Pak gurdwara stormed, police evict intruders: Officials

A group of people, including a former councillor of the PML-N, stormed an 18th century gurdwara in Pakistan's Punjab province and occupied it before police intervened to evict them, officials said today.

The group, including several women, forcibly occupied the gurdwara that has not been functional since Partition at Sori Gali in Sahiwal district, 250-km from Lahore, yesterday.The members of the group claimed to be PML-N activists and were led by Romana Safdar Gujari, a former councillor.

Abid Bhulla, chief of the local police station, said the group led by Gujari stormed the gurdwara by breaking the lock on the outer door early yesterday morning.

On receiving information of this, a police team reached the spot and arrested the group, he said.

A local reporter said the police took over five hours to evict the intruders as most of them were women. A case was registered against them following a complaint from an official of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which manages the shrines of minority communities across Pakistan.

Gujari reportedly told police not to stop the group as she was close to Capt (retired) Muhammad Safdar, the son-in-law of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.

She further claimed the gurdwara was allotted to her by ETPB.

Gujari claimed she had a letter from ETPB Chairman Asif Hashmi for leasing the 18 'marla' plot of the gurdwara.

ETPB spokesman Amir Hashmi told PTI that it was the land of the gurdwara that had attracted the land mafia.

"We have sent a two-member team to Sahiwal to carry out an investigation," he said.

"Since the ETPB is responsible for looking after gurdwaras, temples and other shrines in Pakistan, how could it authorise the handing over of the gurdwara's land?" he said.

Asked if the gurdwara could be made functional, Amir Hashmi said: "If we have a good number of Sikhs in the area, there is no issue in reopening the gurdwara."

The incident yesterday appears to have strengthened the case of the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC), which has asked authorities to place all gurdwaras in its administrative control. ETPB Deputy Director (shrines) Fraz Abbas told PTI the board would take the PGPC into confidence over the incident and seek its input to thwart such incidents in future.

The gurdwara in Sahiwal currently houses a civil defence post that is controlled by the district administration chief.

The PML-N, which rules Punjab, has distanced itself from the actions of Gujari, saying she was not a member of the party’s women’s wing. 

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