Pak's Punjab province assembly gets its first Sikh member

Lahore, June 2: In a historic milestone for the Sikhs in Pakistan, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora has become the first person from the minority community to enter the Punjab province assembly, since the country's independence in 1947.

Arora belongs to Narowal district, 80 km from Lahore, and is associated with the Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. He took oath along with 340 other lawmakers during the first session of the new Punjab Assembly yesterday. He was nominated to a seat reserved for minority communities by the PML-N, which has formed governments in Punjab and at the centre after its victory in the May 11 polls.

Arora came to the assembly wearing a white shalwar-kameez and a saffron turban.

"It's a festive occasion for which I have got stitched a special waistcoat, shalwar-kameez and turban," he told reporters. "June 1 will be remembered as a special day as it brought a triumph to the local Sikh community and other minorities living peacefully in Pakistan," he said.

"As the first Sikh to take oath as a lawmaker in the Punjab Assembly since 1947, I am absolutely delighted to be part of this august house. The position certainly comes with a lot of responsibility. I will not only be representing my own community but all minorities in the province," he said.

Arora said he would work to rehabilitate historical and religious sites of the Sikhs. "Sites sacred to other religions will also be restored through the Evacuee Trust Property Board," he said.

The reform of the Pakistan Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee was underway and the body will be made more effective and efficient, he said. "I will do the best I can to serve minorities. That is my aim and my party's policy," he added.

Arora praised senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal for taking interest in inducting him in the Punjab Assembly. Iqbal represents Narowal in the parliament. Media reports described Arora's induction as a member of the provincial assembly as a "historic milestone for the Sikh community".

Several lawmakers and officials welcomed him when he arrived at the assembly and shook hands with him. Some of Arora's relatives and friends came to the assembly to watch him taking oath.


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