‘The ball is in your court’
SGPC Amritsar, has asked the Pakistan government to take steps


* Indian Sikh leader asks Pakistan to extend pilgrims’ visa period, open corridor to Gurdwara Kartarpur, allow Indian Sikhs to visit relatives in Pakistan

LAHORE, April 12, 2008
Abdul Manan
Daily Times

Baldev Singh, senior member of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) Amritsar, has asked the Pakistan government to take steps to solve Sikhs’ problems on the Wagha border to ease Sikhs in both, India and Pakistan.

Talking to Daily Times, he said that a corridor should be built at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib and sewadars (caretakers) trained by the SGPC should be allowed to come to Pakistan to take care of gurdwaras in the country. He also asked for a piece of land in Lahore where the SGPC would build 400 air-conditioned rooms to accommodate Sikh pilgrims who arrive in the city from across the world. Singh said that the tenure of visas given to Sikhs should be more than 10 years. He added that the Sikhs, who have relatives in Pakistan, should be allowed to meet them.

Singh said that since Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib was only a kilometre away from the Indo-Pak border, a corridor should be made to allow Indian Sikhs to visit the gurdwara without the requirement of a visa. He said that a large number of Sikhs across the border wanted to pray at the gurdwara every day.

He said the SGPC is the Sikhs’ supreme authority all over the world and sewadars trained by the SGPC should take care of the gurdwaras in Pakistan.

Singh objected to the duration (10 days) of the visa issued by Pakistan to Sikh pilgrims. He said that many Indian Sikhs have relatives in Pakistan, but when they visit the country on pilgrimages, they are not allowed to go anywhere off-route (for security reasons). He said that the Sikh pilgrims should be allowed to meet relatives even in remote areas of Pakistan.

Singh also asked the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to follow the rules made by SGPC, the supreme body of Sikhs around the world.

He thanked the Pakistani government for the promulgation of the Sikh Marriage Ordinance. He also congratulated the new prime minister and hoped that he would prioritise the solution of Sikhs’ problems.

Sardar Sham Singh, senior member of the PSGPC, said that in 2003 and 2004, the government of Pakistan had assured a Sikh delegation consisting of 32 members of Sikh organisations from across the world, including the SGPC, PSGPC, the Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee and Bhai Mardani, that Pakistan was ready to build a corridor to India for daylong pilgrimages. However, he said, India was reluctant in opening its border.

He said Cap (r) Amrindar Singh, former chief minister of Indian Punjab, visited Lahore two years ago and had said that the state government would request Delhi to open its borders for Sikh pilgrims. He said three gurdwaras – Tali Sahib, Chola Sahib and Dera Baba Sahib – were situated in India opposite Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.

An official of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, requesting anonymity, said the Indian government would solve the Kartarpur issue. He added that he did not have the authority to comment in the matter.