Sikhism is one of the world’s six largest religions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. There are around 30 million Sikhs worldwide, and their major population is in India (about 22 million). Other than India, they majorly live in Canada and the United Kingdom territories like East Africa, Southeast Asia, and the UK.
Although they are a small minority in Pakistan, their cultural, religious, and historical roots are deeply engraved in the land, especially Punjab. There are around 160 million people in Pakistan, and 95% of them are Muslims. The rest 5% counts for Christians (2.5%) and Hindus (1.5%). Other smallest minorities include Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and Ahmadis.
There are few Sikhs in Pakistan; still, the land is considered the “Holy Land” by the Sikhs worldwide. That’s because Pakistan is the land of Guru Nanak Maharaj Jayanti or birthplace. The Great Guru Nanak was born on 15th April 1469 in Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi, Pakistan. That area is now known as Nankana Sahib and hosts ample Sikh Pilgrimage Yatra To Pakistan, especially for Guru Nanak Birthday.
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Other than Nankana Sahib, Pakistan hides many other Gurdwaras in its lap and thus is also called the ‘Mecca Of Sikhs.” Let’s now proceed with more details of Sikhism in Pakistan before and after the partition.
Sikhism in Undivided Punjab – Before 1947
Before the division of Pakistan and India, Sikhism in undivided Punjab was divine. Sikhs were signed for necessary government, state, federal, and private sector positions like business people and traders. Lahore was Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Raj capital – the city and its surrounding towns were all somehow related to Sikh Guru’s. Thus, it was and still is an important pilgrimage site for Sikhism.
Sikhism In Divided Punjab – In Pakistan
Although not confirmed, there are around 20,000 Sikhs across Pakistan, and a giant pod is in Peshawar. Other Sikh majorities are residents of Waziristan and Swat, the Northwest Frontier Province. Some other popular cities with pockets of Sikhs are Lahore, Hassan Abdal, Nankana Sahib, Gwadar, Quetta, and Kalat.
As almost all of the Sikhs from West Punjab and Sindh fled to India during the partition, plenty of Indian Sikhs can trace their ancestry to different towns and villages of Pakistan.
Pakistan has experienced an influx in the Sikh population lately due to the turbulent civil war and conflicts regarding the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. As a result, many Sikhs started fleeing towards Peshawar and Lahore to settle there.
Today’s Sikh Community In Pakistan
As Pakistan is a constitutionally Islamic state, Sikhs are still a minority but have stronger relations with other minorities and Muslims as well. Until 2002, the Sikh community was only able to vote for the minority candidates in general elections. Eventually, the system changed with the law of promotion and protection of minority rights in the era of President General Pervez Musharraf. Now, the holy land is also the dear motherland to the Sikhs.
Additionally, Pakistan has a specific governmental body named the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee that takes care of all the upkeep and preservation. The Gurdwaras are maintained to their functional spiritual forms, there’s a profound system for Sikh Pilgrimage To Pakistan, and measures are taken to keep peace with Sikhs in all regards.
For example, Harcharan Singh has been appointed as the first Sikh Officer serving Pakistan’s army. Also, Sikhs have joined Pakistan Rangers, Traffic Police Department, and Pakistan Coast Guard as well.
In an interview, Gulab, the first Sikh traffic inspector in Pakistan, happily stated that he never faced any issues keeping his religious and cultural values while living and working amongst Muslims. He was allowed to wear his Kara, keeping his Kirpan (Dagger), and wearing his Turban. He also stated that he got to eat all green meals from the mess during his training as he was a vegetarian.
Not only Sikhs, but there are also numerous other members of the Pakistani Christian community serving in the prominent army and civil spots within Pakistan. They are also serving on the higher ranks, e.g., a Brigadier in the army. You can also see the members of the tiny Parsi community in the Armed Forces. All these examples simply exhibit that Pakistan has always been optimistic in building stronger relationships with its minorities.
As far as Sikhism is concerned, they may have had a rough time right after the partition, and things have been changed lately. The Frontier Sikhs particularly pay tribute to General Ziaul Haq, who made things convenient for them. Thanks to him, Sikhs were allowed to worship at the Gurudwara Bhai Joga Singh with all the provided facilities. Also, he allowed them to buy and sell properties in Pakistan that made their economic status stronger.
