Sikhism in Pakistan
|Regions with significant populations|
|Punjabi, Urdu, Pashto, Sindhi|
Sikhism in Pakistan has an extensive heritage and history, although Sikhs form a small community in Pakistan today. Most Sikhs live in the province of Punjab, a part of the larger Punjab region where the religion originated in the Middle Ages, with some also residing in Peshawar in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Sahib Ji, the founder of Sikhism, is located in Pakistan's Punjab province.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Sikh community became a powerful political force, with Sikh leader Ranjit Singh founding the first Sikh empire, which had its capital in Lahore, the second-largest city in Pakistan today. At the time of the Partition of India in 1947, more than 2 million Sikhs lived in Pakistan and significant populations of Sikhs inhabited the largest cities in the Punjab such as Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. After the Partition of India in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while many Muslim refugees from India settled in Pakistan.
In the decades following Pakistan's independence in 1947, the Sikh community began to re-organize, forming the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) to represent the community and protect the holy sites and heritage of the Sikh religion in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has begun to allow Sikhs from India to make pilgrimages to Sikh places of worship in Pakistan and for Pakistani Sikhs to travel to India.
According to the Government of Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), there were 6,146 Sikhs registered in Pakistan in 2012. A 2010 survey by the Sikh Resource and Study Centre reported 50,000 Sikhs living in Pakistan. Most are settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed by Sindh and Punjab. Other sources, including the US Department of State, claim the Sikh population in Pakistan to be as high as 20,000.
Pakistani Sikh diaspora
Many Pakistani Sikhs have emigrated to countries like the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada. According to the UK's 2001 census, there were 346 Pakistani Sikhs in the UK. There is also a growing Pakistani Sikh expatriate community in the United Arab Emirates.
Before the partition of colonial India
Prior to independence in 1947, 2 million Sikhs resided in the present day Pakistan and were spread all across Northern Pakistan, specifically the Punjab region and played an important role in its economy as farmers, businessmen, and traders. Significant populations of Sikhs inhabited the largest cities in the Punjab such as Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad (Lyallpur).
Lahore, the capital of Punjab, was then and still is today the location of many important Sikh religious and historical sites, including the Samadhi of Ranjit Singh. The nearby town of Nankana Sahib has nine gurdwaras, and is the birthplace of Sikhism's founder, Guru Nanak Sahib. Each of Nankana Sahib's gurdwaras are associated with different events in Guru Nanak Sahib's life. The town remains an important site of pilgrimage for Sikhs worldwide.
Sikh organizations, including the Chief Khalsa Dewan and Shiromani Akali Dal led by Master Tara Singh, condemned the Lahore Resolution and the movement to create Pakistan, viewing it as welcoming possible persecution; the Sikhs largely thus strongly opposed the partition of India.
Independence of Pakistan (1947)
The largest Sikh population in Pakistan is found in Peshawar, in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where the Pashtun law of "nanawati" (protection) spared the scale of violence which had raged across the Indus River in Punjab. Despite the longstanding tensions between the Sikh and Muslim communities in South Asia, the Pashtuns were tolerant towards the religious minority of Sikhs.  There are small pockets of Sikhs in Lahore and Nankana Sahib in Punjab. Many of the Sikhs and Hindus of West Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan migrated to India after the independence of Pakistan in 1947. These Sikh and Hindu refugee communities have had a major influence in the culture and economics of the Indian capital city of Delhi. Today, segments of the populations of East Punjab and Haryana states and Delhi in India can trace their ancestry back to towns and villages now in Pakistan, including former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
There has been an influx of Sikhs refugees from Afghanistan to Pakistan due to the turbulent civil war and conflicts that have ravaged neighboring Afghanistan, and many of these Sikhs have settled in Peshawar.  Afghanistan, like Pakistan, has had small Sikh and Hindu populations. There has been a massive exodus of refugees from Afghanistan into Pakistan during the past 30 years of turmoil up to the reign of the Taliban and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. Due to Pakistan's porous borders with Afghanistan, large numbers of Afghanistan's minority communities, based mainly around the cities of Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad have fled, and some Sikhs have joined their kinsmen in Peshawar and Lahore.
The Pakistani Sikh community in modern times
They have mainly kept a low profile within the monolithic Muslim population of Pakistan. Though, Pakistan maintains the title of Islamic state, the articles twenty, twenty-one and twenty-two in chapter two of its constitution guarantees religious freedom to the non-Muslim residents. Since independence in 1947, relations between Pakistan's minorities and the Muslim majority have remained fairly and politically stable. From 1984 to 2002, Pakistan held a system of separate electorates for all its national legislative assemblies, with only a handful of parliamentary seats reserved for minority members. Minorities were legally only permitted to vote for designated minority candidates in general elections. The regime of former President General Pervez Musharraf had professed an agenda of equality for minorities and promotion and protection of minority rights, however, the implementation of corrective measures has been slow. Considerable amount of Sikhs are found in neighbourhood called Narayanpura of Karachi's Ranchore Lines.
The historical and holy sites of Sikhs are maintained by a Pakistani governmental body, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, which is responsible for their upkeep and preservation.
The emergence of the Sikh community within Pakistan
After the independence of Pakistan and the migration of nearly all Sikhs to India the Sikh community's rights were diminished as their population decreased. The Pakistani Constitution states that Sikhism is a monotheistic religion. Recently the Sikh community within Pakistan has been making every effort possible to progress in Pakistan. For example, Hercharn Singh became the first Sikh to join the Pakistan Army. For the first time in the 58-year history of Pakistan there has a Sikh been selected into Pakistan's army. Prior to Harcharan Singh's selection in the Pakistani army no individual person who was a member of the Hindu or the Sikh community were ever enrolled in the army, however; the Pakistani Christian community has prominently served in the Pakistan Armed Forces and some had even reached the ranks of Major Generals in the army, Air Vice Marshals in the Pakistan Air Force and rear Admiral in the Pakistan Navy. It has received various awards for gallantry and valor. Moreover, members of the tiny Parsi community have some representation in the Armed Forces. First time in the history of Pakistan as well as in the history of Lahore a Sikh person has been appointed as a traffic Sub Inspector. Dr. Gulab Singh who is just 25 years old, is a practising homeopathic doctor and he is from the same place as Harcharan Singh (Nankana Sahib). Gulab Singh is fluent in Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Saraiki, Sindhi, and little bit of English. Other prominent Sikhs are Inspector Amarjeet Singh of Pakistan Rangers and Lance-naik Behram Singh of Pakistan Coast Guard.
In 2007, the Pakistan Government proposed the Sikh marriage act that allows Sikh marriages in Pakistan be registered. But it was not passed. In 2017, the Punjab legislative assembly passed the Anand Karaj act therby allowing the Sikh marriage in Punjab province be registered. In the Sindh province, the Sikh marriages are registered under the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act of 2016.
Persecution of Sikhs
Pakistan is known for widespread discrimination against religious minorities, with attacks against Christians, Hindus, Ahmadiyya, Shia, Sufi and Sikh communities being widespread. These attacks are usually blamed on religious extremists but certain laws in the Pakistan Criminal Code and government inaction have only caused these attacks to surge higher. 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.
Ramesh Singh Arora became the first Sikh member of Provincial Assembly of the Punjab of Pakistan after he was nominated by the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML (N)). Another Sikh, Dr. Suran Singh became member of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on the ticket of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf following the 2013 elections and served as Minister for Minorities until his assassination in 2016.
The first Pakistani Sikh musician also emerged on the music industry in 2009, Jassi Lailpuria, launched his first song on independence day entitled, Sohna Pakistan. A Sikh named Taranjeet Singh is an VJ, anchor and host on PTV channel.
Rupinder Singh Magon (Rup Magon), from the band Josh, is also a superstar in Pakistan and is popular among the youth of the country. Although he lives in Canada but travels to Pakistan for concerts and television engagements. He, along with his bandmate Qurram Hussain, was also part of Coke Studio.
- Pakistan Sikh Council
- Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee
- 2010 Sikh beheadings by the Taliban
- History of Sikhism
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No sooner was it made public than the Sikhs launched a virulent campaign against the Lahore Resolution. Pakistan was portrayed as a possible return to an unhappy past when Sikhs were persecuted and Muslims the persecutor. Public speeches by various Sikh political leaders on the subject of Pakistan invariably raised images of atrocities committed by Muslims on Sikhs and of the martyrdom of their gurus and heroes. Reactions to the Lahore Resolution were uniformly negative and Sikh leaders of all political persuasions made it clear that Pakistan would be 'wholeheartedly resisted'. The Shiromani Akali Dal, the party with a substantial following amongst the rural Sikhs, organized several well-attended conferences in Lahore to condemn the Muslim League. Master Tara Singh, leader of the Akali Dal, declared that his party would fight Pakistan 'tooth and nail'. Not be outdone, other Sikh political organizations, rival to the Akali Dal, namely the Central Khalsa Young Men Union and the moderate and loyalist Chief Khalsa Dewan, declared in equally strong language their unequivocal opposition to the Pakistan scheme.
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