The Telegraph – Sunny finds Navjot Singh Sidhu on this border

Deol is contesting from the BJP against Congress incumbent Sunil Jakhar in Gurdaspur on the northern edge of Punjab

Pheroze L Vincent

Dera Baba Nanak – Panjab – India, 19 May 2019. Imran Khan ne pyaar diya, khulkar diya, itna diya ki hamein lena hee pada (Imran Khan gave love, openly, and so much that we had to accept it),” said farmer Satnam Singh of Molowali village near the under-construction corridor between India’s Dera Baba Nanak and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, at the place where Guru Nanak passed away in 1539, in Pakistan’s Kartarpur.

The corridor, on the table since 1998, took shape after Punjab minister and former cricketer Navjot Sidhu attended fellow cricketer Imran’s inauguration as Prime Minister in Pakistan and spoke about the pilgrimage with Pakistan army chief General Qamar Bajwa, whom Sidhu also hugged.

The Shiromani Akali Dal called Sidhu “the biggest traitor” and the BJP accused him of “speaking as an agent of Pakistan”. Until now, pilgrims needed to travel to Lahore on a visa and then go to Kartarpur. The alternative is to view the Darbar Sahib with binoculars at a BSF post on the Radcliffe Line, 4.7km away.

The Union cabinet approved the corridor plan in November and foundation stones were laid in both countries. Currently the binocular facility has been discontinued after construction of a land port, and a commercial and tourist complex has begun.

Satnam and others from the villages around Dera Baba Nanak often visit the Gurdwara Shaheed Baba Sidh Saun Randhawa, adjacent to the BSF post and on a barbed-wire flanked ridge from where devotees catch a glimpse of the white domes of Darbar Sahib. The villagers organise day-long langars (free community meals) here.

“If you give us love, you will get love,” Satnam said. “Sidhu did nothing wrong. He showed love, Imran reciprocated. Politicians would have ruined this opportunity by making false statements about Sidhu and Imran. Imran released our pilot in two days, shouldn’t we also enlarge our hearts?”

Villagers gathered at Gurdwara Shaheed Randhawa were unanimous about the issues that matter to them: First, jobs and education; second, peace with Pakistan.

“Shouldn’t our border be normal like other countries? No one is willing to invest in any industry here because of constant tension. We keep the bare minimum in our homes, and don’t spend on construction in anticipation that we may have to evacuate some day when the tensions on TV become real on the border,” Satnam said.

The elders said there are at least 10 youths from every village nearby who have gone to work as labourers abroad, mainly in West Asia, many of whom are duped by recruitment agents.

“Richer villagers can afford Rs 12 lakh to send their sons to Canada. We can spend only Rs 2 to 2.5 lakh to pay agents for jobs in the Gulf. The corridor will bring jobs, and hopefully peace also,” said farmer Gurmeet Singh of Thetharke village, 1.5km from the border.

“It is wrong to think that attacking Pakistan is something good. The war is against terrorism. We won’t simply give our votes to Narendra Modi because our air force bombed Balakot.”

Actor Sunny Deol, known for his action hero roles, including in Border, the 1997 film based on the 1971 Battle of Longewala, is contesting for the BJP against Congress incumbent Sunil Jakhar in Gurdaspur on the northern edge of Punjab. The pilgrims here said they like Deol but will vote for the Congress as the party helps in processing claims of compensation for crop loss in floods.

“Sidhu’s crime was that he tried to unite the love of two nations. Sunny is a star. We had a star here before (Vinod Khanna). They live in Mumbai and come here to vote. Parties field them because they feel that the candidate is popular enough to manage his own expenses,” said Sukhdev Singh, a sewadar of the gurdwara who had to evacuate his home in 1965 and 1971.

Vinod Khanna is, however, praised by many for getting bridges constructed. “We know Sunny because he is a star. He will get votes because of his party,” said farmer Salakhan Singh of Ruliana panchayat which changed hands from the Akalis to the Congress last December.

