A Sikh religious scholar at a Gurdwara in Quetta: Photo Ashraf Khan

Syed Muhammad Yaseen:

In Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta, an ancient Gurdwara has been handed over to the Sikh community after 73 years. Almost 200 years old Gurdwara (Sikh community’s worship place) was handed over to the community by the government of Balochistan on the directives of Balochistan High Court (BHC).

Earlier, in February this year, an ancient Hindu Temple was handed over to the Hindu community in Balochistan’s Zhob district. The Gurdwara was turned into a girls’ school after the migration of Sikh community after the independence of Pakistan in 1947.

“It is a matter of immense pleasure for the Sikh community to get back our ancient worship place”, Sardar Jasbeer Singh, the Chief of Sikh community told the daily Quetta Voice. “We are thankful to the government and high court for handing over Gurdwara”, Mr. Singh who was wearing a thick-traditional yellow Sikh turban said.

The Gurdwara, Sri Guru Singh Sabha is considered to be the most ancient Sikh worship place in Quetta. The Gurdwara was razed to the ground in the aftermath of the deadliest 1935 earthquake in this Southwestern city of Pakistan.  The Gurdwara was re-constructed in 1936 and then turned into a girls high school.

“Girls studying in Gurdwara have been shifted to nearby three girls schools”, Danesh Kumar, the Adviser to the Balochistan Chief Minister on minorities told the daily Quetta Voice. The Gurdwara covers over 14,000 feet in the heart of Quetta city. Its value is in billions of rupees, Mr. Danesh mentioned.

The Gurdwara was given under the control of Auqaf department after the mass-migration in 1947.

“Education of girls studying in Gurdwara has not been affected since they have been shifted to nearby schools”, the Adviser to the CM stated.

“This is a message to the world that we enjoy complete religious freedom”, Sardar Jasbeer Singh who was engaged with other members of Sikh community in a discussion inside the Gurdwara said.

A commission headed by retired senior police officer Shoaib Suddle had also approved the handing of this Gurdwara to the Sikh community in Quetta. Over 2,000 Sikh community members living in Quetta have heaved a sigh of relief after getting the control of their ancient religious place, Mr. Singh said.

It is matter of pleasure and satisfaction for us that the education department had not changed and reconstructed any part of the Gurdwara, he said. It is in its original shape. Still, there are over a dozen ancient Sikh worship places in Balochistan, which are either under the control of persons or government departments. Members of Sikh community have arrived Quetta from various parts of Balochistan after getting this news, Mr. Singh said.

The founding father of the nation, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah has always spoken for the rights of minorities living in Pakistan. Around 300 temples, churches and gurdwaras are yet to be evacuated, but this government would hand over them to minorities on the directives of the high court, Mr. Danesh concluded.

The author belongs to Quetta and contributing features to Express Tribune, Balochistan Express, Quetta Voice and Voice of Balochistan on various social issues relating to Pakistan’s resource-rich province… He can be contacted on Twitter @YStorai




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About the Author

Quetta Voice is an English Daily covering all unfolding political, economic and social issues relating to Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province in terms of area. QV's main focus is on stories related to education, promotion of quality education and publishing reports about out of school children in the province. QV has also a vigilant eye on health, climate change and other key sectors.