Peshawar: A Pakistani court today issued notice to authorities after a Sikh leader filed a petition urging the court to direct the government to release funds to build a crematorium for the community in the provincial capital so that they can cremate their dead instead of burying them.
Sikh community leader Babaji Guru Gurpal Singh, through his lawyer, submitted the writ petition in the court last week, saying the provincial government had allocated Rs 30 million in the 2017-18 budget to build the crematorium for the Sikh community and a graveyard for Christians in the city.
However, the government has yet to release funds for these projects nor has it made any plans for these projects.
Additional Advocate General, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Qaiser Khan informed the Peshawar High Court bench that the differences among the Sikh community members were the main hurdle in building crematory ground, claiming that the government has already taken measures to provide facilities to Sikhs.
Justice Mussarat Hilali said that the court would retrieve the withheld money for minorities if the government failed to facilitate it for minorities.
The court also summoned the Auqaf Department administrator and Town I nazim on May 31 and adjourned the hearing.
Singh said that about 60,000 Sikhs live in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, including 15,000 who live in Peshawar alone. Despite that, there is no crematorium where Sikh mourners can carry out the last rites of their loved ones.
“Against their religious teachings, they are forced to bury dead one,” Singh wrote in his petition, adding that the nearest crematorium is located near Attock, 45 kilometers away from Peshawar.
Although the Attock crematorium is intended to primarily serve the Hindu community, it is also used by the Sikh community.
While cremation is culturally imperative for Sikhs and Hindus, the cost is a major prohibitive factor for them since many middle and low-income members of the community cannot afford the high costs of cremation.
“We are grateful for such a facility,” Singh said, adding, “But for the poor members of the community, they cannot even afford to transport the funeral.” The petitioner asked the court to direct the government to select a suitable spot to build the crematorium near Peshawar and set up a modern facility, keeping in view the environmental requirements and concerns, so that the community can perform the last rituals of their loved ones without any problem.
The petitioner also claimed that the KP government had allocated millions of funds for establishment of a crematory ground and Christian cemetery, but officials in the Department of Auqaf and Religious Affairs were employing delaying tactics in utilization of these funds for the purpose.