Pak Sikhs to stage protest on plaza issue

Members of Pakistan`s minority Sikh community will stage a protest on Friday if the government does not immediately stop the construction of a plaza on the land belonging to a historic Gurudwara.

Last Updated: Mar 24, 2011, 21:15 PM IST

Lahore: Members of Pakistan`s minority Sikh
community will stage a protest on Friday if the government
does not immediately stop the construction of a plaza on the
land belonging to a historic Gurudwara, a Sikh leader said
on Thursday.

"Hundreds of Sikhs from across Pakistan will gather on
the Mall Road to protest if authorities do not immediately
stop the construction of the plaza. This gurudwara (Deewan
Khana) is 400 years old and no Sikh can tolerate its
desecration," Sardar Bishon Singh, a former president of the
Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee said.

The Sikhs will also join a sit-in outside the Punjab
Assembly to protest the Evacuee Trust Property Board`s (ETPB)
failure to prevent the construction of the plaza, Singh said.

The ETPB is responsible for the maintenance and
administration of shrines of minority communities.

Singh alleged that officials of the ETPB and Pakistan
Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee were involved in attempts to
demolish Gurudwara Deewan Khana.

He said he had obtained an order from a sessions court
staying the demolition of the gurudwara and construction of
the plaza on March 21 but encroachers had violated this order.

He said that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had,
during a meeting with an Indian Sikh delegation in November
last year, told the ETPB to stop the construction of the
plaza.
The EPTB initially complied with the Premier`s order but
the construction had recently resumed, Singh said.
Nine tenants had "temporary" shops near Gurudwara
Deewan Khana for many years.

In 2007, the EPTB struck a deal with these tenants to
build a plaza on the gurudwara`s land, Singh alleged.

After he spoke to EPTB officials and explained that
the land could not be sold, the deal was blocked and the
tenants were asked to continue their business at their shops,
he added.

ETPB chief Asif Hashmi told the media that the deal
for the plaza was concluded before he assumed office.

He said that he would cancel the deal between the
tenants and the ETPB as the site has religious significance
for Sikhs.

PTI