Trading barbs: Infighting rocks Sikh community

Former SGPC chief sent on judicial remand


Rana Tanveer December 22, 2015
Former SGPC chief sent on judicial remand. STOCK IMAGE

LAHORE: Former Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief (PSGPC) Sardar Mastan Singh was sent to Sheikhupura Jail on judicial remand on Monday.

The former PSGPC supremo had been nabbed on December 18 in connection with an FIR registered on the complaint of Sardar Sham Singh, the incumbent PSGPC chief. Police had registered the FIR under Sections-295(defiling place of worship), 123-A (condemnation of the creation of state and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty), 440 (mischief), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Rejecting the allegations, Mastan’s supporters assert that the PSGPC lodged the FIR at the behest of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) to punish the former PSGPC chief for attempting to expose the board’s financial malpractices. Sardar Dilawar Singh, Mastan’s protégé, told The Express Tribune that another 25 Sikhs who have a soft corner for his mentor were on the run after being nominated in the complaint with him. He said the entire episode had been staged after Mastan had filed a petition at the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the ETPB having embezzled billions of rupees.

Dilawar said Mastan had secured incontrovertible evidence of the board having embezzled Rs7 billion. He said the evidence would be presented before the apex court soon. Dilawar said the Supreme Court had also issued red warrants for former ETPB chairman Asif Ali Hashmi in connection with the petition.

Members of the Sikh community had also staged a demonstration on December 18 to warn the board against meddling in its affairs.

According to the FIR in question, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, a ceremony was organised on November 25 on the eve of the 547th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. State Minister for Religious Affairs Hasnat Shah was the chief guest on the occasion. ETPB Chairman Siddiqueul Farooq was also present on the occasion.

“While I was escorting the minister to the ceremony, Mastan and his sword-wielding companions broke the main gate of Gurdwara Janam Asthan and started raising objectionable slogans against the state,” the FIR quoting Sham reads. It goes on to state that the men had attacked the PSGPC office and assaulted on-duty officials. The complaint says that the men had grabbed the mic from Secretary Gopal Singh and abused PSGPC functionaries in the presence of scores of Sikh pilgrims.  The complaint reads that the men had told those present that the government wanted to circumscribe the Palki Sahib procession to Gurdwara Janam Asthan on the pretext of security concerns.

“How can a government that cannot provide security to 20,000 pilgrims secure the lives of 200 million people? We will take the procession to Gurdawara Kaira Sahib and the government would be responsible if something untoward happens,” the FIR quotes Mastan as having said.

The FIR mentions Sham Singh as saying that the men had endangered the lives of scores of Sikhs…they raised slogans against the state and slandered it in the presence of pilgrims from a neighbouring county. Not only did they desecrate Gurdwaras but also attempted to compromise the integrity of Pakistan,” the FIR quotes complainant Sham Singh as having remarked.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2015.

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