Sikh community in UK seeks Nawaz Sharif's help to save shrines in Pak

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Sikh community in UK seeks Nawaz Sharif's help to save shrines in Pak
London, Jan 23: A group of Sikh academics and politicians from Britain have sent a letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asking him to protect historic Sikh shrines in his country, which are facing the risk of being destroyed by encroachment. The academicians state that the facts were first brought to their notice by Muslim residents in the Pakistani township.

In a joint letter to Sharif, House of Lords member Ajit Singh who is a professor at Cambridge, Virinder Kalra of the University of Manchester, Swaran Singh from Warwick, the economist Pritam Singh Gill of Oxford Brookes University and Nadir Cheema from SOAS, say, preserving gurudwaras would significantly further confidence building measures with India, said an India Today report.

In particular, the letter mentions Gurudwara Guru Kotha - a shrine dedicated to the Sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind in Gujranwala's Wazirabad town. They cite testimonies of local residents, which indicate that the historic structure was at risk of being destroyed by incessant encroachments. "The gurdwara enshrines the religious sentiments of the Sikh minority in Pakistan as well as spread across the globe. It is also part of the heritage of Punjab as a whole. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that the gurdwara is preserved," the academics have told Sharif.

"It should be a matter of pride for the Prime Minister of Pakistan that the Muslim residents of Wazirabad were the first to show their concern about the state of the gurdwara," their letter states.

Pointing to the fact that "in the last ten years around 200 mosques have been restored in Indian Punjab with the help of Sikh and Hindu communities," the letter says that "showing such a measure of mutual respect for each other's religious sentiments could play a huge part in producing sustainable peace and coexistence between two nations."

They have asked Mr Sharif to facilitate the transfer of the Wazirabad shrine to the custody of Pakistan's Evacuee or Aukaaf Trust and undertake its conservations and renovation in consultation with "concerned residents of Wazirabad."

Nadir Cheema believes a beginning in Wazirabad could renew hope for dozens of gurudwaras across the rest of Pakistan. According to him the previous PPP government too had eased visa restrictions allowing for Sikh pilgrims to participate in the refurbishment of shrines.

Sikh prayers in Indian Punjab after the partition in 1947, have continually articulated the community's yearning for free access to shrines located in Pakistan including the first Guru, Nanak's birthplace at Nankana Sahib.

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