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Islamabad | HE Bureau | 23 May 2014:: More than Dozens of baton-holding protestors from the Sikh community pushed past the front gate and entered the grounds of Pakistan parliament on Friday, protesting recent attacks on their houses of worship (Gurudwara), desecration of Holy books (Sri Sri Guru Granth Sahib) and historical Sikh shrines within Pakistan.
Sikhs from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had gathered outside parliament to protest against what they claimed was the alleged desecration in Shikarpur of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh community.
Sikhs are a tiny minority in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, with most of them living in the southern Sindh province.
Senior police officer Aftab Cheema said the Sikh leaders were also protesting against several attacks on their worship places in Sindh.
After storming through the gates of Parliament House in protest of alleged desecration of their holy books in Sindh, Sikh protesters presented five demands to the government.
The joint opposition in the Senate had been in the middle of a press conference when the protesters entered the premises by breaking through the gate, despite a heavy contingent of police personnel being present at the location. Taken aback by the demonstration, the senators abandoned the press conference and ran inside the building.
The protesters were also not deterred by tear gas shells and went on to present their demands to the government.
The members of the Sikh community said that their religious sanctity had been violated at least seven times in the past few years. The most recent incident they cited was the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, the central religious text of Sikhism, in Mirpur Mathelo , District Ghotki.
Upon learning more about the protests outside, Chairman Senate Nayyar Hussain Bukhari asked the leader of the house to request the interior ministry to conduct an inquiry and submit a report by Monday.
Senator Heman Dass, who asked for the chair’s permission to address the issue, said that he had submitted a call attention notice on this matter was not allowed to speak.
The Chairman Senate maintained that nobody was allowed to force their way into the premises of the Parliament in this manner.
The gates of the Parliament were closed for more than two hours as Senator Zafar Ali Shah, MNA Dr Darshan of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and Senator Amajeet of the Awami National Party (ANP) negotiated with a group of few dozen Sikh protesters.
The government subsequently decided that a 13-member committee of Sikhs would come forward with their demands, assuring them that the government would cooperate with them.
Senator Zafar Ali Shah then revealed that, upon forming the committee, the members of the Sikh community had apologised for entering the parliament in a violent manner.
He further added that the desecration of the holy text was an intolerable act.
Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq assured the 13-member Sikh committee that he would forward their demands to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
IG Sindh has also been informed about the concerns of the Sikh community.
The incident was an eye-opener for the authorities whose claim of ‘tight-security’ in the red zone was refuted. It was also indicative of the consistent breach of rights of other religious factions in the country and their growing frustration.
There are approximately 20,000 adherents of Sikhism in Pakistan. Earlier in March this year, Sikh residents of Peshawar had protested against the killing of a Sikh hakim in Charsadda and the abduction of two others in DI Khan.
The Inspector General (IG) of Islamabad Police, Altaf Cheema, while speaking to the media accepted that it was a security breach for which the police was to be blamed. He also accepted that despite repeated calls by the Station House Officer (SHO) Bara Kaho, Sattar Shah no steps were taken to stop the protesters.
Police officials on duty stated that they did not take action against protestors as they did not receive any orders from the top officials.
Input from: Dawn | Pak Tribiune | AP | Agencies.