NANKANA SAHIB: Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah (centre) addressing a press conference at Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib on Sunday.—APP
NANKANA SAHIB: Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah (centre) addressing a press conference at Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib on Sunday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday the condemnable incident that took place in Nankana Sahib a few days ago was against his vision and would be dealt with zero tolerance by the government.

“A major difference between the condemnable Nankana incident and the ongoing attacks across India on Muslims and other minorities is this: the former is against my vision and will find zero tolerance and protection from the government, including police and judiciary,” he said in a tweet.

On Friday, two groups had an altercation outside the Gurdwara Janam Asthan in Nankana Sahib over a minor issue, but an individual tried to give communal colour to the dispute. It was foiled by the timely involvement of the city administration and arrest of the perpetrators.

“In contrast, [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] vision supports minorities’ oppression and the targeted attacks against Muslims are part of this agenda. RSS goons conducting public lynching, Muslims being violated by mobs are all not only supported by the Modi govt but Indian police leads anti-Muslim attacks,” the prime minister said.

According to media reports, the incident took place following a confrontation between two groups at a tea stall over the marriage of a Muslim man to a Sikh woman. Mohammad Ehsan had married Jagjit Kaur after allegedly forcibly converting her to Islam a few months ago. On Friday evening, scores of charged protesters staged a sit-in outside the Gurdwara. They were led by members of Ehsan’s family.

Imran points out Modi’s ideology backs minorities’ oppression and attacks on Muslims

On Aug 28 last year, an FIR was lodged with the Nankana police station against six people who were accused of abducting and forcibly converting the 19-year-old Sikh woman to Islam. Police traced the suspects to Lahore and detained one of them.

Later, the woman submitted a written statement to a court, saying she had converted to Islam and married Ehsan of her own free will. She accused her family of “wanting to kill me”. The woman was subsequently shifted to Darul Aman on the court order after the Sikh community demanded that police bring her back to her parents’ house irrespective of the conversion being forced or consensual.

On Friday, Ehsan’s family alleged that police had raided their home and detained several family members, including Ehsan, ahead of the next court hearing scheduled for Jan 9 and allegedly tortured women and children present in the house. In the evening, successful talks were held between the protesters and PTI’s Nankana Sahib president Pir Sarwar Shah. Subsequently, police released all the arrested persons and the protesters ended their protest.

Interior minister visits Nankana Sahib

On Sunday, Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah said at a press conference that Nankana Sahib was an example for Pakistan and the world in terms of minorities living and coexisting in peace and camaraderie. He, however, said: “When you live together, conflict also tends to arise.”

The interior minister visited Nankana Sahib and met members of the Sikh community and all stakeholders. He ordered that the culprits be charged with hate speech and relevant laws for inciting communal feelings outside Gurdwara.

He said the Kartarpur Corridor had bridged the distance between the Muslims and Sikhs. “However, this has been hard to digest for a select few, internationally and locally,” he added.

In a statement issued on Friday late night, the Foreign Office had clarified that the incident in Nankana Sahib was the result of an “altercation between two Muslim groups” and that it should not be portrayed as a communal issue.

“The provincial authorities in Punjab have informed that there was [a] scuffle in the city of Nankana Sahib, between two Muslim groups. The altercation happened on a minor incident at a tea stall,” an FO spokesperson had said, adding that the district administration “immediately intervened” and arrested the accused, who are now in custody.

On Saturday, activists of Aman Council visited Gurdwara and expressed satisfaction over the security measures adopted by law enforcers. They also expressed solidarity with the Sikh community.

Conspiracy of Indian agents

In Quetta, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Minorities Affairs Denish Kumar, while talking to reporters on Saturday night, termed the Nankana incident a conspiracy of Indian agents who wanted to defame Pakistan and use it for negative propaganda against the country.

He said the Modi government was committing atrocities against Muslims and other minorities living in India. “Through Nankana Sahib-like incidents India wants to divert the world attention from human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and elsewhere in India where the controversial citizenship law has been imposed,” he added.

Mr Kumar said law enforcement agencies had foiled the designs of Indian agents through their prompt action. He said minorities were safe in Pakistan and enjoying equal rights.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2020