Pakistan begins process to set up Sikh university

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Pakistan on Monday formally started the process to establish a Guru Nanak University in Punjab province's Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.

The foundation stone of Baba Guru Nanak International University (BGNIU), spread over 10 acres, was laid by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar laid its foundation stone in July, over 15 years after its construction proposal first surfaced.

Speaking on the occasion, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah said that Rs 6 billion will be spent on the project which is expected to be completed in three phases.

He said Punjabi and Khalsa languages will also be taught at the university.

Earlier, the Punjab provincial government had allocated 70 acres of land for setting up the university at the birthplace of Guru Nanak.

There had been a demand from Pakistan's minority Sikh community to construct a university named after the founder of their religion at his birthplace in Nankana Sahib.

A proposal to set up the university was first surfaced during the Punjab government of Pervaiz Elahi in 2003. Two years ago, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) gave the final approval to the project.

Then ETPB chairman Siddiqul Farooq said the university would help promote religious tourism in Pakistan and also enhance its image at the international level.

Earlier this year, a Pakistani university for the first time created the Baba Guru Nanak research chair to promote the message of peace.

"The students of the university will carry out research on the teachings of Baba Guru Nanak. It was not only the demand of the Sikhs but the academia that feels the need to promote the message of tolerance of Baba Guru Nanak in the society," Punjab University spokesperson Khurram Shahzad said.

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