Merely one year into the opening of the Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, Imran Khan-led Pakistan government has officially taken over full control of it by snatching the rights of management from Pakistan’s Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee (PSGPC) and giving it to a Muslim body.
According to the Pakistan Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Gurudwara will now be managed by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). The ETPB is a statutory board of the Government of Pakistan, headed by Muhammad Tariq Khan which manages religious properties and shrines of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan.
This is for the first time that Pakistan’s Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee has lost management rights of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. The move comes just ahead of PSGPC planning to organise the first anniversary of the Kartarpur Gurudwara opening on November 9.
According to a notification issued on November 3: “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.”
“All officers/ official…are relieved from their duties with immediate effect with directions to join their new place of posting forthwith.”
On behalf of the global Sikh community, Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa strongly condemned the move. “It’s unfortunate that Pakistan cabinet has handed over Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur’s management to an ISI organisation ETPB from Pakistan Gurudwara Committee, which is a Sikh organisation. A non-Sikh body will control historic Gurudwara”, ANI quoted Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa as saying. Sirsa has demanded that the right of sewa be given back to the Sikh committee.
It’s unfortunate that Pakistan cabinet has handed over Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur’s management to an ISI organisation ETPB from Pakistan Gurudwara Committee, which is a Sikh organisation. A non-Sikh body will control historic Gurudwara: DSGMC President Manjinder Singh Sirsa pic.twitter.com/P1mjLc9e1d— ANI (@ANI) November 5, 2020
Former union cabinet minister and Akali Dal member, Harsimrat Kaur Badal called Pakistan’s decision “outrageous” and “unacceptable” and urged PM Modi to take up the matter with Imran Khan to ensure Sikh body’s right to manage the shrine be restored at the earliest.
Unacceptable, outrageous! Sikhs are aghast that @GovtofPakistan has handed over control of gurdwara Sri KartarpurSahib to Islamic body ETBP. We urge PM @narendramodi to take up matter with @ImranKhanPTI to ensure Sikh body’s right to manage the shrine be restored at the earliest. pic.twitter.com/aCNBwBo77i— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) November 5, 2020
Last year, Pakistan had insisted on charging a service fee for allowing pilgrims to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, which India had strongly opposed. However, the two sides did agree on visa-free travel for pilgrims and allowing Indians holding the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to visit Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib through the corridor. This was during the second meeting on the Kartarpur Corridor issue between the two countries after the abrogation of Article 370. Amidst tensions between the two countries, it was reported earlier that the Pakistani establishment wants to revive Khalistani terrorism through the corridor.