– Sikh students top Lahore Board’s matriculation exam in Pakistan

Sikh24 Editors

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 19 July 2019. The Sikh students, resident of Nankana Sahib, have topped the matriculation examination taken by the Lahore based Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) in Pakistan.

Sharing the development with media, the head granthi of Gurdwara Baal Leela Sahib Bhai Sukhbir Singh Sukhi and Babar Jalandhari informed that three Sikh boys and two Sikh girls have scored ‘A’ and ‘A+’ grades in the matriculation examination.

They further informed that these Sikh toppers will be honoured by the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and Punjabi Sikh Sangat for their achievements.

Sikh students top Lahore Board’s matriculation exam in Pakistan – Sikh community challenges council’s refusal to allow new temple [Gurdwara]

The present Hawke’s Bay Gurdwara

Marty Sharpe

Hawke’s Bay – North Island – New Zealand, 19 July 2019. The Hawke’s Bay Sikh community is challenging a decision by Hastings District Council that prevents them from building a temple on agricultural land.

The New Zealand Sikh Society (Hastings) Incorporated sought resource consent to build the temple and associated buildings in an area in Hastings zoned ‘Plains Production Zone’.

The society said the Hawke’s Bay Sikh community had grown substantially since the first 3-4 families arrived in the region in the late 1980s to about 1,500 people now, and the current temple [Gurdwara] on Eastbourne Street in central Hastings was no longer big enough.

Their application noted that places of assembly were not permitted in the zone, but nor were they prohibited.

The society had analysed a number of sites before selecting a property on Richmond Road, near the Tomoana/Whakatu area.

In January the council refused the application.

The council said that while the adverse effects on the environment were likely to be no more than minor, the proposal would result in the loss of high quality soils and represented “ad hoc development” that would “individually or cumulatively reduce the life-supporting capacity and economic use of the soil resource and its availability for future generations.

It represented a creep of urban activities where there was a clear urban boundary, the council said.

The council said the site chosen by the society was within an area identified for future wet industry growth once capacity had been reached at Whakatu.

The society objected to the council’s decision.

It said the council relied on objectives that maintained the life-supporting capacity of the soil as grounds to decline consent, yet it’s long-term intent was for further industrial growth in the area.

“It is incongruous to deny the Sikh community the opportunity to develop a place of worship in this location on the basis of preserving the land in question for some future and speculative wet industrial activity,” the society said in its objection.

“What makes this application unique is that it is for a place of assembly and it will be the only Sikh temple [Gurdwara] in the region. There will be relatively few, if any, similar such applications before the council in the future,” it said.

The objection will be heard by the council’s hearings committee on July 29.


India Today – Gopal Chawla still on ETP Board’s panel which controls Sikh body

Gopal Singh Chawla was removed as Secretary of PSGPC after India continuously build a pressure on Pakistan to remove Khalistani elements from the Sikh body.

Manjeet Sehgal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 July 2019. Pro Khalistani Sikh leader Gopal Singh Chawla who has been removed as the Secretary of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) continues to be the non-official member of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) which controls PSGPC.

Sources say Chawla as the member of the parent body can still interfere with the working of PSGPC .

The pro-Khalistani leader was also present as ETPB member at Gujaranwala on July 12 when Gurudwara Khara Sahib, dedicated to sixth Sikh guru Guru Hargobind Sahib, was opened first time after a period of 72 years.

Gopal Singh Chawla was removed as Secretary of PSGPC after India continuously build a pressure on Pakistan to remove Khalistani elements from the Sikh body. However, Khalistani elements are still present in the PSGPC.

Most of the new PSGPC office bearers may not be as known as hardliner Khalistan activists but every Sikh in Pakistan favours the demand for a separate homeland under pressure from the hardliners and the ISI.

One of the new PSGPC member Ameer Singh is a known Khalistan supporter who hails from Pakistan’s Punjab province where Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s chief Hafiz Saeed has allegedly been doing terror financing.

Hence, there is no guarantee that Pakistani Sikhs will not chant Khalistan in near future.

Gopal Singh Chawla ‘s removal was decided on July 12.

Gopal Singh Chawla had become a thorn in Pakistan’s flesh which faced anger and resentment from India on a number of occasions. As the date of the second round of bilateral talks on Kartarpur Corridor was nearing, the Pakistan authorities were left with no option but to remove Gopal Chawla from PSGPC panel.

