Peace through temples

Peace through temples
Pakistan took a giant step to bring India on the table for talks by laying foundation stone for the construction of Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the Sikh community. As Baba Guru Nanak is buried in Kartarpur, the Sikh community from across the globe visits the place to pay homage to their spiritual leader Baba Gru Nanank, the founder of Sikhism.

Sikhism is among youngest of the world religions as it came into practicing in the 15th century; its hub remained Punjab in the subcontinent though now 27 million people practice Sikhism around the world.

Every year, thousands of Sikh pilgrims visit their places of worship in Pakistan

Baba Guru Nanak was born in Nankana Sahib on 15th April of 1469 and died in Kartarpur near Narowal district of Punjab, on the banks of River Ravi, just four kilometers from Pakistan-India border.

For Sikhs, visiting Baba’s birth place, Nankana Sahib, and burial place, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur are very sacred rituals, and the community throngs into Pakistan from all over the world, on the birth and death anniversaries of Baba Guru Nanak.

The first controversy on this subject came into the light when Imran Khan, the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, invited the former cricketer and current politician of the Indian Punjab Navjot Singh Sidhu in his oath-taking ceremony in August this year. Sidhu not only has won six Indian elections to date but is also predicted to be the next Chief Minister of the Indian Punjab.

At the ceremony, Sidhu and Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had a three-second japphi. The Chief conveyed to Sidhu that Pakistan may open Kartarpur border as a corridor for Sikhs so they can visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib without the visa restrictions. The Corridor has remained closed for Sinkhs since the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan.

Pakistan earlier had offered India to open Kartarpur border for Sikh community in 2000. The Indian government never approved or agreed to such a friendly gesture. India alleges that Pakistan supported Sikh Khalsa Movement in the 80s. The same ended in 1990 when allegedly Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, the Interior Minister of Pakistan Peoples’ Party’s civilian government, handed over the list of Sikh militants to his Indian counterpart. The allegation was never proved factual.

After the revelation of the Pakistan government’s intention to open the sensitive border, the Indian media badly criticized Navjot Singh Sidhu for visiting Pakistan and meeting the army chief. Some senior analysts and commentators even criticized General Bajwa for making the announcement that should have been made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan himself. India, like always, alleged that Pakistan military would never agree and support any peace initiative between the two countries. On the contrary, the announcement and presence of the army chief in the ground breaking ceremony, symbolizes the support of Pakistan army for the opening of the Corridor. It also hints at the normalization moves of the newly elected government of Pakistan by Imran Khan who is also alleged of being elected through military’s tacit support. For peace, Imran Khan said in his speech, the entire civil and military leadership is on one page.

So far, the things have gone as per plan, and even Imran Khan has announced in his speeches that if India takes one step for peace, his government will take two. He delivered the promise today on 28th of November 2018, along with the army chief and three Indian ministers and politicians. Sidhu was leading amongst them due to his deep dip speeches for peace, love and tranquility. He in his media talks, interviews and speeches at the ceremony quoted Baba Guru Nanak, Baba Fareed and Bulleh Shah who spread the message of peace, love and equality through their poetry and messages.

Pakistan and India having a history of staggering peace initiatives through Samjhota train, friendship bus, confidence building measures (CBMs) agreed again to give it a try via the Lahore Declaration signed when Atal Bihari Vajpaee visited Lahore as the Prime Minister of India in 1998. Zia ul-Haq tested even the cricket diplomacy when he flew into Delhi to watch Pak-India test match in Jaipur. His sudden and surprise decision put the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a difficult situation as he was not ready to receive him at the airport. However, the Indian security agencies cleared him to meet and receive Zia. Yousaf Raza Gailani also went to Chandigarh to see the semifinal of the World Cup between Pakistan and India in 2011, and met the Indian PM Manmohan Singh to normalize the situation and resume composite dialogue that was derailed due to Mumbai attacks. All CBMs, cricket diplomacy, and gestures have failed to date due to the huge trust deficit between both the countries.

This time it seems that Pakistan is using spiritualism and temples for brining peace in the region, as the spiritualism spread by Baba Guru Nanak, Baba Bulleh Shah and Baba Ghulam Fareed is seen with respect in the entire subcontinent.

Even spirituals and Sufis like Khawaja Moin Uddin Chishti of Ajmer Sharif, Khawaja Nizam Uddin Auliya of Delhi, Hazrat Baba Data Gunj Bakhsh of Lahore, Baba Fareed Gunj Shakr of Pakpatan Sharif, Shah Rukn-e-Alam of Multan, Lal Shehbaz Qalandar of Sehwan Sahrif, and Sachal Sarmast of Ranipur, and all others have given the message of peace, love, humanity and tranquility, and asked their followers to live together and above the religious considerations.

Pakistan government invited the Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu, besides 17 Indian journalists to the groundbreaking ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor on November 28.

The Kartarpur corridor was inaugurated by PM Imran on November 28

Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh, and External Affairs Minister declined to attend the opening ceremony at the Kartarpur Border, but India also announced in their letter to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qurashi that India's Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Shri Hardeep Singh Puri will attend the ceremony at Kartarpur Sahib and represent the Indian government.

On the day of the groundbreaking ceremony today, Sushma Sawraj took a different stance while talking to media in Delhi and said, both the ministers went to Pakistan in their personal not an official capacity. Sawraj’s statement created an embarrassing situation for both Harsimrat Kaur and Shiri Hardeep Singh Puri who are of the BJP party. It also provided an edge to the Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu who earned respect in the eyes of Pakistani media and people due to his positive stance on bringing Pakistan and India closer and declaring corridor opening as the sign of bringing peace in the region.

Imran Khan once again pledged to work for the peace between India and Pakistan. However, this dream seems to be far from materializing as BJP led by Narendra Modi always uses anti-Pakistan card, which they will also use in the Indian elections early next year.

Despite a history of the Indian hate cards, Pakistan’s approach and Imran Khan’s hope and vision for a longer peace in the region and ending hostilities with India is receiving appreciation from diplomatic corps in Islamabad and world media.

The author is a senior Broadcast Journalist and can be reached on email: