The historic Gurdwara, Sri Guru Singh Sabha, located in Mansehra, KP is to be re-opened for Sikh worshippers after the necessary renovations and restorations. This is being done to promote religious tourism in the area.
The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has lauded the decision.
The Gurdwara has not been used as a place of worship since 1947, and almost 20 years ago, despite elaborate protests being recorded by the Sikh community, the Gurdwara was closed and converted into a makeshift library.
In February 2021, the provincial Auqaf and Religious Affairs Department had asked the local government to take the restoration proposal with the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) in Lahore.
Evacuee Trust Property Board is a government department that works on evacuee properties, including religious places, educational and charitable trusts left behind by the Sikhs and Hindus after they migrated to India in 1947. ETPB is also responsible for the maintenance and protection of places of worship of minorities in Pakistan.
The Gurdwara is presently owned by the provincial government, however, after accepting the stance of the ETPB the KP government has decided to hand over the possession of Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha to the board, which will work on its restoration and will later open it as a place of worship for the Sikh community.
The board’s chairman Aamer Ahmed confirmed this news and said that the historical site is fortunately intact in its original architecture and hence will soon be reopened for the Sikhs.
He further added that this is a milestone for the country as it is the first Gurdwara that will be open for worship in the northern areas hence, leading to an increase in religious tourism in the area.
The Evacuee Trust Property Board has decided to take possession of the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, on Kashmir road in Mansehra city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.https://t.co/NN9pL5K3YQ
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) July 8, 2021
The Gurdwara was originally built in 1905 under the reign of Hari Singh Nalwa who was then the commander in chief of the Sikh Khalsa Fauj. Sikh saint Sardar Gopal Singh Sethi of Hazro had laid the foundation stone of the Gurdwara.
Now, after remaining closed for almost 75 years, the Gurdwara will again be opened for its original purpose.
Religious tourism in Pakistan
This Gurdwara may be the first in the northern region to open for worship, however ever since the PTI government has come into power, it has started the process of restoration and reopening of other such places.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has stressed time and again on the importance of such areas as they not only boost the economy and culture but also play an important part in projecting a soft image of the country.
The Kartarpur corridor was opened in 2019 for this very reason. The corridor is opened for Sikhs from both India and Pakistan in an attempt to promote tourism and show support to the minority, for whom it serves as a holy place.
Similarly, in July 2020, a 200-year-old Gurdwara located in Quetta, Balochistan was handed over to the Sikh Community on their appeal.
Other restored religious sites include Krishna Temple in Rawalpindi, Katas Raj Temples in Chakwal, the Krishna Temple in Lahore, Sadhu Bela Temple in Sukkur, the Guru Gurpat Temple in Hyderabad, and the Darya Lal Temple in Karachi.
So far, 14 temples and 20 Gurdwaras have been renovated and restored. According to reports, the government plans to reopen other religious sites as well including the Shawala Teja Singh Temple in Sialkot and the Panj Tirath Temple in Peshawar.