Chairman of Evacuee Trust Property Board, Dr Amir Ahmed, in a board meeting held on July 10 had hinted action against Gopal Singh Chawla. Interestingly enough, two days after the meeting on July 12, while Gopal Singh Chawla was present at Gujranwala to open Gurudwara Khara Sahib, none of the ETPB officials were present.

Chawla was not allowed to take part any in any meeting held between Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) Chief Secretary Dr Roop Singh and PSGPC who along with a delegation was in Pakistan on the eve of the anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Present PSGPC Chief Tara Singh chaired all the meetings and Gopal Singh Chawla was not seen anywhere.

Pakistan out to woo Sikhs

Pakistan is not leaving any stone unturned to woo the Sikh community .

ETPB opened Gurudwara Khara Sahib after a period of 72 years for the Sikh pilgrims. This Gurdwara is located in Gujranwala and is related to Sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind Sahib.

According to SGPC chief Secretary Dr Roop Singh, Pakistan had earlier opened Sialkot based Gurdwara Babe ki Ber for the pilgrims.

Interestingly, while at one hand Pakistan is opening all Sikh shrines, it has not opened even a single Hindu Shrine which means Pakistan’s agenda is to woo the Sikhs hardliners in particular.

Dawn – US welcomes increased ‘people-to-people ties’ between Pakistan – India through Kartarpur

Washington DC – USA, 17 July 2019. The USA State Department on Tuesday said that it was “incredibly supportive” of anything that increases “people-to-people ties between India and Pakistan”.

During a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus was asked to comment on the Kartarpur Corridor: “Yeah, that was certainly a good news report, wasn’t it? We encourage it,” she said.

“Anything that increases people-to-people ties between India and Pakistan is something that we’re incredibly supportive of,” she added.

Ortagus’ comments follow the latest talks between the two sides, which took place on July 14, on the opening of the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims. Pakistan claimed to have made headway on “80 per cent and beyond” issues in the much-delayed second round of talks.

The talks were held at the Wagah border where a 13-member Pakistan team was led by Saarc and South Asia desk Director General and Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, while an eight-member Indian team was headed by interior joint secretary S.C.L. Das.

The corridor, a peace initiative of the Pakistani government, is being constructed to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The corridor will provide Indian Sikhs visa-free access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan.

To work out modalities for the opening of Kartarpur opening, a Pakistani delegation on March 14 visited Attari where a meeting was held with Indian officials.

While the next round of talks was scheduled for April 2 at Wagah, India pulled out of it over reservations that pro-Khalistan activists such as Gopal Chawla and Bisan Singh had been included in Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, a body that works for facilitating Sikh pilgrims.

The Indian Ministry for External Affairs on that occasion had stated: “The next meeting on the modalities can be scheduled at an appropriate time after receiving Pakistan’s response.” Pakistan’s FO had then regretted the Indian decision to cancel the meeting.

The News – International Sikh convention in City on 31 August 2019

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 16 July 2019. The Religious Tourism and Heritage Committee headed by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has announced holding International Sikh Convention here on 31 August, while Federal Interior Minister Brigadier (r) Ijaz Shah has been made permanent member of the committee.

This was announced in a meeting of religious tourism and heritage committee chaired by the governor at Governor’s House on Monday.

Federal Minister for Education and Culture Shafqat Mehmood, Religious Affairs Minister Syed Saeed-ul-Hassan Shah, Punjab Minister for Tourism Raja Yasir Humayun, Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman, Lahore Division Commissioner and relevant officers from Kartarpur and Nankana Sahib attended the meeting.

The governor will visit Nankana Sahib after Kartarpur and a strategy has been finalised vis-à-vis arrangements in Nankana and Kartarpur regarding 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak. The meeting was briefed about arrangements made so far for birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak and Kartarpur Corridor.

The committee decided to launch awareness campaign for making the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak memorable and ensuring maximum participation of the Sikh community, including that of India. It was also decided in the meeting that the convention would be held at Governor House, Lahore in which the Sikh yatrees from USA, UK, Canada and India would participate.

The meeting decided that the governor would meet Federal Interior Minister Brigadier (r) Ijaz Shah for ensuring maximum visas for Sikh yatrees coming for celebration of Baba Guru Nanak birth anniversary. Addressing the meeting, the governor expressed hope that the government would be able to generate $4-5 billion from tourism the way they were working on it. He said the steps would be ensured for visa facilitation and other matters of Sikh yatrees.

He expressed pleasure over headway in talks over Kartarpur Corridor and said, “we want that India should also complete its work in a speedy manner on Kartarpur Corridor.”

Dawn – Kartarpur Corridor: Activist concerned at ‘massive construction’ on Indian side

Our Staff Reporter

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 16 July 2019. The world Sikh community has expressed its concern at the big ‘airport-like’ constructions by India on its side of border at Kartarpur, dwarfing the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag) planned at Darbar Sahib and Pakistan agreeing to a fairly large number of pilgrims that may damage ecology of the sacred fields around the Sikh heritage site.

“Sikh diaspora comprising around 27 million souls is much concerned at reports that India is constructing an ‘airport-like’ terminal worth Rs 5 billion at Dera Baba Nanak.

It includes a 300 feet [high] Indian monumental flag, which will neither represent the spiritual essence of the sacred space nor the heritage architecture from the Guru period or the Sikh architecture [of] post-Guru period,” laments Gurmeet Kaur, who leads a world Sikh campaign for preserving 100-acre fields of Baba Nanak era at Kartarpur.

In a statement released here on Monday, she says the Indian flag, presumably higher than the Nishan Sahib (Sikh flag) that has been planned at the Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, smacks of supremacy and ego and not of honour and “submission to the feet of the great Guru”.

She adds that the step has created a “catch-22 like” situation for Pakistan as if it decides to put a flag post taller than the Nishan Sahib, it puts itself in an awkward position with the Sikhs, if lower, it gives India the first win in “the Attari-Wagah-like macho contest”.

Apprehends ecological harm to heritage site because of ‘overcrowding’

Ms Kaur also expresses concerns at Islamabad agreeing to visa-free access for 5000 pilgrims daily, fearing such a large number of visitors may hurt the flora and fauna as envisioned by Baba Nanak for Kartarpur.

“While India has been nitpicking over the generous offer of Pakistan to open the corridor for 500-750 Sikh pilgrims a day at the opening, India wants it to allow up to 10,000 tourists per day and more on special occasions, right away. India is also demanding opening of the corridor to people of all faiths (not just Sikhs).

“Ecologists and the well-meaning Sikhs have been screaming about how the fragile terrain and ecosystem of Kartarpur is already under attack with the massive corridor construction. And, five to ten thousand pilgrims a day would put a huge strain requiring enormous and hasty commercial construction on the land where forests, orchards and organic fields of Baba Nanak existed for five and a half centuries.”

She says the Sikh diaspora thinks that haphazard construction at this sacred site means losing all chances of archeologically reviving and rebuilding the historical space, buildings and artifacts as they may have existed in Baba Nanak’s time – Baba Nanak’s Kartarpur.

A social activist, Ms Kaur also points to the exclusion of Sikh representatives from the Kartarpur talks and objects to confining the consultation process on the corridor only to the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee, representing only a small Sikh community of around 27,000 souls.

“From the politics being played to the headlines being made, Kartarpur Corridor seems to have been reduced to another version of Wagah-Attari display in the making, that of the macho control and supremacy over each other, between Modi’s India and Khan’s Pakistan, under the pretext of peace at the cost of Baba Nanak’s legacy, where his Sikhs have no say,” she regrets.

She has called upon Pakistan government to change the “game plan” by bringing together archeological, heritage and ecological experts and rebuilding Kartarpur as Baba Nanak had envisioned and intended it to be.

It would raise Pakistan’s head higher in the eyes of around 100 million Baba Nanak’s lovers from around the world, more so than the 300 feet flag pole India plans to erect at the border, for all times to come, she concludes.

NDTV – 5000 Pilgrims a day, no restrictions on faith: India to Pakistan on Kartarpur

India is already constructing a bridge on the zero line of the Kartarpur Corridor to provide all-weather connectivity

Reported by Mohammed Ghazali, Neeta Sharma, Edited by Debanish Achom

New Delhi – India, 14 July 2019. Pakistan today agreed in principle to build a bridge on the zero line of the Kartarpur Corridor to provide all-weather connectivity, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after a two-hour meeting to iron out issues in the second round of talks over the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims.

India is already constructing a bridge on the zero line; Pakistan, however, had been insisting on constructing a causeway, which India believes, would act as a barrier, directing more flood water towards India.

“Pakistan side agreed, in principle, to build a bridge at the earliest.

Pending the construction of a bridge over the old Ravi creek by Pakistan on their territory, India offered to make interim arrangements for making the corridor operational in November 2019, given the historic importance of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

Both countries agreed to allow visa-free travel for Indians and those who have Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards, the statement said.

