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June 14, 2019

Sikh businesses pledge £500m for Pak Gurdwaras uplift

Top Story

June 14, 2019

LONDON: A leading British Sikh philanthropist and other Sikh businesses have pledged a £500 million injection into Pakistani Gurdwaras after Pakistan’s decided to establish the Kartarpur Corridor — which aims to facilitate Sikhs from all over the world in visiting their holiest of sites.

Philanthropist Peter Virdee made the announcement at a joint press conference here with Zulfi Bukhari, Chairman of the Pakistan Tourism Board and Special Assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, joined by leading Sikh community representatives. The event was organised by the Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha). Bukhari was chief guest at the occasion. Virdee made the pledge by announcing the setting up of a trust under the name of Guru Nanak Ji which will have representation from Sikh Jathas all over the world. In an interview with The News, the Sikh businessman said his own charitable organisation — the Peter Virdee Foundation — will join hands with other Sikh groups to inject £500 million into Pakistan to renovate and modernise hundreds of Gurdwaras which will be a boost to the local economy.

The foundation in conjunction with various donors/Sewadars recently completed the full renovation and restoration of London’s Central Gurdwara Khalsa Jatha - the oldest Gurdwara outside of India. The foundation re-opened the Gurdwara to the public in December 2017, restoring the Gurdwara in its original glory for the Sikh community.

He told The News: “Leading Sikh businesses, organisations and Gurdwaras have discussed this and we have commitment of £500 million at this stage. This is only a small drop in the ocean. We will be doing more. This is only the start and we want to tell Pakistani government that you have done a great job by opening the Kartarpur Corridor. Now, it’s for Sikhs to respond with our love for our holy sites.”

Virdee said Sikhs were denied their desire of visiting Kartarpur for over six decades and Sikhs are overjoyed after the Corridor opening was announced.

Bukhari said: “We really want the Sikh community in the world to contribute. This is a very special year, the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Sahib and as Pakistanis we want to celebrate it in an elaborate fashion. We don’t just want it to be a national event but we want it to be covered globally. I want you to be on board to organise seminars, exhibitions and conferences around it to build up the hype that this occasion deserves.”

Bukhari thanked the Sikh community for their pledge and promised a number of measures to facilitate religious tourism to Pakistan. Bukhari said he would make sure that religious tourists are granted visas immediately.

He announced that he would be speaking to Pakistan High Commission in London and elsewhere to ensure the establishment of tourism desks in Pakistani embassies and dedicated staff to facilitate visas for those taking part in Yatras in Pakistan later this year.

Bukhari said: “Pakistan has not been so open to religious tourism in the past as it is today… Now, we are reaching out to the communities worldwide and asking them to come to Pakistan, to visit their places and see what they can do. We will stand shoulder to shoulder and facilitate you in every way. A railway station is being built in the name of Baba Guru Nanak. We are building a special tunnel from Guru Nanak Sahib’s dargah to Gurdwara Janam Asthan and underground railway to another Gurdwara. We are building that connectivity, so that you don’t face problems when you come for pilgrimage. Free shuttle services will also be provided from all main Gurdwaras.”

Sikhs organisations, parliamentarians and others at the occasion included the first Sikh female MP Preet Kaur Gill, member of the Labour Party; Khalid Mahmood, Labour lawmaker; Lord Rajinder Paul Looma; Lord Ranbir Singh Suri, Conservative member of the House of Lords born in Rawalpindi Pakistan; Neena Kaur Gill MEP, an influential member of the European Committee on Foreign Affairs; Dabinderjit Singh, Principle Advisor to the Sikh Federation and Senior most Sikh Civil Servant in the UK; Amrik Singh Gill, Chair of the Sikh Federation UK; Retired Justice Anoop Singh Chaudhary; Mandeep Singh Kakar; philanthropist & leading businessman; Manvir Singh Bhogal, board member of the Sikh Network and Assistant Treasurer to the Sikh Council; and Baba Charan Dass, a direct descendent of Guru Nanak Ji’s elder son, Sri Chand.

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