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LAHORE: Guru Arjun's 'martyrdom' day to be observed

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LAHORE: Guru Arjun's 'martyrdom' day to be observed


By Our Staff Reporter

LAHORE, Nov 14: Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi has said the government is keen on strengthening its relations with Sikhs, and offered to hold the international Sikh Muslim Federation's annual convention in Lahore in 2006.

The Punjab government would make all arrangements for the 400th martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Singh in Lahore in 2006, officially observe the day and request the federal government to issue a postal ticket to mark the occasion, he said.

The chief minister was speaking at a reception he had arranged here on Friday night for Sikh yatrees, who had come to Pakistan from all over the world to take part in the three-day 534th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

Before the reception, the chief minister held a meeting with Sikh leaders, and assured them of provision of all facilities at their places of worship in the province. He said that for the first time in history the Pakistan government especially President Gen Pervez Musharraf had given special favours to the minorities who now had the right to cast double votes, one for the general election and another for electing their own representatives in the assemblies.

The minorities had adequate representation in all the elected fora. The government wanted to develop its relations with the minorities especially Sikhs, the chief minister said.

He said the government would try to develop Sikhs' places of worship and the areas around them through a special package before the martyrdom day celebrations of Guru Arjun Singh in 2006. It would also welcome those Sikhs from Europe who would like to share the development work, he said.

The chief minister said the government would also provide all facilities to Sikhs who might build hotels near their places of worship for better accommodation of pilgrims.

He said he had already asked the provincial tourism department to establish shops of handicraft and develop a food street near the main Gurdwara. "Besides entertainment Sikhs businessmen can also explore trade possibilities at these places."

Replying to a demand of a Sikh leader he said the government was establishing an academy for the promotion of Punjabi language which, he said, was a link between the Punjabis in Pakistan and Sikhs. A recent meeting of the chief ministers had also agreed to promote the provincial languages at university level, and the groundwork in this regard had already been started, the chief minister said.

The chief minister hoped that the number of Sikh yatrees would increase in future, recalling as to how Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi used to give receptions to thousands of them around 25 years ago. Another bus service should be started from Amritsar to Lahore to facilitate Sikhs, he said.

He said the government was building the Lahore-Sheikhupura-Faisalabad highway and would link it to Nankana Sahib. Sikh leaders Sardar Balkar Singh, Sardar Paramjit Singh, Sardar Autar Singh Sanghera and Sardar Man Mohan Singh also spoke on the occasion, appreciating the hospitality shown to the yatrees by the chief minister, and emphasizing the need for developing the relationship between their community and people in Punjab.

Sardar Mohan said Pakistan should live long as its existence would prevent India from overpowering other small countries in the region. He proposed exchange of visits by the chief ministers of Eastern and Western Punjab for better relations between the people. There should be no war as it would directly affect only those in the two Punjabs, he said. The Sikh leaders gave two karpans (swords) and turbans to the chief minister who too gave them mementos.


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Punjab should play proactive role: Gill

Pak proposal for Lahore-Amritsar bus

P.P.S. Gill

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15

Former Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill is surprised that there has been no response from Punjab to the Pakistan offer to start Lahore-Amritsar bus service.

Dr Gill wondered why no one in Punjab had responded to Pakistan’s offer, such an arrangement would make visits across the border easy rather than SGPC seeking permission for jathas to visit historic gurdwaras in Pakistan.

Dr Gill told The Tribune today that a similar offer from Pakistan earlier to open a passage to pilgrims to pay obeisance at the gurdwara in Kartarpur opposite Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur was also not followed up at any level in Punjab.

Dr Gill recalled his meeting with Hindus and Sikhs in Nankana Sahib four years ago where it was pointed out that they were given visas to visit any other part of India but Punjab. They wanted permission to visit at least Amritsar to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple. ‘’I wrote to the Prime Minister on return but, there has been no reply till date’’.

Punjab, Dr Gill said, was a major stakeholder in India-Pakistan relations as the people had suffered Partition, starting their lives from a scratch. Once peace was restored between the two countries, Punjab would emerge a major beneficiary in people-to-people relations. Punjab would also benefit in trade and tourism.

If there was justification for a bus facility between Dacca and Kolkata or proposals were there for similar connections between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan occupied Kashmir, or for a rail-road link between Khokrapar in Rajasthan and Munabao in Sind, why not between Amritsar-Lahore and Amritsar-Nankana Sahib with all necessary regulations and controls?

Dr Gill said once the proposal to start ferry service between Mumbai and Karachi matured, it would give a setback to Punjab. It was a border state, land-locked and miles away from the seaports. Once this sea route opened, it would also open flood gates to the economy and trade that would affect Punjab. Positive contacts between the two Punjabs were important for the state’s economy and trade just as the opening of rail, road and sea links would benefit Maharashtra, Kashmir, Rajasthan.

Dr Gill said as Punjab had strategic geo-political location, it had to play a pro-active role in the peace process between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Tribune - Chandigarh, Punjab

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