“Throughout the year, 5000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara per day, Pakistan highlighted the infrastructural constraints on their side and conveyed that they may be able to accommodate many of the Indian proposals in a phased manner,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“There should be no restrictions on the pilgrims in terms of their faith,” it said.

The second round of talks comes a day after Pakistan removed pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from its committee that is involved in talks with India.

The Indian delegation for the talks today was led by the Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary (Internal Security) SCL Das and the Foreign Ministry’s Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) Deepak Mittal, while the 20-member Pakistani delegation was led by Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

“Pakistan is fully committed and cooperating to operationalise Kartarpur Corridor,” said Mr Faisal this morning.

The Kartarpur corridor will be vulnerable to flooding as it is being built near the flood plains of the Ravi river. In 2013, when the area was flooded, it had caused great damage to people living in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

Once built, the corridor will connect the Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims. The pilgrims will require just a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, an important Sikh shrine established in 1522 by the faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev.

The first level of talks were held on March 14 and second round, which were to take place on April 2, were called off pending clarifications by Islamabad on New Delhi’s security concerns. In May, India had raised concerns that Pakistan is promoting the interest of Khalistani groups under the garb of the Kartarpur corridor.

Mumbai Mirror – Pakistan redrafts Gurdwara Prabandhak’s panel list

Drops pro-Khalistan member from Kartarpur talks.

New Delhi – India, 14 July 2019. Just a day ahead of the second round of talks between India and Pakistan over fixing of modalities of the Kartarpur corridor, Pakistan has reconstituted its Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) list, thereby dropping the name of a pro-Khalistan member from talks.

On Friday, Pakistan, in an official statement, said, “The federal government (federal cabinet) has been pleased to re-constitute PSGPC.” Addressing India’s concerns raised earlier, Pakistan removed the name of pro-Khalistani leader Gopal Singh Chawla from the list.

Officials of the two countries are slated to meet on July 14 to finalise modalities of the corridor and related technical issues.

The Kartarpur route along the India-Pakistan border is three kilometres away from Gurdaspur, Punjab. Once opened, it would allow Sikh pilgrims direct access to the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev died in 1539. Sources added that the work on the corridor is expected to be completed by October 31, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Sputnik News – Pakistan to issue visas to Indian journalists for Sikh pilgrimage corridor talks

New Delhi – India, 09 July 2019. Pakistan has offered visas for Indian journalists willing to cover the talks on Kartarpur Corridor that would connect two key Sikh religious centres in that country and India. The next talks are scheduled to take place on 14 July 2019 at Wagah, the border point between the two countries along the state of Punjab.

Kartarpur Corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartapur (West-Panjab) with the Dera Baba Nanak gurdwara in the Gurdaspur district of the East-Punjab. It seeks the visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims, who would need to obtain just a permit. Darbar Sahib was set up in 1522 by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.

Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal tweeted that Indian journalists could apply for the visa at his country’s diplomatic mission in New Delhi.

The upcoming event on 14 July is the second meeting between Indian and Pakistani officials on a draft agreement to finalise the modalities of the corridor.

The two countries have been working for the past one year on construction of the Corridor to be ready ahead of the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth in November 2019.

The developments on the project would be significant for the Sikh community and also lead to a thawing of the prevailing tensions between the two South Asian rivals.

Relations between the two reached a new low in February, when 40 Indian soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir. It led to the Indian Air Force launching an air strike on an alleged secessionist training camp in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on 26 February in retaliation.

The two nuclear-armed nations reached a near war-like stage when Pakistan retaliated on the following day and brought down an Indian fighter jet.

Despite the border escalations, New Delhi and Islamabad did not interrupt the deliberations on the Kartarpur Corridor project.

The Tribune – Doing their bit for the environment

Fatehgarh Sahib – Panjab – India, 08 July 2019. An NGO, “Rise to Help Welfare Society, Sirhind”, comprising students and professors, is making efforts to control pollution by initiating a tree plantation drive under its “Green Fatehgarh Sahib” mission.

It has taken the approval of the Forest Department to plant 1,000 saplings from Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup Sahib to Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib in colleges, university, religious institutions, cremation grounds and deserted places.

The society will also ensure their growth by putting up iron grills around the saplings. Each of its members will look after 20 plants and will be responsible for watering and ensuring their growth.

The NGO is also helping meritorious students by giving them coaching during weekends free of cost, besides paying their fees and providing books.