Lahore: A group of people, including a
former councillor of the PML-N, stormed an 18th century
gurdwara in Pakistan`s Punjab province and occupied it before
police intervened to evict them, officials said Monday.
The group, including several women, forcibly occupied the
gurdwara that has not been functional since Partition at Sori
Gali in Sahiwal district, 250-km from Lahore, yesterday.
The members of the group claimed to be PML-N activists
and were led by Romana Safdar Gujari, a former councillor.
Abid Bhulla, chief of the local police station, said the
group led by Gujari stormed the gurdwara by breaking the lock
on the outer door early yesterday morning.
On receiving information of this, a police team reached
the spot and arrested the group, he said.
A local reporter said the police took over five hours to
evict the intruders as most of them were women. A case was
registered against them following a complaint from an official
of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which manages the
shrines of minority communities across Pakistan.
Gujari reportedly told police not to stop the group as
she was close to Capt (retired) Muhammad Safdar, the
son-in-law of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
She further claimed the gurdwara was allotted to her by
Gujari claimed she had a letter from ETPB Chairman Asif
Hashmi for leasing the 18 `marla` plot of the gurdwara.
ETPB spokesman Amir Hashmi said that it was the land
of the gurdwara that had attracted the land mafia.
"We have sent a two-member team to Sahiwal to carry out
an investigation," he said. "Since the ETPB is responsible for
looking after gurdwaras, temples and other shrines in
Pakistan, how could it authorise the handing over of the
gurdwara`s land?" he said.
Asked if the gurdwara could be made functional, Amir
Hashmi said: "If we have a good number of Sikhs in the area,
there is no issue in reopening the gurdwara."
The incident yesterday appears to have strengthened the
case of the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC),
which has asked authorities to place all gurdwaras in its
ETPB Deputy Director (shrines) Fraz Abbas said the
board would take the PGPC into confidence over the incident
and seek its input to thwart such incidents in future.
The gurdwara in Sahiwal currently houses a civil defence
post that is controlled by the district administration chief.
The PML-N, which rules Punjab, has distanced itself from
the actions of Gujari, saying she was not a member of the
party’s women’s wing.