THE SIKH COMMUNITY IN PAKISTAN
Joys and sorrows; success and failure; blames and appreciations; life is certainly a strange collection of contradictions. On one hand the world around has joined hands together to blame and defame Pakistan for religious extremism, inter-sect intolerance and for patronizing terrorist and terrorism but at the same time on the other hand there are people, certainly not Muslims, who seem thankful to Pakistan for taking care of their places of worship in Pakistan and for providing all basic religious rights to the minorities living in Pakistan as citizens and even to those who come to Pakistan for visiting their places of worship. The Sikh community is a wonderful example in this regard.
Our Sikh brothers are always obliged and thankful to Pakistan for showering kindness and hospitality onto the members of their community. On 20th Jan 2018 at Asia Pacific University Kuala Lumpur, a book launching seminar was organized by the Malaysian-Sikh community. The title of the book is ‘Lost Heritage-the Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, the Quest Continues.’ Singapore based Mr. Amardeep Singh is the author of this book. Earlier he had penned-down a book on the same topic; this one is his second book. Mr. Mohammad Nafees Zakria, the High Commissioner of Pakistan was invited to the seminar as the Chief Guest. The book in itself is a documented proof of the fact that Pakistan is a land of safety and security for the minorities particularly for the Sikh community. The author of the book Mr. Amardeep Singh was also there to express his views on the occasion. In his address he told the audience about the warm welcome extended to him by the people of Pakistan during his frequent visits to the country for the completion of his research work on the topic. He appreciated Pakistani authorities for their warm hospitality and complete support by providing him logistics, security and access to the innumerable Sikh heritage sites across Pakistan. In short the seminar at the Asia Pacific University Kuala Lumpur became the voice of the whole Sikh community in favour and appreciation of Pakistan.
Pakistan is a land enriched with precious cultural heritage of many ancient civilizations and religions and this precious heritage is taken care by a nation which always follows a tolerant, hospitable, and just policy towards adherents of all faiths and religions including Sikhs. There are13 major Gurdwara Sahibs in Pakistan and the government of Pakistan in consultation with Pakistani Sikh community is constantly striving to upgrade and restore historical Sikh sites in phases. Recently, 3 major Gurdwaras have been rehabilitated in Lahore. Every year thousands of Sikhs come to Pakistan from various parts of the world to visit their religious places and most of the times while going back to their home they say that Pakistan is their second home and they never feel they are strange here. As far as the Sikh community is concerned, the people of Pakistan have a special kind of sincere love for this community. It is only because of the warm welcoming tradition of the people of Pakistan that in 2017 over 70,000 Sikh pilgrims visited their sacred places in Pakistan and it is being anticipated that the number of Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan would keep on increasing in the coming years.
Pakistan, being a Muslim society knows it very well what the rights of the minorities are. Here, in every field of life the minorities enjoy complete opportunities of making progress and a complete freedom of leading their lives according to their own will. It is also true that sometimes someone from a minority has to face some unpleasant situation but that is always at individual or personal level. As a nation and as a country Pakistan provides all possible safety and security to all minorities along with all possible opportunities of making progress. If we talk of the Sikh community, we find its members in Pakistani Parliament, the Armed Forces and the civil services as well as in show-business and journalism. It is not only limited to the Sikh community only; we have examples from the Hindus and the Christian community too. From honourable Justice A. R. Cornelius to honourable Justice Bhagwan Das, there had been so many others who played a very important role in making Pakistan’s a very successful society. Harcharan Singh became the first Sikh Officer of Pakistan’s army. Another Sikh officer named Sikh Amarjit Singh joined the Pakistan Rangers in 2010; the same year another Sikh young man joined the Pakistan Coast Guard. A report on the status of the Sikh community in Pakistan says, ‘ Recently in Lahore greetings, such as sat sari kaal, jo bolay so nihal and ballay ballay from car and bus drivers, motorcyclists and children were being yelled out to Gulab Singh, the first-ever Sikh to be appointed as a traffic police warden in Pakistan.’ Commenting on his training process, Gulab Singh said talking to media, “The attitude of my fellow trainees and officers was very good towards me. Nobody ever forced me to do anything against my religious beliefs.” He said he had no problems wearing his kara or keeping his kirpan on him. He added that green meals were arranged for him in the mess during the training period as he was a vegetarian. In spite of the propaganda move run by the forces hostile to Pakistan, all these incidents and happenings prove that Pakistan is a safe-land for all minorities whether they belong to Pakistan or some other country. Certainly some people would not agree but fact of the matter is that today countries like India and US have become more dangerous for the minorities particularly. After Mr. Trump’s insulting remarks on the black people; situation has become more agonizing and more painful for the racial and religious minorities in US.