Saturday marked a historic milestone for the Sikh community in the province. A Sikh representative, for the first time since 1947, took oath as a member of the provincial assembly in Punjab at its first session.
He was nominated on a seat reserved for minorities on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket.
Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora walked into the assembly hall wearing a traditional white shalwar kamees and an orange turban. Several parliamentarians and assembly officials shook hands with him and welcomed him. Several of his family and friends were there to support him as well.
“As the first Sikh to have taken oath as a parliamentarian in the Punjab Assembly since 1947, I am absolutely delighted to be part of this august house. The position certainly comes with a lot of responsibility. I will not only be representing my own community but all the minorities in the province,” Arora told The Express Tribune after taking the oath.
Arora hails from Narowal and has been associated with the Pakistan Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee.
“PML-N’s priorities include eliminating load shedding and reviving the economy,” he said, minorities will benefit from these.
Arora said that he would work for the rehabilitation of historical and religious sites of the Sikhs. “Sites sacred to other religions will also be restored through the Evacuee Trust Property Board,” he said.
He said work on the reformation of the Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee was already underway, adding that it would be made more effective and efficient. “I will do the best I can to serve minorities. That is my aim and my party’s policy. That is why I’m here and that is what my oath was about,” he said.
Parliamentarian drives in on a motorbike
While most parliamentarians were seen reaching the assembly chambers on expensive SUVs and luxury cars, one of them chose a different mode of transport. Maulana Ghiyasud Din, a PML-N MPA from Shakargarh, drove a motorbike, with a green number plate reading MPA, to the assembly building.
“There is need to promote simplicity in our culture. That is why I drove a motorbike to attend the first assembly session. We need to cut down on expenses and solve problems like load shedding as soon as possible,” he said.
The effort towards that end needs to start from day one, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2013.