Sunday, 26 January 2020

Kartarpur and religious minorities in Pakistan

Updated: December 7, 2018 4:30 pm

On November 28, 2018, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan performed the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur corridor, connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of  Pakistan to Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of  Punjab, India.  Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is located on the bank of the Ravi, Pakistan, which is about 4 km away from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India. The significance of Gurudwara Darbar Sahib is immense, as it is said that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, assembled Sikh community and lived here for 18 years until his death in 1539. The shrine could be seen from the Indian side of Dera Baba Nanakshrine. From the Indian side, Minister for Food Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister for Housing, Hardeep Singh Puri attended the ceremony.

Now, it is important to understand that unexpectedly what compelled Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to agree with Kartarpur corridor?  In February 1999, for the first time, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had raised Kartarpur issue with the then Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf and subsequently the then PM Manmohan Singh, during his tenure, also pushed the issue several times before Pakistan.  But no government of Pakistan thought on this and always avoided this issue.

There are many reasons behind the sudden inauguration of Kartarpur corridor by Pakistan and it is totally political and diplomatic. Firstly, Pakistan wanted a dialogue with India. But, India has been categorically denying any dialogue with Pakistan unless it stops its soil for terrorism against India. Here it is important to mention that day after the inauguration of Kartarpur corridor, Pakistan invited India for SAARC meet.  But External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj ruled out any dialogue with Pakistan and said that terror and talk cannot go together. Though, it is a fact that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi exposes his country himself calling Kartarpur a ‘googly’.  “Imran Khan bowled a ‘googly’ to ensure Indian government’s presence at the groundbreaking ceremony,” media reports quoted him as saying.  

 Secondly, which is most significant,  the economy of Pakistan is going through a crisis day by day and the situation is so worse that the US, once a trusted partner of Pakistan, has suspended $3 billion in security assistance to Pakistan this year after it failed to rein in terrorist groups. Pakistani rupee, which was rupees 100 against 1 dollar in May, is now rupees 144. Pakistan is already facing the IMF bailout situation, and due to this, Imran Khan has already visited countries like Saudi Arabia, China, and Malaysia for financial aid. The fact is that Imran Khan himself knows that without India’s cooperation, Pakistan’s economy cannot run smoothly and even it will not be able to attract foreign investors. Therefore, by any means, he is raising the issue of dialogue.

Now coming to the point on the inauguration of Kartarpur corridor, many political analysts believe that with the help ofKartarpur, Pakistan wants to provoke so-called Khalistan movement in Punjab and it is not possible unless it comes close to the Sikh community. However, Pakistan’s new love with Sikh community is full of contradiction. If we look at the population of the Sikh community after 1947 in Pakistan, it has drastically decreased. Not only Sikh community even Hindu and Christian minorities are facingthreat of extinction in Pakistan. It is very interesting that Pakistan Army Chief General Kamar Bajwa was also present at the function of Kartarpur corridor.

Recently, according to the report published in Sputnik, Pakistan’s first Sikh policeman Gulab Singh was allegedly humiliated by the Pakistani forces, who was forcibly evicted from his house in Dera Chahal village near Lahore.  Gulab Singh alleged that his turban was forced open and hair untied by the officials, who came to evict him from his ancestral home.

Pakistan was created in the name of religion and the truth is that the minorities were never given an opportunity to be equal citizens of Pakistan. As a result, the number of religious minorities declined from 23 per cent in 1947 to less than 4 per cent in 2017, as per the census data.

Speaking on the ruthless behavior of Pakistan’s governments and Army against the minorities, Zulfiqar Shah, a civil rights activist, journalist and writer of Sindhi origin, who was forced by the Pakistan Army to unlawfully leave the country and close down The Institute for Social Movements, Pakistan, in May 2012, says that Sindhis are seculars, moderates and liberals. They want the exodus of Hindus and Sikhs to be stopped. But some people sitting in ISI ask religious extremist groups to either rapeHindu women or forcibly convert them to Islam or abduct and kill the Hindus.Civil government of Pakistan is not even in a position to do something for Hindu and Sikh minorities because they need some authority from the ISI and Pakistan Army.  So, they are unable to protect the Hindus living in Pakistan.

“There are three aspects behind the ruthless victimisation of Hindu and Sikh minorities in Pakistan–the first one is Taliban, the extremists’ version of Islam and some Madrasas. The second one is civil government and the third one is security institutions.  Primarily, there is no Islamic notion among the fraternity of the religious extremists in Pakistan. They have combined the Islamic tradition with the tribalism in Pashtun areas of Pakistan for three-four decades.  In Pakistan earlier, there was an area called FATA (Federally Administrated Tribal Areas), which is now part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as they are also Pashtun. What happened when the US and Pakistan aligned against the Soviet Union, they developed Mujahideen through infusing so-called un-Islamic doctrine in the name of Islam among the tribals. And the tribals fought against the Sovie Union, and later on, Pakistani authorities developed their own brand of Taliban among the tribal community.  Now the whole caricature has become extremism in Pakistan.  And this tribal tradition is being attempted to impose in all over Pakistan. This is the reason why minorities living in Pakistan are facing problems for their existence,” Shah added on radicalisation spreading among the people of Pakistan. 

Here it is worth mentioning that Imran Khan’s PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) has been in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for years and it has not taken any legitimate step to tackle extremist groups. So, it is clear that Pakistan has some hidden agenda behind theKartarpur corridor.

                                                                                                        By RAVI MISHRA

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