By Ravinder Singh Robin
New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has sought a fresh count of the number of Gurdwaras in Pakistan following a controversy.
The SGPC — Sikh’s single largest representative body in the world, has asked the Pakistan government to conduct a fresh count of Gurdwaras to bring an end to the confusion created by Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and the ruling party’s Member National Assembly (MNA) Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.
Talking to the media, spokesperson of ETPB, Aamir Hashmi said there were 105 Gurdwaras in Pakistan out of which 18 were functional while the other Gurdwaras were involved in some or other kind of litigation and were closed.
Sources, however, said land grabbers in connivance with some officials of ETPB had encroached upon the Gurdwara buildings and their properties whose cases were pending in courts.
Contradicting the claim of ETPB, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s MNA Vankwani claimed that there were 588 Gurdwaras in Pakistan and not 105 as claimed by ETPB . However, he agreed with the ETPB’s claim that 18 Gurdwaras were open and functional.
Blaming ETPB for usurping the Gurdwaras of Pakistan allegedly by keeping the Sikh diasporas in dark and in cahoots with some of the Sikh leaders of Pakistan including the office bearers of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), Vankwani alleged that ETPB had deliberately hidden the actual number of Gurdwaras since its officials had been sheltering the land sharks who had encroached upon Gurdwaras and were also siphoning off the funds received from Pakistan government for the development of Gurdwaras.
Lahore based historian Iqbal Qaiser who has also authored a book titled ‘Historical Sikh Shrines in Pakistan’, claimed that there were 135 historical Gurdwraras in Pakistan that were directly related to Sikh Gurus whereas the total number of Gurdwaras exceeds 300.
Surprised over the confusion on the number of Gurdwaras in Pakistan, SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur appealed to Pakistan government to immediately hold a fresh count of Gurdwaras in Pakistan including historical and those constructed before and after India-Pakistan partition in 1947.
Notably, Pakistan has granted pilgrimage visas to visit only six of its historical Gurdwaras including Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Souda Sahib, Gurdwara Rohri Sahib and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
“We are of the view that there are around 250 Gurdwaras in Pakistan but now Pakistan’s ETPB and its MNA are giving a different number of Gurdwaras which is worrisome for us and we want Pakistan government to hold a fresh count of Gurdwaras,” said Jagir Kaur.
Vankwani went on to allege that ETPB had constituted PSGPC as a frontal body to ‘make a deal of religious properties of Sikhs’ through it. “PSGPC’s Sikh leaders are on the payroll of ETPB and they issue statements in favour of ETPB so that Sikhs living in India or other countries don’t get suspicious of ETPB’s activities,” Vankwani alleged.