Salakhan is happy with Modi after he received Rs 2,000 under the Prime Minister’s scheme, and his Ujjwala subsidy also arrived before the polls. “Nobody has enhanced the respect for India like Modi has. But we want peace here. We are ready to defend our land, but every time there was a war we were pushed back 20 years.”

The lotus blooms bright among Bihari labourers, who make up at least 10 voters in every other village.

Ravinder, a daily wage labourer, said: “Us Mallahs (a backward caste) now get our entitlements in Bihar because of Modi. Here the wind is for Sunny, star hai, aur Modi ka power hai (he is a star and there is Modi’s power).” – Pakistan forms ETPB’s task force to protect religious properties of minorities

Panja Sahib Gudwara – Hasan Abdal – Panjab

Islamabad Capital Teritory – Pakistan, 18 May 2019. Following the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs has formed a task force of the Evacuee Trust Property Board on May 16. The move is aimed at protecting the religious properties belonging to the shrines of minorities residing in Pakistan.

Issuing a notification in this regard, the section officer Mohammad Riaz informed that PM Imran Khan’s advisor Dr. Ishrat Hussain has been appointed as chairman of this task force while the former PSGPC member Bishan Singh, Parliamentary Secretary Mohinderpal Singh, Dr Munavvar Chand, Diwan Chand Chawla, Advocate M Parkash Kumar, Ramesh Singh Khalsa, Santokh Singh, MPA Ravi Kumar, Bhagat Singh, Jawahar Lal, Abdul Wazid Rana, Bibi Mahin Rehman and Bibi Yasmeen Larry have been appointed as a member of this task force.

Beside it, the Law and Justice Division, Secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board will also be its members.

Sharing the development with media, Bishan Singh and Mohinderpal Singh said that the task force will take care of properties belonging to religious shrines of minorities inhabitant in Pakistan besides eliminating the illegal possession of these properties.

In addition, this task force will also put control over the corruption prevalent in ETPB and other related departments.

Pakistan Forms ETPB’s Task Force to Protect Religious Properties of Minorities



The Tribune – Bargari activists hold protest

Fazilka – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. Activists of the Bargari Insaf Morcha and other hardliners took out a protest in Fazilka town on Friday. They appealed to people not to vote in favour of Sukhbir Singh Badal, whom they accused of being responsible for sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.

The activists, holding the black flags, were led by parallel acting Akal Takht Jathedar and former MP Dhian Singh Mand. OC

Army man held for spying

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 18 May 2019. The Amritsar rural police arrested another Army man on charges of spying. Princedeep Singh of Master Avenue falling under the Chheharta police station was an accomplice of Malkeet Singh of Mahawa village, an Army man held by the rural police for spying for Pakistani intelligence agencies a week ago.

The News – Workable visa policy for Sikh yatrees soon: Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 18 May 2019, Interior Minister Brigadier (retired) Ijaz Ahmad Shah called on Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar and discussed various matters, including security situation and implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) in the province during a meeting at the Governor’s House here Friday.

The visa policy for religious tourism besides pilgrimages by the Sikhs from across the world also came under discussion during the meeting.

The governor, speaking on the occasion, said terrorism was not a problem for a political party or a government only rather it was a collective problem of the nation, adding the whole nation was on one page to curb the menace of terrorism under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Sarwar said the government was implementing the NAP in its true letter and spirit and the country would be purged of evil elements through collective efforts of the law enforcement agencies.

He said that the government would ensure foolproof security arrangements on the 550th birth celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak, adding development work under Kartarpur Corridor Plan would get completed before the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

He said the confidence of investors in the economic policies of the PTI government signified the success of the government. The governor said the enemies of peace were, in fact, against prosperity and progress of Pakistan. Sarwar said the incumbent government had taken concrete steps to ensure security of every citizen in the country, adding steps taken by the present government to curb terrorism were unprecedented.

He said the government was taking steps to ensure workable visa policy for the Sikh pilgrims. Later, a delegation of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) led by Regional Chairman Abdul Rauf called on governor.

Sarwar said it was for the first time that the government was protecting each and every penny of the public exchequer and ensuring accountability of those who had plundered the national wealth.

