Monday December 05, 2022

Punjab yet to have a Sikh minister

August 06, 2022

LAHORE:No Sikh MPA in Punjab Assembly has so far been inducted as minister in the provincial cabinet despite the fact that the mainstream political parties have been claiming to give due rights to minorities.

At present, two Sikh MPAs, one from PMLN and the other from PTI are part of Punjab Assembly and interestingly, both these parties have formed governments in the province in a period of four years (between 2018-22) before completion of the constitutional term of the assembly. Ramesh Singh Arora is the MPA of PMLN who hails from district Narowal, quite close to the sacred place of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahab where Sikh Yatrees from India come in big number every year. Ramesh, who is the first Sikh MPA of the Pakistani side of Punjab (post partition), has served as MPA for two terms, and both times his party formed government in Punjab but did not prefer him to be the part of the cabinet, one headed by Shehbaz Sharif (2013-2018) and other by his son Hamza Shehbaz (2022). Even in a giant-sized cabinet of Hamza Shehbaz that took oath just a day before the court verdict that declared his victory as CM unconstitutional, PMLN did not induct its Sikh MPA.

On the other hand, Mahender Pal Singh is the MPA of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf who hails from Multan but spent his childhood in Nankana sahab, quite close to the Gurduwara Nankana Sahab, which is the Janam Asthan (birthplace) of Baba Guru Nanak Sahab, the founder of Sikh religion.

Mahender has been a staunch activist of PTI and in 2018, he was made MPA on the seats reserved for minorities. He is also privileged to be the first Sikh Parliamentary Secretary of Punjab but he has not been made a Minister by his party that claimed to be a strong advocate of voicing for the rights of Sikhs and claimed the credit of opening the Kartarpur corridor project. Although Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, as the Speaker of Punjab Assembly had remarked that the project could have never been possible without the help of Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The second cabinet of PTI in Punjab between 2018-22 is likely to take place within next few days. Portfolios have been awarded to them but so far, the PTI has not inducted its Sikh MPA in the cabinet. Before that, members from Christian community, however, find representation every time in the cabinet and even served as Finance Minister of Punjab and also has the privilege of presenting the budget speech (Kamran Michael 2011).

This is pertinent to mention that induction of a Sikh MPA in the cabinet will also convey a very welcome gesture to the millions of Sikhs living across globe and for whom, Pakistan has a

very high significance owing to existence of their sacred religious places such as Gurduwara Nankana Sahab and Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan.