July 10, 2020
By Our Staff Reporter
LAHORE: The families of the 19 deceased Sikh pilgrims are now facing another disturbing situation – there is no crematorium in Peshawar to carry out the funeral rites of their loved ones.
The families of Mohallah Jogan Shah received the bodies of their loved ones who had lost their lives as a result of a coaster train accident with the help of the government but due to the absence of a designated crematorium anywhere in the entire province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), their grief has deepened.
Currently, under the government of PM Imran Khan’s party which successfully opened the Kartarpur corridor to facilitate the Sikh pilgrims from India to Pakistan, KP has the largest Sikh population out of all other federating units of Pakistan. Around 35,000 out of 55,000 Pakistani Sikhs live in KP.
The provincial government had promised to build a crematorium in Peshawar and also allocated sufficient funds but they have not been utilized as yet.
A local leader of the Sikh community in Peshawar, Tony Singh says the biggest problem faced by their community after this tragic incident was the unavailability of crematoriums in KP due to which the bodies once again had to be moved to the city of Attock, which is located in another province.
“Basically for every funeral, we have to travel at least 70 to 80 kilometers away from our city so that we can perform the last rites of our deceased with dignity,” he said. “Unfortunately we have been demanding a crematorium for at least 40 years but in vain.”
He added that they have also filed a petition in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) which is still pending so they want the government to take immediate action to resolve the issue of grave concern.
Another community leader, Babaji Gurpal Singh told Voicepk.net that the only solution was the allotment of state-owned land in order to build a crematorium.
“During the previous government, an amount of Rs 3 crores was allocated by the government for building a crematorium in Peshawar but this went to waste,” he said. “Under this government as well a huge amount has been allocated again, but all we need now is land.”
According to Gurpal Singh, Sikhs from Swat, Mardan, Nowshera, Hangu and other parts of KP will also be able to benefit from the crematorium once it is finally constructed.
But Sikh lawmaker in KP belonging to PTI, Ravi Kumar said, “due to some difficulties the crematorium could not be built despite the allocation of adequate funds, it usually takes up to 6 to 12 months when section 4 is imposed”.
Kumar also said that he understands the gravity of the situation hence the government will try to complete the required tasks by the end of this year.
Looking at the hardships faced by the Sikh community, the federal government also took note of the situation.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri says an area was designated by the last provincial government under CM Pervaiz Khattak but there were a few technical difficulties which are being resolved and I have also offered to remove those hurdles.
A petition against the district administration of Peshawar for the delay in construction of crematorium by Sikh pilgrims is awaiting to be heard by the Peshawar High Court since last year.