Ch Sarwar said not only Pakistani businessmen but foreign investors were also attracted to invest in Pakistan due to the business-friendly policies of the government while it was facilitating them to invest in Pakistan by eradicating red tapism and enhancing ease of doing business.

Our correspondent adds: Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has said the government is aware of the problems being faced by the traders and industrialists, and is taking every possible measure to provide a level-playing field to the business community.

Talking to a delegation of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Lahore regional office led by Abdul Rauf Mukhtar, the regional chairman, at Governor’s House Lahore, the governor appreciated the role being played by the private sector particularly the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the country’s economic development.

He said at present tough economic conditions called for taking difficult decisions but the government was committed to improving the economy.

He said reducing the trade deficit was an important component of the government’s strategy by curbing import of unessential and luxury items. The government was also striving to reduce the cost of doing business by ensuring supply of gas at concessional tariff for export-oriented industry, he added.

Abdul Rauf Mukhtar said there was a need to encourage the local industry and reduce imports to give a new direction to the national economy for stability.

The Tribune – PSGPC approves Guru Nanak anniversary coins, stamps

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 16 May 2019. A Pakistan Sikh committee has approved the design for the commemorative coins and postage stamps which will mark Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in November, according to a media report.

The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) on Wednesday said during a meeting that one side of the coin will have the image of Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib, while the other side will have the words Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the number 550, The Express Tribune reported.

The postage stamps, which will be worth Rs 8 and could be used commonly, will also have the image of Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib and the number 550.

The PSGPC expressed their satisfaction over the preparations made by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (EPTB). For the Sikh pilgrims who will come to the country from across the world makeshift tents will be set up in Nankana Sahib and could accommodate 25,000 pilgrims, the report said.

The year 2019 marks the 550th birth anniversary year of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, whose birthplace is Sri Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.

Last November, both India and Pakistan agreed to set up the Kartarpur corridor to link the historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak in Pakistani town of Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

Kartarpur Sahib is located in Pakistan’s Narowal district across the river Ravi, about 4 km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine.

The corridor will facilitate visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

Pakistan has committed to open the corridor in November this year on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

EPTB chairman Dr Amir Ahmed assured PSGPC officials that all arrangements will be completed in time for Guru Nanak Devji’s 550th birthday.

Sikh pilgrims from all over the world will be welcomed and provided accommodation and security, he said. He added that special trains will also be made operational for the pilgrims.

Dawn – After HIV cases, Larkana in the spotlight again due to poliovirus detection

Larkana has been in the spotlight since last month for all the wrong reasons.

Mohammad Hussain Khan

Larkana – Sindh – Pakistan, 15 May 2019. First it was because of HIV-positive cases in newborns and adults in Ratodero taluka and now the focus remains on the Pakistan Peoples Party stronghold after a poliovirus infected a three-year-old girl in Dokri taluka.

The minor girl was well until April 17 when she had high-grade fever and weakness in the right arm and leg. Initially, her family took her to a faith healer, but later she was found infected with poliovirus.

During investigations, health authorities found that the girl had travelled to Karachi’s Bin Qasim area in district Malir, considered to be a hotbed of poliovirus in Karachi.

The latest polio case in Larkana after Karachi must have set alarm bells ringing for the Sindh health authorities overseeing the poliovirus under a separate Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for polio eradication and immunisation.

Frequent positive poliovirus environmental samples also remain a disturbing phenomenon. In addition to the EOC, routine vertical programme of immunisation under the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) was also there.

The EOC is part of a national-level set-up created in 2014 amidst foreign donors’ funding with government oversight at the federal and provincial levels. EOCs are overseeing anti-polio campaigns in collaboration with foreign partners.

Sindh has 49pc coverage figures with 12-23-month-old children receiving all basic vaccines [centre/italics]

A Sindh government officer sits in Karachi as EOC coordinator to look after the national immunisation drive (NID) and Sub-National Immunisation Drive (SNIDs), which have been launched for certain specific areas in view of reports of NID.

Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, ex-focal person of prime minister for polio eradication during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government, recently painted a bleak picture of the country’s efforts towards polio eradication in the last one year.

“Pakistan was supposed to be polio free in 2018, but that was not the case. In 2017, numbers were reduced from 20 in 2016 to eight in 2017. It was 306 in 2014 that were brought down to 254,” she had said while speaking in the Senate. “When PML-N government completed its termm there were only three cases in Dukki, Balochistan”.

An upward trend

Reports indicated that so far 15 confirmed poliovirus cases have been reported in Pakistan till May. This shows an upward trend. Sindh reports two cases with one each in Larkana and Karachi’s Lyari area. Punjab reported three cases in Lahore while rest are coming from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Positive environmental samples are in addition to these cases.

Sindh’s healthcare system remains somewhat fragile. It was evident from the fact that so far 9,082 people were screened in just one taluka of Larkana’s Ratodero and 393 of them were tested HIV positive.

The number of HIV-positive cases would keep scaling up if such general screening is carried out in other districts and health authorities might run short of the WHO-recommended rapid test kits.

In terms of poliovirus, the High-Risk Mobile Population (HRMP) is a huge factor that is contributing to its spread in Sindh. The HRMP comprises people who frequently travel between core reservoirs of poliovirus like Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Qila Abdullah, Qilla Saifullah.

The HRMP has lowest polio vaccination acceptability as well as accessibility, according to officials. “A big component of HRMP, mainly Pakhtun community, has larger concentration in Karachi and Hyderabad,” said an official.

“Still miss children (SMCs), not available or refusal cases, remain constant in Karachi,” provincial EOC coordinator Umer Farooq Bullo said. “They are always one to two per cent of those children who are to be vaccinated.”

He added that permanent and temporary transit points had also been set up to cover these children for controlling HRMP.

‘Refusal’ remains a big challenge

Unending “refusals” among families and positive environmental sample of poliovirus in polio eradication campaign are two major challenges now.

Refusal is a case where parents plainly decline to have their child inoculated. They come up with different explanations inclusive of misconception and negative propaganda, drug’s efficacy and above all fear of male child’s infertility once vaccinated.

The backlog of refusals keeps increasing. Information of some health officials show families even in posh localities avoid vaccine on efficacy ground, saying they will get their children inoculated in private facilities.

“The community says vaccination is aimed at controlling their population under a foreign conspiracy. It raises different demands before agreeing to child’s vaccination,” said Halima Leghari, a central leader of the Lady Health Workers (LHWs).

She said that some communities often said village roads should be built first and then they would allow vaccination. “LHWs’ sexual harassment is a major stumbling block that hampers coverage. Only recently, LHWs in Pathan Colony were intimidated and harassed,” she said.

An environmental sample is testing of sewage collected from some designated sewerage pumping station in Sindh. It is analysed in a laboratory for genetic sequencing (GE).

“If environment is frequently positive it shows a localised trend of virus and its presence somewhere,” said a former EOC official. He explained that poliovirus survived in human gut. “Human body works as an amplification factor and individual concerned keeps shedding it wherever he/she is travelling,” he said.

According to a health official, 40 out of 73 environmental samples collected across Sindh were found positive. Hyderabad is reporting positive environmental samples constantly. Four such cases are reported this year against one in 2018. Same goes for Sukkur district and then comes Larkana.

Communities react harshly to multiple anti-polio campaigns

Polio eradication campaigns have been causing fatigue for the community, which often reacts harshly.

Around nine polio eradication campaigns took place recently, which tend to antagonise the community. LHW team visits a child if he/she is not found and there are cases where families often tend to avoid vaccination on different pretexts.

“Parents are fed up with back-to-back visits of LHWs and volunteers,” said a health official.

“This is forcing authorities to give some breathing space to community by withholding polio vaccination drive,” said an EOC official. “But simultaneously we fear that if such space is given it may lead to outbreak of virus so we are between the devil and the deep sea.”

