The Pakistani Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Tuesday sentenced three convicts to up to two years in prison for the destruction of Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Punjab province.
Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, also known as Gurdwara Janam Asthan, is a place near Lahore where the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak, was born.
In January 2020, a violent mob attacked the Gurdwara, threw stones and threatened to destroy the cult site for minorities (Gurdwara Janamasthan) in order to build the shrine “Ghulaman-e-Mustafa” there. However, the police had checked the situation.
“On Tuesday, a Lahore ATC imposed a two-year prison sentence on the main suspect Imran Chishti and fined 10,000 Pakistani rupees. Two other defendants – Muhammad Salman and Muhammad Ahmed – were sentenced for six months. Four other defendants were acquitted, however, in lack of evidence “a court official told PTI.
All of the suspects were present in court when the verdict was announced. Strict security measures were put in place to cope with any protest from the religious elements following their conviction.
Imran Chishti, a government official with the fisheries department, and other suspects were arrested on charges of terrorism and blasphemy following the attack on the Gurdwara last year. They have been charged under Sections 295A, 290, 291, 341, 506, 148 and 149 of the Pakistani Criminal Code and 7-ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act).
According to FIR, Chishti instigated the mob. He wanted to solve his family problem and created a law-and-order situation in the city of Nankana. Police said Chishti deliberately misled the Muslim people of the region against the Sikhs because of their “family affair”.
The convicted Chishti is older brother Mohammad Hassan who married a teenage Sikh girl, Jagjit Kaur, in September 2020 after allegedly kidnapping her and converting to Islam. The Muslims and Sikhs of Nankana Sahib, some 80 km from Lahore, had a problem.
Chishti alleged that his brother was beaten by the police for “lawfully and consensually” marrying the daughter of Granthi of the Gurdwara.
Jagjit Kaur lived in Darul Aman (Government Housing) in Lahore. Her new name is Ayesha. She has reportedly refused to convert and return to her home.
Mohammad Hassan was pressured by the police and authorities to divorce her.
India strongly condemned the vandalism incident in venerable Gurdwara and urged the Pakistani government to take immediate action to ensure the safety of the local Sikh community.
Hundreds of protesters had also crowded the streets near the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi, demanding that Islamabad provide adequate security to Sikh shrines and parishioners there.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee, the supreme body that administers Sikh shrines in India, had also urged the Pakistani government to take tough measures against the culprits who attacked the Gurdwara – one of the holiest sites in Sikhism.