PESHAWAR/ KARACHI: After much-protest to no avail, Sikhs of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Sindh moved their respective high courts against the federal government for not adding Sikhism as a separate religion and placing it in the column of ‘other religions’ in the census form.
The petition was filed by Gurpal Singh, Charanjeet Singh and others through their attorney Shahid Raza Malik at the PHC while community leader Sardar Hira Singh filed it at SHC, on Tuesday.
Taking cognizance of the issue, a two-judge bench of the SHC, headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, issued notices to the chief census commissioner, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and others to file their comments by March 27.
At the PHC, the petitioners contended that they were permanent citizens of different districts of K-P, belonged to Pakistan’s Sikh community and were also members of Peshawari Singhs Saiwa Society and as such the rights of their community were guaranteed in the constitution.
The petitioners said on the order of the Supreme Court the federal government started census across Pakistan to count people of different religions in the country. However, in the census form Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Qadianis, Ahmadis, schedule castes and others are mentioned whereas the Sikh religion, being the fourth biggest religion and community, has been left out.
They pointed out that the community comprised around 100,000 people who are loyal citizens of the country, but there was no separate column for them in the census form.
The exclusion shocked each and every member of the community, they said.
Omission of Sikhism in national census form sparks protest in Peshawar
Members of the Sikh community staged protests in Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore and other cities over the alleged discrimination by the state machinery.
They reasoned that if the government could mention Islam, Christianity and Hinduism, then it could also add Sikhism as a religion to know the exact number of Sikhs living in the country.
It is surprising to know that Ahmadis and Qadianis, who are lesser in number in Pakistan than the Sikh community, are mentioned in the forms but Sikhs are ignored, which is a clear religious discrimination, the petitioners said.
The petitioners held that the origin of the community is in Pakistan as Guru Nanak was born in Punjab and Sikhs from all over the world visit their sacred places located across the country.
It is also injustice as the census has been taking place after a break of 19 years and data obtained through census would be used for allocation of National Assembly seats as well as divisions of resources under the National Finance Commission, they added.
The census would determine the number of people of every religious community that would be used for distribution of jobs in civil service.
If the community is counted under other religions category as mentioned in the form, it would not give an accurate picture of the Sikh population and deprive them of their fundamental rights.
All citizens are equal under Article 25 of the Constitution which has been violated, the petitioners stated. The petitioners prayed the PHC to direct the government to insert Sikhism in the census form as a separate religion.
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