Doctors said malnourishment among children made them vulnerable to poliovirus. During polio eradication campaign some vitamins A & D doses were given to overcome nutrients’ deficiency among children. Children under five are to be vaccinated primarily but according to EOC children under two are not to be missed come what may as this group is most vulnerable for poliovirus.

While Larkana is a regional centre its only public sector medical university is yet to get an infectious diseases ward, blood bank, pathology/diagnostic laboratory and physiotherapy unit.

“What a polio patient needs after being hit by the virus is physiotherapy which we lack,” says a university teacher.

Is EPI working?

Routine immunisation of children takes place under vertically-funded EPI in Sindh. It maintains the cold chain of polio vaccine.

According to the Pakistan Health Demographic Survey (PHDS) 2017-18, findings of which were released in January 2019, Sindh (49pc) has lowest coverage figures with children aged 12-23 months, receiving all basic vaccines.

Sindh is only ahead of Balochistan (29pc) while Punjab has ideal figures of 80pc, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 55pc.

The 2012-13 measles outbreak was reported in Sindh’s upper districts with EPI figures claiming ideal vaccination coverage. But it was anybody’s guess why such outbreak was reported with over 200 deaths of children due to measles despite such an “impressive” coverage.

Under a recent decision two districts, Khairpur and Dadu, have been placed under the administrative control of the Pakistan Primary Healthcare Initiative (PPHI) for managing Sindh’s EPI component as well.

And it also perhaps indicates that if coverage ratio improves or shows encouraging results in the two districts the PPHI may get more subsequently.

The Indian Express – Amid reports of shortage, Pakistan government offers to supply Rooh-Afza to India

Rooh Afza, a popular beverage in Pakistan as well as India, has been reportedly in short supply in the Indian market.

New Delhi – India, 09 May 2019. The Pakistan government on Thursday offered to send Rooh-Afza, the staple Iftar drink, to India, following reports of short supply of the popular rose-flavoured beverage in the Indian market.

“If the supply of Rooh-Afza from Pakistan quenches their (Indians) thirst, then we will certainly want to do so,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal told reporters during his weekly media briefing here.

Earlier in the day, Rooh-Afza-maker Hamdard Laboratories India said in New Delhi that its popular drink is now available in the market after a temporary shortage due to short supply of certain herbal ingredients.

On Tuesday, Hamdard Laboratories Pakistan also offered to supply Rooh-Afza to India via Wagah border in Amritsar in view of its shortage for the ongoing Ramzan period.

“We can supply RoohAfza and RoohAfzaGO to India during this Ramzan. We can easily send trucks through Wahga border if permitted by the Indian Government,” Usama Qureshi, MD and CEO of Pakistani Hamdard, tweeted.

The Hamdards in India and Pakistan have common ancestry. In 1906, Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed had laid the foundation of Hamdard Dawakhana in one of the by lanes of Old Delhi and in 1907 launched RoohAfza.

Following partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, his elder son stayed in India, while the younger one migrated to Pakistan and started Hamdard in Karachi and launched RoohAfza there.

Meanwhile, Hamdard Laboratories India in a statement said, “RoohAfza is now available in the market and can be bought from major retail stores and grocery outlets across the country.”

“The organisation urges discerning consumers and the trade not to be misled by incorrect information being circulated online and in print about non-availability of RoohAfza,” it added.

Rooh Afza, a popular beverage in Pakistan as well as India, has been reportedly in short supply in the Indian market. According to reports published in Indian publication, The Print, the staple Iftar drink Rooh Afza is not available for purchase in India for over four months now. And this has prompted the beverage producer in Pakistan to offer help.

The News – No roadside Iftar by Sikhs in Peshawar this year

Javed Aziz Khan

Peshawar – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – Pakistan, 12 May 2019. As different organisations and individuals continue to arrange food and drinks for fasting Muslims in the provincial capital and elsewhere, the Peshawarites are missing the traditional dastarkhwan by Sikh community members who had been hosting Iftar for the faithful throughout Ramazan for the last many years.

For the first time in many years, the Sikh community members in Peshawar are not hosting roadside Iftar dinner for Muslims. Instead, they provided ration to orphanages and charities.

