Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara, final resting place of Guru Nank Dev, situated on the banks of Ravi River in Pakistan, is 120 kms from Lahore and 3-4 km from the Indo-Pak border, and is most sacred to the Sikhs
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
In August 2018, Navjot Singh Sidhu, then a Punjab Congress Minister attended the oath taking ceremony of the Imran Khan government amidst the controversy there of him hugging Pakistani Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. On return Sidhu announced Bajwa had told him that Pakistan was ready to open the Kartarpur Corridor for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
Subsequently on September 19, Pakistan said there was “no formal communication with India on opening the Kartarpur Corridor”. On October 4, Pakistan Foreign office spokesperson Muhammad Faisl said that opening of the Kartarpur border crossing was linked to the start of a dialogue between India and Pakistan. On November 22, India announced opening of the Kartarpur Corridor saying that the Indian side of the corridor will be constructed by August 2019.
The significance of the Kartarpur Corridor requires no elaboration. Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara, final resting place of Guru Nank Dev, situated on the banks of Ravi River in Pakistanis 120 kms from Lahore and 3-4 km from the Indo-Pak border, is most sacred to the Sikhs. Guru Nanak Dev had spent 18 years of his life there. The Corridor was opened in 2019 but was closed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, on November 14, 2021, the Indian government announced its reopening.
There is no real figure of Sikh population in Pakistan but rights campaigners say Sikh population has drastically came down from around 40,000 in 2002 to just 8,000 in 2020
It is significant to note that Pakistani authorities excluded the Sikhs from the most recent census in 2017, which was Pakistan’s first national headcount in 19 years. Hence, there is no real figure of Sikh population in Pakistan. But rights campaigners say Sikh population has drastically came down within the past two decades -- from around 40,000 in 2002 to just 8,000 in 2020.
Discrimination against religious minorities and attacks on Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadiyya and Shia communities are widespread in Pakistan. Sunni militant groups operate with impunity across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials either turn a blind eye or appear helpless to prevent widespread attacks against religious minorities. Sikhs have been victims of massacres, targeted assassinations and forced conversations. Gurudwaras have been attacked, demolished and encroached upon. The statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the Lahore Fort has been vandalized twice.
Pakistan permitted the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) to open an office in Karachi and the SFJ was linked with Chinese intelligence through the ISI for exchanging intelligence particularly on Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh in support of the China-Pakistan anti-India axis plus promoting Sikh separatism and destabilising Punjab. Pakistan has been pumping narcotics and drugs into both Punjab and J&K since past many years.
Drones are the favoured tool of the Pakistan-based terrorists. These have been used to ferry weapons, ammunition and explosives across the border into Punjab and J&K and even used to engineer an armed drone attack on Jammu Air Force station in June 2021. As per the data submitted to the Union Home Ministry, 42 Pakistani drones were sighted in 2021 (up to September 10) along the Punjab, J&K, Gujarat and the Rajasthan borders.
Pakistan has no love lost for the Sikhs. Pakistan has been killing, converting and raping them, plus desecrating and demolishing Gurudwaras in Pakistan.
During the farmers agitation (which is still not called off), Khalistani supporters were active in Punjab. In fact, one of the reasons being cited for India repealing the farm laws is the Khalistani conspiracy to use these laws as the reason to create violence in Punjab and Delhi and attempt to plant the Khalistan flag on the Parliament building.
From the above it should be explicitly clear that Pakistan has no love lost for the Sikhs. On the contrary, Pakistan has been killing, converting and raping them, plus desecrating and demolishing Gurudwaras in Pakistan. Even now Pakistani girl models are using the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara for photo-shoots.
The question therefore is why was Pakistan, particularly their Army Chief so very keen to open the Kartarpur Corridor? Can the reason be brushed under the carpet by saying there are enough checks and counter checks to ensure that pilgrims are not carrying any weapons and warlike stores? The ISI is smart enough not to do so, which can be sent using drones and routes for smuggling narcotics and infiltrating terrorists. But what about ‘cultivating’ new contacts lured on various pretexts, personal messages and briefs that could be intercepted otherwise.
National security must take precedence over everything else, politics included. There will be a stream of devotees throughout the year, not occasional groups crossing into Pakistan. Individuals and smaller groups are more likely to be susceptible to ISI’s machinations. Moreover, we must acknowledge that the ISI handlers on the Indian side have protection of our ‘deep state’ and perhaps even some political patronage. The question that needs to be addressed is what the ISI can do using the Kartarpur Corridor, and is probably engaged in?
An unusual and strange phenomenon is happening of Indian women pilgrims going to Pakistan, converting to Muslim faith and marrying Pakistani men. On April 12, 2019, Kiran Bala (mother of three) from Hoshiarpur went to Pakistan with a Sikh jatha to celebrate Baisakhi and married Lahore-based Muhammad Azam on April 16. A year earlier on October 24, 2018, Tina Sharma (mother of two) from Bhatinda crossed over to Pakistan and married Gujranwala-based Muhammed Suleman.
An unusual and strange phenomenon is happening of Indian women pilgrims going to Pakistan, converting to Muslim faith and marrying Pakistani men
Now news reports of November 28, 2021, say that a married Sikh women from Kolkata who visited Pakistan with a Sikh jatha to celebrate Gurpurb converted to Islam and married Lahore-based Muhammad Imran. Her real name has not been disclosed but she reportedly crossed into Pakistan (accompanied by her Indian husband), married Imran on November 24 after divorcing her Indian husband in a Lahore court and was rechristened Parveena Sultan after filing a petition in the same court.
Paramjit Singh Sarna, President of Shiromani Akali Dal (D) and former President of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has said, “In wake of a Bengali Sikh pilgrim converting and remarrying in Pakistan, we have appealed to jatha members traveling across the border to restrict their activities to darshan and didar of holy Gurdwaras. Such acts can even lead to a ban on Sikh pilgrimage to Pakistan. He also said that the matter had caused a huge embarrassment.
Treating the above episodes as innocuous love affairs will be very foolish. These indicate a certain pattern and stinks of an espionage network being engineered by the ISI in conjunction with SFJ and Khalistanis which may be tip of the iceberg. This should raise the tentacles of our intelligence agencies and the National Security Advisor.