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KARACHI: After protests by transgender community and persons with disabilities, now Pakistan Sikh Council has also come forward with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan asking it to include Sikhism as a religion in the census form of 2017.

Speaking to Dawn on Sunday, the council’s patron in-chief, Sardar Ramesh Singh, said that earlier Sikhism was made part of the Hindu Marriage Bill passed in Feb 2016.

Many people from within the community said at the time that Hindu and Sikh rituals were totally different and asked for a separate Sikh Marriage Bill. Now, the religion had been ignored in column 6 of the census form, he lamented.

Mr Singh said at present there was no estimate regarding the number of Sikhs in the country but only rough and usually inaccurate estimates were made about their exact number.

The Sikh population in Karachi lives in areas such as Narayanpura, Ranchhore Line, Gulshan-i-Maymar, Lighthouse, Cantt, Clifton, Defence and Manora.

At the same time, Mr Singh said: “The community’s non-representation in both national and provincial assemblies is also the reason they generally get ignored. As a result, we also get short-changed when it comes to the disbursement of the minority development fund to our community.”

All of it, he said, boiled down to being represented in the census.

“By getting our religion box in the census form, we will at least know the exact number of Sikhs across Pakistan and get recognition for our services. It is my appeal to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the president and the prime minister to take notice of this as soon as possible,” said Mr Singh.

He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a good speech at the recently concluded festival of Holi which, he said, “means he is aware of the minority community’s sentiments”.

Social media erupted with angry posts by members of the Sikh community living in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as soon as the news of their non-representation in the census form came to the fore.

Mr Singh and other representatives of the core group of the PSC are under pressure to bring the omission to the notice of the higher authorities.

The council is now planning to hold a protest demonstration in Karachi in the coming days.

“The Sikhs consider Pakistan as the land from where their religion originated. Every year Sikh pilgrims make annual pilgrimage to gurdwaras across Pakistan as a sign of respect and devotion. It’d be a total disrespect to the community if their religion is not mentioned and they remain unrecognised in a land which means the most to them,” Mr Singh added.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017