India on Friday evening slammed Pakistan’s decision of snatching away the management of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur from the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC). The top diplomat of Pakistan was summoned in Delhi to strongly protest over the change in the management of the Gurdwara.

The Imran Khan-led Pakistan government officially took away the full control of the Gurdwara at Kartarpur in Punjab’s Narowal District from the PSGPC and gave it to Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a Muslim body. The ETPB manages religious properties and shrines of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan.

A project management unit was formed under the ETBP that had no Sikh on it, sparking angry reaction by Sikh groups. The move came days ahead of the first anniversary of the inauguration of the historic Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. 

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that India conveyed to Pakistan’s Action High Commissioner Aftab Hasan, “that this unilateral decision by Pakistan is highly condemnable” and “runs against the spirit of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as also the religious sentiments of the Sikh community at large”.

The summoning continued for 20 minutes at the ME headquarters. New Delhi has already received many representations from the Sikh community over the development expressing grave concern at this decision by Pakistan.

The MEA spokesperson said, “Pakistan is called upon to reverse its arbitrary decision to deprive the Sikh minority community it’s right to manage affairs of the Holy Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib.”

Founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev ji, spent the last 18 years of his life in the Gurudwara which is just a few kilometres away from the International border with India. Earlier the Gurudwara’s management was under Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. It’s for the first time that the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has been scrapped off its management rights of this sacred Gurdwara.

As reported by Zee News on November 4, the Pakistan Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) on November 3 released the official order taking away the management rights from the PSGPC.

Notably, ETPB has already removed four members namely Gopal Singh Chawla and Mahinderpal Singh (both Sikhs), Shanela Ruth (Christian) and Ravi Kumar (Hindu) members from minority community from ETPB’s board. While rejecting the claims of ETPB with regards to setting up of PMU Kartarpur Sahib, sources informed that villages around Kartarpur Sahib had significant strategical value for Pakistan Army and ISI. 

Pakistan-based Islamist terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is quite active in areas close to the Indo-Pak International border and uses many of its villages like Masroor Bara Bai as the launchpad of terrorists to infiltrate into India said sources. The terrorists who had infiltrated into India to carry out Dinangar police station attack in 2015 had reportedly stayed for about a couple of days at Masroor Bara Bai village before entering into India.

The 4-km long corridor links Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur in India to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan – the final resting place of Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev. On November 9, 2019, the Pakistan PM had formally inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor as part of the commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak at a colourful ceremony.

Pakistan’s official order: An official order on November 3 read, “Consequent upon the approval of Project Management Unit (PMU) Kartarpur Corridor by ECC of the Cabinet, and ratified by the Cabinet (conveyed by MoRA…dated 23.10.2020), the competent authority has been pleased to establish Project Management Unit (PMU), a self-financing body, for Management and Maintenance of Gurdwara Dardar Sahib Kartarpur (GADSK) under the administrative control of ETPB.”

It further listed nine officials and staff members who have been posted at PMU at Kartarpur Narowal to implement the Project Business Plan. The officials are– Muhammad Tariq Khan, AS Shrines, ETPB as Chief Executive Officer OPS (additional charge); Abdullah Awais, Assistant Administrator as Deputy Secretary Admn/ Finance OPS; Haider Muktar, Accountant; ETPB as Assistant Accounts Officer; Ahsan Khan, ASO, ETPB as Security Officer; Haider All Bangash, Computer Operator, ETPB; Khushnood Shoukat, UDC (Survey), ETPB; Arshad Guijar, LDC (Accounts), ETPB; Adil Ali, Naib Qasid, ETP and Tanveer Ahmed, Driver, ETPB.

It added, “All officers/ official…are relieved from their duties with immediate effect with directions to join their new place of posting forthwith.”

On October 29, PSGPC chief Satwant Singh had told news agency PTI that it will celebrate the first anniversary of the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. However, the ETPB had distanced itself from the PSGPC’s initiative, saying “it has not received any instructions to celebrate the first anniversary of the inauguration of the corridor so far”.

Kartarpur Corridor first anniversary: “We have decided in principle to celebrate the first anniversary of the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor and for the purpose, we will invite some two to three ministers and other government functionaries,” Singh told PTI. When asked as to why the ETPB was not hosting this function along with the PSGPC, Singh had said, “Since the construction of Kartarpur Corridor is a historic event, the Sikh body in Pakistan has decided in principle to celebrate its first inauguration anniversary. And so far the ETPB is concerned, we are inviting it and other government functionaries and ministers for the event.”

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The corridor, which allows Indian pilgrims to undertake visa-free travel to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara – was closed on March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. India has said a decision to re-open the Kartarpur corridor would be taken in accordance with the protocols relating to COVID-19 and easing of restrictions.

Singh further said that Sikhs from all parts of Pakistan would visit the corridor on November 9. “Some 500 to 1,000 locals visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib daily,” he had said. Meanwhile, an official of the ETPB had told PTI that no function in connection with the first anniversary of the inauguration of the corridor has been planned at the government level. “The PSGPC is organizing a programme on its own,” he had said.

Earlier in October, the Foreign Office had said that Pakistan will celebrate the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev from November 28 to 30. 

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