By Kalbe Ali
Dawn : February 25, 2017
ISLAMABAD: A well in one of the holiest sites in the Sikh religion, believed to be the birthplace of the religion, has been made functional and the government has allowed the well’s holy water to be exported.
“The water from this well is like what Aab-i-Zamzam is to Muslims. Now, the well has been shaped and a filtration plant has been set up over it so that Sikh devotees can drink the water,” Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Siddiqul Farooq told a Senate committee on Friday.
Mr Farooq was briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs at the Parliament House. He explained that three ancient gurdwaras visited by the founder of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak, have been reopened.
“The doors of these gurdwaras – one in Peshawar and two in the Nankana Sahib district – were closed after partition, and now they have been handed over to the Sikh community after renovation,” Mr Farooq said.
He said Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Nankana Sahib is where Baba Guru Nanak is believed to have spent the final years of his life.
“But the most considerable achievement is the opening of the holy well at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. Its water is called Amrit Jal by the Sikhs, and the government has allowed for the water to be exported all over the world.”
The committee was informed that the government is in the process of allowing the printing of the Sikh religious text the Gurugranth Sahib.
Senate body informed of reopening of three gurdwaras, renovations at Katas Raj
Committee chairman Senator Hafiz Hamdullah asked during the ETPB official’s briefing why the gurdwaras and the holy well had been closed for so many years.
Instead of addressing the question, officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, including Minister Sardar Mohammad Yousuf, Secretary Khalid Masood and ETPB officials remained silent. Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s Mr Hamdullah said it was not the right path to keep anyone from following their religion.
“We need to be considerate and facilitate, as much as possible, the members of other religious to worship at their temples or gurdwaras or churches. Whatever the reason for their closure, we should try to maintain them and hand them over to the concerned community,” he said.
He also asked ETPB officials if the Gurugranth Sahib was available in Urdu, and expressed the desire to read it. Other committee members mentioned that the holy book also contains mystical poetry.
Mr Farooq told the committee that the Gurugranth Sahib contains the poetry of Sufi saints, including Baba Fareed and Bulleh Shah. He added the foundation of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid by Mian Tir, a Muslim.
He said there are similar efforts to renovate Katas Raj, a holy Hindu temple complex in the Chakwal district.
“A holy well there has been refurbished and a filtration plant became operational a few days ago, which was inaugurated by the prime minister in the presence of foreign envoys, including the Indian high commissioner, who even prayed at the renovated Shiv Mandir,” Mr Farooq said.
Senator Ashok Kumar pointed towards the funding requirement for the Hinglaj Mata temple in Balochistan, and was informed that the temple falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government and not the ETPB.
Mr Hamdullah and other committee members directed the ministry and the ETPB chairman to get permission from the ETPB board and donate an ambulance to the temple.
“We talk about our rights, but we ignore our duties and responsibilities towards others,” he added.
The committee also discussed the performance of the Pakistan Madressa Board, and it was noted that cases regarding malfunctioning and misappropriations should be forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency.