Two members of the Sikh community were killed after unidentified assailants opened fire on them near the outskirts of Peshawar, police said on Sunday.
In a statement, Peshawar Capital City Police Office Ijaz Khan said that the incident occurred within the jurisdiction of the Sarband police station.
He also identified the victims as 42-year-old Suljeet Singh and 38-year-old Ranjeet Singh, adding that they owned spice shops in the Batatal locality.
Police reached the scene soon after receiving information about the incident and shifted the bodies to the hospital for an autopsy, Khan said, adding that officials were also collecting evidence from the scene of the crime.
"CCTV cameras from surrounding areas are also being checked," he said, adding that a search operation had been launched in the area to nab the suspects who managed to escape.
"Those involved in the incident will soon be unmasked," the officer said.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan took notice of the incident and order the KP Inspector General of Police to arrest the perpetrators. He added that the incident was an attempt to disrupt the law and order of Peshawar.
Condemnations pour in
Government officials and rights bodies voiced their shock and horror at the killings.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and members of his cabinet were among the first to issue condemnations.
In a statement, PM Shehbaz told the chief minister to take steps to ensure the safety of the lives and the property of citizens, especially minorities. He also directed the KP CM to ensure the arrest of the suspects and punish them according to the law.
He held "Pakistan's enemies" responsible for the incident and vowed to "eradicate them from the face of the earth". He also assured the victims' families of the federal government's full cooperation in arresting the suspects.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah criticised the KP government for its failure to protect minorities. He said that he had asked for a report on the incident from the chief secretary and the IG.
He noted that this was not the first such incident and several others targeting the province's Sikh community had occurred in the past.
"The provincial government and law enforcement agencies should ensure the safety of Pakistani citizens belonging to minority communities," he said, adding that the perpetrators should be arrested in accordance with the premier's directives.
Meanwhile, Bilawal 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 PPP was the country's real representative party and would not abandon the Sikh community.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) strongly condemned the murders. "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 also called on the government to "make it clear that violence against religious minorities will not be tolerated".