“This time we are not arranging the roadside Iftars but our members have provided ration to different charity organizations,” Baba Gurpal Singh, a leader of the Sikh community, told The News. He added that they were asked not to arrange these “Iftar dastarkhwans” due to certain threats.

He reminded that Sadar Charanjeet Singh, who was killed last year was one of the main people behind arranging Iftar dinners. “However, we will continue to serve humanity in whatever way we can to spread love and peace,” added Baba Gurpal Singh.

The members of the Sikh community had been serving food, chilled drinks and snacks to hundreds of Muslims at the roadside “dastarkhwans” in different parts of Peshawar for the last many years. The roadside meals used to be arranged for almost the whole holy month. Apart from labourers and other needy people, passersby used to get food at these dastarkhwans.

The tradition was appreciated all over the country and in many parts of the world as an excellent gesture of interfaith harmony. The pictures of young and old Sikhs welcoming everyone arriving at Iftar dastarkhwan with a smile and serving them with a glass of chilled lassi, sharbat, fruit and cooked food were posted in the mainstream and social media all over the world.

Muslims and Sikhs enjoy cordial relations in Peshawar and in many other cities of the country for decades.

Khurshid Khan, a senior lawyer from Peshawar, used to visit the places of worship of Sikhs in past years to clean their shoes and place them in the racks to promote interfaith harmony. His gesture was widely lauded.

With the start of the holy month, a number of people have started arranging roadside Iftar in Peshawar and all over the country where passersby, labourers and others come in the evening to have drinks and food to break their fast.

Many young men have arranged Iftars in Hayatabad, University Road, Saddar Bazaar, Bara Road, Kohat Road, Charsadda Road, Ring Road GT Road, inner city and other places where thousands of people are provided free food and drinks daily.

A non-governmental organization, Darmaan provided food to around 500 people daily.

“Darmaan was founded five years ago from a single dastarkhwan which turned into a concept and idea for many youth across Pakistan.

Darmaan has served over 500,000 people in the past five years, encouraging the concept of dastarkhwan and mobile food delivery in hospitals, jails and at footpaths,” Saud Shah Roghani, a young man running Darmaan, told The News. He said the plan is to spread the dastarkhwan to many other cities of the country in the coming days.

Serve Mankind, a group of youth led by Asad Ali Lodhi, the main person behind the idea of Wall of Kindness, also arranges food for hundreds of people in Hayatabad and other parts of the provincial capital daily.

“Serve Mankind Dastarkhwan is organized on a daily basis. Now everyone can be part of this noble campaign where you can bring your meal for those who need it the most and volunteer at dastarkhwan,” said Asad Ali Lodhi.

The youth in Peshawar introduced a number of novel ideas in recent years to serve the needy. They introduced Wall of Kindness to provide warm clothes and launched Happiness Box and Korba refrigerator to provide food to labourers and other deserving people.

Many of these initiatives, however, could not be continued for long due to different reasons. “The ideas like Korba, Happiness Box and more need to continue throughout the year to provide food to the needy people,” commented a Peshawar resident Imtiaz Ahmad.

Dawn – Spirituality encourages people to return to innocence, says shrine custodian

Peerzada Salman

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 09 May 2019. Spirituality is about humanity. It is not confined to one religion. We are cutting trees, killing animals, polluting the environment and indulging in acts of terrorism. We need to change all of that, and in order for that to be achieved the message of Sufi saints must be understood.

This was eloquently put by Syed Waqar Husain Shah Latifi, the gaddi nasheen of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, while answering a question asked by Ghazala Rahman at Szabist on Tuesday.

The first question that Ms Rahman put to Mr Shah was about the philosophy of Sindh. He said we all are connected to Sindh, the land of Sufi saints. It is the land of love, connectivity and ownership. We need to own everything, the sand dunes, the trees, the birds, the people etc. Whatever is created by God should be owned by us and we should respect it.

