Renovation work on the historic Gurdwara Bhai Biba Singh has remained at a standstill since February due to the absence of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman.
The gurdwara’s restoration, with a budget of Rs5.5 million, began in January 2012 and was meant to be completed within a year.
Sikhs have frequently asked the ETPB to resume restoration work at the sacred site in Hashtnagri and hand the building over to their community. However, the ETPB claims the decision will be taken by their new chairman. The board’s former chairman Syed Asif Hashmi was removed by the caretaker government and the post has been empty since then.
A Sikh elder, requesting anonymity, said community members had met the board officials several times and urged them to hand the gurdwara over as planned. “They continue to decline our requests,” he claimed.
“The main worship hall is in a better condition (than before) and does not require any renovation at all,” he said. “However, even after Rs5.5 million was allocated by the ETPB, only ceiling tiles were installed in addition to a whitewash.” The elder added the allocated money could be used for the restoration of two other historic buildings inside the gurdwara.
Gudwara Bhai Biba Singh is said to be at least three centuries old, and is located in Jugiwara, Hashtnagri. Until 2005, it housed a vocational training centre for girls, but after an earthquake the building was declared dangerous and the school was shifted to another building.
The gurdwara has not been used for worship since the partition of the sub-continent. Its history is not even known to local Sikhs who migrated to Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai agencies in the past two decades. But some elders believe the gurdwara was established at the time of the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, who died in 1708, making this structure at least 300 years old.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.