after they failed to pay 'jiziya' or a tax levied on non-Muslims.
The houses were destroyed on the orders of Taliban commander Hakeemullah Mehsud, the head of the militants in Aurakzai Agency and a deputy of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud.
The militants acted after a deadline set by them for payment of 'jiziya' by the Sikhs expired on Wednesday. The Sikhs held a meeting at Merozai on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of leaving the area but were unable to reach a decision, media reports said.
Though the Sikhs have been living in Aurakzai Agency for centuries, the Taliban asked them earlier this month to pay Rs 50 million a year as jiziya. The militants claimed this was being done as Shariah or Islamic law had been enforced in the area and all non-Muslims had to pay "protection money".
There are about 35 Sikh families living in Ferozkhel near Merozai in Aurakzai Agency. The Taliban occupied two shops and three homes of Sikhs in Ferozkhel on Tuesday to pressure the community into paying 'jiziya'.
Several tribal families belonging to a religious sect have also migrated from Aurakzai Agency to nearby Kohat and Hangu districts of North West Frontier Province due to fear of attacks by the Taliban. Though the Sikhs were initially provided protection in keeping with Pashtun traditions by the Manikhel tribe, the tribesmen are fearful of taking on the Taliban.
In October last year, over 100 people were killed in a suicide attack on a tribal jirga in Aurakzai Agency that had gathered to discuss ways to evict the Taliban from the area.
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