That’s the real philosophy of Sindh. This connectivity is the base which lies in our soul. The Sufi saints (Data Sahib, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Shah Latif) have purified this land, which is why the country is called Pakistan. The real introduction of Sindh is: we are the people of love.

Shah Latif 350 years ago dropped the idea of a global village, which means no matter what religion you belong to, the world is a village for all. Those who love one another are citizens of the village.

The second question that Mr Shah responded to was about the symbolic use of water, specifically the Indus River, in Shah Latif’s poetry. He said being the custodian of the shrine is a big responsibility.

Unfortunately, the government is not supporting the philosophy of Sufism and spirituality. They are still confused that why we have extremism, karo kari and targeted killings in Sindh, the land of peace. It is because we have forgotten the message of Sufi saints.

‘If you have tears in your eyes for somebody else, it means you are alive’

Mr Shah, then replying to the query about water, said Shah Latif in one of his prayers connects the prosperity of Sindh to the whole world. Today when we see CPEC around us, it is all happening through Sindh and Pakistan, which implies prosperity is coming through Sindh and the seas. The second thing that the world needs to learn from us is the message of peace.

After 9/11, the whole world was confused about how to control extremist elements. Pakistan and Sindh are the core areas of peace. The light of inner peace in Sindh should be transferred to the whole world. This is what Shah Latif said in his prayers 350 years back: Dost mitha dildaar, aalam sub abaad karein. Now people are getting it because after the attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, everyone is talking about Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia is a reaction to the action that was 9/11.” Both extremism and Islamophobia have one solution: spirituality. “Spirituality cannot be confined to one religion, it is confined to humanity. As humans we must respect one another. The culture we have developed, of felling trees, killing animals, polluting the environment, should be changed. And how we can change that should be learned from the spiritual saints.”

Mr Shah said we should respect people from every religion, caste and creed because they are the creatures of God. So the message of spirituality takes you to one Creator.

“Spirituality encourages you to return to your innocence. When you are a child you have no biases, but as you grow older, you develop biased concepts. If you return to innocence and become a child from the inside, then you will realise there’s nothing to hate.”

On the subject of inclusivity, Mr Shah shared a very interesting personal thing. He said when he became the wali ahd of the sajjada nasheen, they had a function on Shah Latif’s birthday. The day was tiring and after the event he was trying to get a good sleep. At 2am he received a call from someone. He didn’t pick it up but when the phone kept ringing he answered it.

The man at the other end said his five-year-old daughter had drowned in a lake, to which he (Shah) replied what he could do about it. The man said he just wanted Shah to pray that the body of his daughter was recovered. This brought tears to his eyes and changed his life. “If you have tears in your eyes for somebody else, it means you are alive.”

Mr Shah said when Pakistan came into being the shrines were controlled, and are still controlled, by the Auqaf department. They’re spending money against the philosophy of the shrines.

Mr Shah then shed light on various steps that he took at the shrine to make it more inclusive for all, including people of other faiths.

The programme was organised by the Sindh Abhyas Academy as part of the academy’s lecture series.

The Tribune – Calendar row casts shadow on SGPC jatha to Pakistan

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 09 May 2019. Owing to the Nanakshahi Calendar row, the SGPC may not send pilgrimage to Pakistan that was scheduled to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev.

On the other hand, the other organisations have all set to send their jathas. The SGPC follows the amended version of Nanakshahi Calendar and has been commemorating the occasion on June 7.

The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Managing Committee, which follows the original Nanakshahi Calendar, has been observing the occasion on 16 June 2019.

The SGPC had sent documents of 80 pilgrims. It has been learnt that the Pakistan authorities were not obliging the SGPC’s demand for visas between June 5 and 14 to visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore to mark the occasion. According to norms, a maximum of 10-day visa is granted.

Officials said the Pakistan had agreed to grant visa between June 14 and 23.

Dr Roop Singh, SGPC chief secretary, said under the given circumstances, it would not be possible to send jatha. “The dates given by the Pakistan authorities do not suit our schedule. We will try to convince them, but if they don’t agree we will have to cancel the pilgrimage plan,” he said.