Prime minister’s special assistant Naeemul Haq speaks at the International Sikh Convention organised at Governor House. — White Star
Prime minister’s special assistant Naeemul Haq speaks at the International Sikh Convention organised at Governor House. — White Star

LAHORE: Governor Chaudhry Sarwar on Saturday organised the first International Sikh Convention at Governor House, saying the government would safeguard the rights of the minorities and stand by them through thick and thin.

He said the Kashmir issue could be solved through dialogue, if India shows seriousness.

The governor said the Kartarpur Corridor would open on its scheduled time in the second week of November, even if the border situation worsens. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan would perform the opening ceremony.

Firdous urges Sikhs to highlight plight of minorities in India

Hosting the convention on behalf of the Committee for Religious Tourism and Heritage ahead of Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, the governor urged the Sikh community in Pakistan, India and the world over to voice concern at human rights violations in Kashmir as “no religion preaches injustice to anyone”.

“Islam and Sikhism teaches that the oppressed must be protected,” he said. He acknowledged that even opposition in India was raising voice against the atrocities being committed against the Kashmiris.

“We believe in one race and that is human race,” he said.

Explaining the development work, the governor told the audience comprising Sikhs from the USA, the UK, Canada and Europe that almost 85pc work had been completed on the Kartarpur Corridor and 104 acre retrieved. He said the land would be protected.

“The gurdwara area has increased from three acre to 42 acre and cultivatable land from 26 acre to 62 acre,” he said.

The governor said the Kartarpur Corridor was being named “Baba Guru Nanak Corridor”. A college near Baba Guru Nanak’s birthplace in Nankana Sahib was being shifted and the road leading from Sucha Sauda to Nankana Sahib repaired, he said.

He said the Punjab Safe City Authority had been directed to install cameras in Nankana Sahib to ensure foolproof security for the Sikh pilgrims. He said the Punjab government had also laid a foundation for setting up Baba Guru Nanak University on a piece of 68-acre land. He said the government would try to expand the university land up to 200 acre.

Responding to questions from Sikh delegates, he committed that the government would also retrieve illegally occupied land around other gurdwaras in the province. Reports suggested that land around other places of worship also were under illegal occupation.

The Sikh delegates said they fully supported the right of self determination of the Kashmiris.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said Pakistan was committed to promoting peace and interfaith harmony. She said it was the need of the hour that Indian premier Narendra Modi shun extremism in Kashmir and within India.

“The Sikh community should highlight the plight of the minorities in India across the world,” she said.

She said Pakistan had returned the Indian pilot who entered our territory -- a step Modi should not take for granted. “Pakistan’s wish for peace should not be taken as weakness,” she added.

On the call of the prime minister, she said, the Pakistani nation observed the ‘Kashmir Solidarity Hour’ to highlight the atrocities being committed against unarmed Kashmiris.

“If Modi will continue genocide of the Muslims in Kashmir, Pakistan will no more act as a silent spectator and the consequences will affect the world,” she said. She said Modi must give the Kashmiris their right to live independently.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Affairs Naeemul Haq said the prime minister wanted to highlight the Kartarpur project not only for religious tourism but as a spot that could attract people from all over the world. He said the master development plan would offer quality hotels, railway and other modes of transport as well as other services to the visitors.

He urged the Sikh community to come with an open heart and make big investments to develop and promote the area as an international centre of peace which is the message of Baba Guru Nanak.

“People should learn from Baba Guru Nanak’s teachings that promote peace and humanity across the globe,” he added.

Federal Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said dialogue was the only solution to all problems of the world.

Sikh community representatives Gurmeet Dhilon, Ajmer Singh Randhawa and others also spoke.The convention would move to Nankana Sahib on the second day on Sunday (today) followed by an exhibition at Lahore’s Governor House on Monday (tomorrow).

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2019