ALMOST three hundred years old Sikh temple located in Jogiwara Street of Hashtnagri, an ancient residential area of Peshawar city, was reopened for worship on Wednesday. The temple was reopened during a ceremony wherein Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman Siddique-ul-Farooq was chief guest. The ceremony was also addressed by Adviser to Chief Minister on Minorities Sardar Suran Singh and leaders of Sikh community Sahib Singh and Bishan Singh.

The representatives of Sikh community, local elders and civil society members were also present on the occasion. Mr Farooq pledged to provide Rs1million for look after of the temple while Sardar Suran Singh announced Rs 3 million for the purpose.

“Our religion Islam guarantees protection of worship places of different religions,” said Mr Farooq. He added that reopening of the temple proved that Muslims always believed in interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence. He approved crematorium for Sikh community in Hassanabdal and construction of 1,000 rooms in the living quarters in four cities across the country.

“I announce Rs3 million from provincial government and will extend full support to meet demands of the community,” Sardar Suran Singh said and added the credit for reopening of the temple went to Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Riaz Khan Mehsud, police officials and Muslims reconciliatory committee.

He said that reopening of the temple would not cause hurdle in movement of the people in the area and both Muslim and Sikhs would live peacefully. “We have assured the local residents in an agreement that they will have no problems with reopening of the worship place,” Suran Singh told Dawn.

Earlier, Sahib Singh demanded foolproof security, appointment of caretakers, reasonable maintenance funds, power generator and construction of toilets for the temple. He said that Muslims, especially Khwaja Mohammad Akbar Sethi, Haji Ibrahim Khan, Haji Anwar Baba and Khurram Pervez, played effective role in renovation of the temple.

Although there is no authentic information about the history of the construction of the building and the date of its closure, yet Sikh elders said that it had been closed about 70 years ago when Sikh and Muslim communities developed some serious differences before partition.

According to an official source the temple was closed down before creation of Pakistan due a dispute between Sikhs and Muslims. A member of each community was killed in the dispute, he said. A joint jirga of Muslims and Sikhs led by the deputy commissioner managed to resolve the dispute and paved way for reopening of the temple after necessary renovation.

The sources said that according to the agreement, a wall would be constructed near the temple to ensure privacy of the adjacent girls’ school. Another wall will also be constructed on the roof of the temple to ensure privacy of the local people residing in the area. The local people will not raise objections to Sikhs observing rituals in the temple in future.

Some representatives of Sikh community including Manjeet Singh, Reshpal Singh and Darshan Singh expressed pleasure over reopening of the temple and described it a good omen for the community. (Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2016).

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