PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday directed two government officials to appear before court to explain why no crematorium had been built in the city for the Sikh and Hindu population despite release of funds by the government.
Deputy commissioner of Nazim Town 1 and an administrator from the Auqaf Department have been summoned in the case. A two-member bench of the PHC comprising of Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Musarat Hilali heard the petition filed by Babaji Guru Gurpal Singh.
The petition urged the court to direct the provincial government to build a crematorium in the provincial capital for religious minorities. Rs30 million has already been released by the government, but authorities are reluctant to construct a crematorium.
Counsel for the petitioner, Advocate Mohammad Khurshid, argued that despite the allocation of funds, the religious communities are compelled to take bodies to Attock in Punjab which costs them a lot. Majority of the community members can not afford the journey to Punjab to cremate their dead.
Khurshid added that K-P government even released Rs2.7 million for ambulances but the amount was in the custody of the nazim of Town 1 who failed to spend it according to allocation. He added that Hindus have now started burying their dead due to non-availability of nearby cremation center, which is against their religious beliefs.
However, counsel for the Auqaf department argued that even though the funds have been released, the differences between the elders of both Sikh and Hindu community hindered the process.
“They haven’t even agreed on a venue for the crematorium,” the defense counsel argued.
But this failed to satisfy Justice Ikramullah, who directed defense lawyers to name all the differences between the groups, stating that the court will assist in resolving their differences. However, the lawyers were silent.
“This is so sad. They have been demanding for so long, but you haven’t even provided them with a single crematorium,” Justice Hilali remarked. “We will recover all the funds allocated for the project from your pockets.”
The defense counsel requested the court for time to file comments, butb the request was rejected by court and the respondents were directed to appear before court in person on May 31 and explain their positions.
Sikh leader Gurpal Singh, the petitioner, while talking to media said that as many as 60,000 Sikhs live in K-P, including 15,000 who live in Peshawar alone. There are even higher numbers of Hindus who also cremate their dead, but no crematorium in sight, he added.
He added that wrong messages are being circulated in the international community that Hindus and Sikhs are not getting basic rights despite the fact that government has released funds, it is the inadequacy of the government department which isn’t utilising the funds accordingly.