Pakistan returns 200-year-old temple to Sikhs in Balochistan

Members of the Sikh community arrive for worship at the Gurudawara Sri Guru Singh Sabha temple in Quetta on July 23, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 23 July 2020

Pakistan returns 200-year-old temple to Sikhs in Balochistan

  • The temple was serving as a school building until Sikhs recently won a legal battle to have the property returned
  • On Thursday, jubilant members of the Sikh community gathered at the temple to worship

QUETTA: A 200-year-old Sikh temple that served as a school for Muslim girls for seven decades was returned to the Sikh community in Quetta, enabling them to worship there for the first time in 73 years, officials said Thursday.

The temple stood empty for a year or two when most Sikhs left Pakistan for neighboring India after the British partitioned the subcontinent into separate nations in 1947, following two centuries of colonial rule.

Under the government’s guardianship, a school was later set up in the temple building, which remained functional until recently, when Sikhs won a legal battle to have the property returned, temple custodian Govind Singh said.

He said Sikhs living in Quetta were delighted to get back to their temple.

“This is the best gift for us. We are grateful to Pakistan and the judiciary for giving it back to us,” local Sikh leader Jasbir Singh said. “For us, it is like a dream come true.”

Singh spoke as jubilant members of the Sikh community, adhering to social distancing rules to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, gathered at the temple to worship.

The temple could not be returned to the Sikhs earlier because of a lingering legal battle between local Sikhs and the provincial government, Singh said. Abdullah Khilji, an official at the education department in Balochistan, said hundreds of schoolgirls who were studying at the temple building were relocated to a nearby school where they have since adjusted.

The development comes at a time when Pakistan’s tiny Hindu minority is facing resistance from Muslim activists for attempting to build a temple in the capital. Initially, the government approved its construction, but then reversed the decision after Muslims objected.

A council of clerics is currently deliberating whether the temple’s construction should be allowed.

However, there has been no other resistance to the construction or renovation of Sikh temples in Pakistan, where the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has supported the construction of one of the largest Sikh shrines to Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, which is known as Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.

It’s the second-holiest place in the Sikh faith and is located on the Ravi River just 4.5 kilometers from Pakistan’s border with India.

The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border.

Currently, no Indian Sikhs are visiting shrines in Pakistan because of a travel ban imposed by their government to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has also caused 5,709 deaths and 269,191 infections across Pakistan.


South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

Updated 23 January 2021

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

  • South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players
  • The South African player beleives Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi can pose problems for his team

ISLAMABAD: South African cricketer Faf du Plessis believes spending months in a bio-secure bubble could soon become a major challenge for players.

“We understand that this is a very tough season and a tough challenge for a lot of people out there, but if it’s back-to-back-to-back bubble life, things would become a big challenge,” du Plessis said during a virtual news conference on Saturday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, cricketers have to adhere to strict procedures for an international series. In countries like Pakistan, international games are being played in empty stadiums and players' movement confined to just their hotel and stadiums.

Du Plessis is one of those South African cricketers, along with captain Quinton de Kock, to have experienced life in a bubble over the last few months. He played in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates and home series against Sri Lanka. Now he has a two-test series in Pakistan, starting Tuesday in Karachi, followed by the second test at Rawalpindi.

“The main priority is to play cricket, to be out there doing what we love instead of being at home … so I think that still remains the most important thing. But I think there would definitely come a point where players would struggle with this (bubble)," du Plessis said.

“If you look at a calendar of the last eight months, you’re looking at about four or five months in a bubble, which is a lot. For some of us (being) without family, it can get challenging. Right now, I’m still in a good place. I’m still feeling really motivated and driven, but I can only speak for myself.

“I don’t think it’s possible to continue from bubble to bubble to bubble, I’ve seen and heard a lot of players talk about it. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

The South African team practiced at the National Stadium -- the venue for the test opener -- for the first time on Saturday. Before that, the visitors had been practicing at a stadium close to the team hotel for the last four days where they played intra-squad matches.

“For now, (I'm) enjoying the four walls of my room and then the pitch outside where we can get to do what we love,” du Plessis said.

The 36-year-old du Plessis, who has appeared in 67 test matches for South Africa with a batting average topping 40, will be playing his first test in Pakistan since making his debut against Australia in 2012. Pakistan last hosted South Africa in 2007. In 2009 international cricket’s doors were shut on Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore.

Du Plessis has played seven test matches against Pakistan that included two in the UAE and five in South Africa.

Du Plessis is South Africa’s most experienced player touring Pakistan, but wasn’t sure what type of wickets will be prepared for the two tests.

“I think that’s possibly the biggest thing that we are unsure about,” he said.

“As a team we try to prepare for everything and anything, overprepare, spin conditions, reverse swinging ball … if I have to call it, I probably said I think that wickets will be a bit more subcontinent like than it used to be back then (in 2007), so spinners would probably be more a little bit more in the game.”

Du Plessis has picked fit-again Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi as the two players who could pose problems for the tourists. Babar has regained fitness from a fractured thumb — in his absence Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and test series in New Zealand.

“Obviously, having Babar back is massive for them,” du Plessis said.

“Afridi has been getting a lot of wickets, so probably someone like him would be pretty dangerous.”