Facilitating pilgrims not a favour, but our duty, PM Imran tells Sikh community

Updated September 02, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at a Sikh Convention in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at a Sikh Convention in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday assured the Sikh community that his government will make all efforts to facilitate pilgrims who visit Kartarpur and Nankana Sahib, as well as other Sikh holy sites in different cities of Pakistan.

"This is not a favour, this was our duty," he said.

The premier was addressing the first International Sikh convention, arranged by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar at the Governor House in Lahore. The convention, which began on Saturday, was attended by Sikh delegates from the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

Prime Minister Imran said that he realised that Kartarpur and Nankana Sahib were as holy for Sikhs as Makkah and Madina were for Muslims, and promised to make access for Sikh pilgrims as easy as possible.

He also addressed the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan while reiterating that the latter will not initiate military action. He added, however, that he will continue to raise his voice for the residents of Indian-occupied Kashmir, who have been under a restrictive lockdown for the past 27 days.

The prime minister expressed his concerns over the situation in occupied Kashmir, saying: "No one who has any humanity left (in them) can tolerate the current situation in Kashmir. We can never accept that you place eight million people under lockdown for 27 days and cut off all communication. I would have raised my voice even if they [Kashmiris] were [non Muslims]."

Prime Minister Imran further said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — believed to be the parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — was following a "totalitarian and racist ideology" that was not in accordance with the teachings of any religion.

"The direction in which RSS is taking India has no place for any [minority]. What is happening with Muslims right now in India [...] it will not stop here. If they are not stopped, they will come after the Dalits; they will one day come after the Sikhs."

The premier recalled for the attendees of the convention that his overtures for peace had been dismissed by the Indian government, and the latter had continued to put forward conditions before it would engage.

"[They acted] like a superpower does when telling a poor country to do this, do that. I was very surprised," he said.

He denounced the idea of war, saying: "I do not believe that war can solve any problem. Whoever thinks that is not sensible, he has not read world history. If you solve one problem by waging war, four more spring up because of it.

"Everyone who has tried to solve problems by waging war has lost, even in victory. It takes years for a country to recover from the losses."