Afghan Sikh leader holds out hope for dwindling minority

Source: Associated Press

By RAHIM FAIEZ

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Avtar Singh Khalsa will represent Afghanistan’s tiny Sikh and Hindu minority in the next parliament, where he says he hopes to serve the entire country.

Few Afghans are as invested in the government’s quest for peace and stability as the dwindling Sikh and Hindu minorities, which have been decimated by decades of conflict. The community numbered more than 80,000 in the 1970s, but today only around 1,000 remain.

Khalsa, a Sikh and longtime leader of the community, will run unopposed for a seat in the lower house of parliament that was apportioned to the minority by presidential decree in 2016. After the October election, he will be a solitary voice among 259 legislators, but hopes his 10 years of service in the Afghan army can help him secure a seat on the defense and security committee.

“I don’t only want to serve my Sikh and Hindu brothers. I have to be able to serve all the Afghan people, no matter which ethnicity or group they belong to. Our services must reach everyone,” he told The Associated Press during an interview inside a colorfully decorated temple in Kabul.

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