Truth behind govt’s approach to Sikh religious affairs in Pak

By Prof Sarchand Singh

Pakistan always tries to wash away its stigma of being a pro-terrorist country in the world community. The idea of opening the Kartarpur Corridor was also hatched to improve its image and mislead Sikhs around the world.

But in reality, Pakistan holds a guileful attitude towards minorities. Despite its best efforts for progress and economic prosperity, the oppressive system/mindset has never been lenient for minorities. Hindus and Sikhs are infidels and persecution of infidels is like ‘charity’ for Islamic fundamentalists.

As far as the status of the historical gurdwaras in Pakistan is concerned, they are managed by the so-called Pakistan Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), which does not have much authority over the religious affairs of the Sikhs.

The claim is that this committee has been formed on the lines of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee of India having status/stature like a state but in reality, the PSGPC is a puppet working under the dominance of Muslim-oriented Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which operates under the Pakistan Waqf Board.

According to the India-Pakistan agreement, it was declared that the ETPB’s chairman would be a Hindu or a Sikh, but Pakistan has never complied on the pretext that no non-Muslim can be given responsibility for such a large body in an Islamic country.

Also, the Supreme Court of Pakistan did not implement the order to appoint a Hindu or Sikh as the Chairman of the board. Actually, the board has been under the command of Pakistan’s ISI since its inception.

What has this Muslim-oriented board done so far for Sikhs? During Partition, more than 1,130 Hindu temples and 517 gurdwaras were abandoned by Hindus and Sikhs. Today, only 30 temples and 17 gurdwaras have been opened up by the ETPB.

In addition, Gurdwara Bebe Nanaki, Dera Chahal Lahore (land worth 800 crore PKR), which is under the control of the Waqf Board, was hit by a tragic case of demolition four years ago. Half of the land of Gurudwara Nankana Sahib has been sold. In May 2019, centuries-old Nanak Mahal in Narowal- a four-storey building was demolished and its expensive doors and windows were sold.

The magnificent Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Mahla Mandi Sahiwal, built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, has been converted into a jail. Gurdwara Karam Singh Ahluwalia on the banks of the river Jhelum was earlier a police station and now is being repaired with the help of foreign funding.

The value of Sikhs in Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that a 9-foot-tall statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh established at Lahore Imperial Fort has been broken three times by the extremists. Statistically, around 109,404 acres of agricultural land and 46,499 acres of built-up urban sub-units belonging to temples and gurdwaras are occupied by politically influential people or the land mafia.

The PGPC in actuality is a ‘dummy’ committee because it has no right to take decisions on Sikh religious matters in Pakistan. For instance, Sikh organizations across the globe celebrate “Gurpurab” according to the Nanakshahi calendar but in Pakistan, Gurpurab is being celebrated by government orders according to their calendar which has been negated by the Akal Takht (the highest shrine of the Sikhs).

In addition, PGPC has low (18,000 PKR) salaried staff, they too are mostly made up of Muslims (more than 70%). The real Sikhs are not put on duty. A separate committee, the Punjabi Sikh Sangat, oversees the management of Akhand Path Sahib in Pakistan’s gurdwaras, with the aim of soliciting foreign donations.

Any person who raises his voice for Sikh rights is deliberately sidelined. Even, the Sikh Marriage Act of 2007 was not passed due to pressure from extremists.

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