Monday February 18, 2019

Sikhism in Pakistan: Recalling the Forgotten Treasures of Sikh Heritage

In the Sikh religion, any place where a guru resides or stops by is said to become a sacred place

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Shikh pilgrims arriving in Pakistan. (Representational Image). Image source: dawn.com
  • In the Sikh religion, any place where a guru resides or stops by is said to become a sacred place
  • The religious and cultural history of all gurudwaras around the world are believed to be constructs of miracles or preachings of the Gurus
  • Gurudwaras Chota Nankiana, Patshahi Panjvin, and others have been disastrous results of either continuous exploitation by emperors or national tensions

Sikhism is one delicate bond that holds the two nation- India and Pakistan together, with nearly the same amount of followers on both sides of the border and across the world. While Pakistan is the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev and holds one of the holiest pilgrimage of Sikhism- Sri Nankana Sahib, the article throws light upon some of the gurudwaras that hold immense significance for the community, yet are forgotten treasures of the Sikh heritage.

Gurudwara Chota Nankiana, Distt Lahore Source: www.sikhiwiki.org
Gurudwara Chota Nankiana, Distt Lahore. Source: www.sikhiwiki.org

Manga (Pakistan) is a centuries-old town and is the last district of Lahore on the way to Multan. In Lahore’s district of Manga lies a Gurudwara (the Sikh place of worship), burnt down to rubble with only its outer structure still intact. This is the Gurudwara associated with Guru Nanak, the founder and first Guru of Sikhism, said the Scroll.in article.

Around 35 km from the city of Lahore is Gurudwara Chota Nankiana Sahib, which also holds the significance of Guru Hargobind Ji staying here on his return from Nankana Sahib. While 50 acres of this area is land revenue exempted, the building itself is a hollow for it was burnt down during the Partition. It is believed that a few Sikh believers refused to come out of the Gurudwara, and as a result, it was burnt down by the mob.

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However, the building area is now in possession of Late Justice Maulvi Mushtaq who built Aligarh Public school here, and the pond of this gurudwara is now with Pakistan’s Department of Fisheries.

In the Sikh religion, any place where a guru resides or stops by is said to become a sacred place. One of the most significant transboundary is river Ravi, once used to flow through the western boundary of Manga.

The first Sikh Guru, along with his companions Mardana and Bhai Bala, once crossed river Ravi and took a halt at Manga for a while. He would preach wherever he stayed and this is how Gurudwara Chota Nankiana Sahib was later built. The religious and cultural history of all gurudwaras around the world are believed to be constructs of miracles or preachings of the Gurus.

Gurudwara Patshahi Panjvin, Beherwal Source: www.worldgurudwaras.com
Gurudwara Patshahi Panjvin, Beherwal
Source: www.worldgurudwaras.com

Few kilometres farther Manga is the village of Beherwal, which is home to Gurudwara Patshahi Panjvin (Panjvin means ‘fifth’ and Patshah refers to Guru). This was immortalised in the name of the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev.

Legend has it that Guru Arjan Dev stopped by this small village on the Lahore-Multan road and requested a disciple to get him some water. The disciple said that the well’s water was brackish and he needed to go to the village to bring water for him. Then the guru performed a miracle that is now a government institute. He turned the well’s water from brackish to sweet by miracle and still exists in Beherwal.

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Gurudwaras Chota Nankiana, Patshahi Panjvin, and many others like these have been disastrous results of either continuous exploitation by emperors or national tensions. It is indeed an alarming situation to rise up and preserve these precious and holy shrines and maintain Sikhism as a non-discriminatory non-institutionalised religion that it is.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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US-Taliban Meeting Cancelled, 14 Members on “The US and UN Blacklist”

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

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US, Taliban, Pakistan
FILE - Taliban political chief Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, in the first row, second from left, Abdul Salam Hanafi and other Taliban officials pray during the intra-Afghan talks in Moscow, Feb. 6, 2019. VOA

An upcoming meeting in Pakistan between a delegation of the United States and Taliban representatives has been cancelled, according to information coming from both sides.

A Taliban leader confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting was cancelled, “by the Americans.” A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on “the US and UN blacklist.” Several of them are on the U.N. Security Council sanctions list which bars them from international travel.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Zalmay Khalilzad, who was supposed to lead the American delegation, is not planning to visit Islamabad this week.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, center, speaks during a roundtable discussion with Afghan media at the U.S Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The U.S. said it had not received an official invitation from the government of Pakistan for this meeting which was first announced by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid a couple of days ago.

Mujahid’s statement had set February 18 as the date of the talks and said a formal invitation had been issued by Pakistan. In addition, he said, the Taliban delegation would also meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

“The next round of negotiations with the Taliban will be in Pakistan, and as a result of these negotiations, there is a chance of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) speaks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (3rd L) during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this handout photo released Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to the announcement of a meeting in Islamabad, saying it was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“#Afghanistan complains to #UNSecurityCouncil on #Pakistan’s engagements with the Taliban on which #Afg Govenrment is not consulted,” Tweeted Sibghatullah Admadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign office.

Previously, Afghanistan launched a similar complaint against Russia for allowing Taliban members to travel to Moscow for a conference in which nearly 50 Afghans, including various political leaders, former jihadi commanders, and civil society activists were invited. However, the Afghan government was not invited to that conference because the Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Kabul administration despite pressure from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others.

President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at those attending the conference saying they had no “executive authority” to make any agreements.

“Let hundreds of such meetings be held,” he said.

Some analysts say Ghani’s statements indicated his frustration at being left out of the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban that first started last Summer. Since then, the two sides have held several rounds of talks.

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The last meeting in Doha early January lasted for six days and Khalilzad said the two sides had agreed “in principle” to a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that Afghan soil will not be used by any terrorist groups or individuals.

Speaking in a public event at Washington based United States Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said the Taliban do not want to “sit with the government alone” because they did not want to give President Ghani an advantage in the presidential elections scheduled in July.

“There are indications that they will be willing to sit with the government in a multi-party arrangement,” he said. (VOA)