Many Sikhs living in Pakhtoon or any other city bluntly claim that their lives in Pakistan are secure, comfortable, and simply better. The statement was made by Saroop Singh, who visited Ambala and Delhi several times. He thinks they receive the much-needed respect here as most of their fellows respect Sikhism and support the “Khalistan” quest just like them.
Pakistan is home to numerous Gurdwaras along with Guru Nanak Janam Aasthan and breath-taking natural scenery in North – It’s a must-visit country, and the world now admits! You can now plan a Yatra Tour To Pakistan with your family and combine it with a memorable tour to Northern Pakistan.
Insight Of The Sikhism In Pakistan Provinces
Every province is different and differs in its social, cultural, religious, and political behaviors. In the same analogy, Sikhism in Pakistan also varies from province to province and marks variable values.
Sikh Population In Pakistan Provines (2010)
|Pakistan’s Province||Sikh Population|
|Northwest Frontier Province||10,000|
Sikh Population In Pakistan Major Cities (2010)
|Pakistan’s Cities||Sikh Population|
Sikhism in West-Punjab
The country’s partition split Punjab into two parts; West Punjab, counted as Pakistan’s Punjab, and East Punjab, labeled as India’s Punjab. As Sikhs moved to India and Muslims moved to Pakistan, West Punjab was left with a microscopic minority of Sikhs, and that’s why Gurdwaras were also closed.
Soon, an agreement was made between the leaders of both nations, and Pakistan wide opened its borders for Sikh Pilgrimage To Pakistan. As an outcome, it received many yatree every year coming to quench their spiritual thirst. They were allowed to visit Gurdwara Janam Asthan – Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Dera Sahib – Lahore, Panja Sahib – Hassan Abdal, and Smadh Maharaja Ranjit Singh – Lahore.
The pilgrims or Sikh yatree came to celebrate the festivities of Guru Nanak Jayanti, Gurpurab Festival, Baisakhi, Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom day, and Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary.
There’s also a school named Guru Nanak Model School in Nankana Sahib that teaches Gurmukhi. The school is a leading educational institute in its area that scores the highest marks amongst others. It started in April 1999 and hosts around 142 Sikh students along with almost 410 Muslims. The Sikh students recite Japji Sahib, Sukhmani Sahib, and Rehras Sahib, whereas Muslim students recite Holy Qu’ran.
Sikhs in Karachi, Sindh
The Ranchore Lines in Karachi portrays an Indian Punjab-like surrounding when it lits up with the sounds of “Sut siri akaal,” and “Vahiguru Ji Da Khalsa, Vahiguru Ji Di Fateh” every day. There are around 3500 Sikhs in Karachi that worship in six different gurdwaras around the city. Sadly, some of the Gurdwaras are sealed due to some disputes; still, Sikhs can pay their religious concerns at Ranchore Line Gurdwara.
It’s said that more than 2,500 Sikhs are living in different areas of Karachi, but only some of them keep Sikhi Saroop (less than 200). That may be an indication that there are more Sikhs than we expect!
Sikhism in Northwest Frontier Province
Some Sikhs joined Pakhtun Tribes either while taking refugees to the hills or after the persecution by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (17th century). They become prominent residents of the area with a Muslim-rigid majority. These Sikhs keep their beards rolled, wear distinctive colorful turbans, and feel safe under the Pakhtun clan.
The Sikhs in these tribes have been deeply baptized in the essence of locals as they fluently speak local Pakhto, treat their families and women according to the tribal Pakhtun customs, are illiterate and hard-headed, and equally capable like Afridis and Orakzais.
Maybe the fundamental reason why Sikhs aren’t still very prominent in Pakistan is the lack of education. That’s because it’s only the five-year-long religious schooling in Gurumukhi that these tribal Sikhs get. According to the head granthi, Sikhs are being taught Granth Sahib in almost every Mohalla school, but science, history, and other fast-forward subjects are still exceptions.
Sikhism In Pakistan – Is It A Safe Affair?
There is no denying that the media kept portraying Pakistan’s ruthless and wrong image for a very long time. The opponents with deep pockets kept ruling the media in the times when the primary source of information was the TV and Newspaper only. They simply made people think and see what they wanted.
Now, thanks to digital media, people can have access to more realistic and neutral content. Thanks to the power of content creation, the world got to see the real face of Pakistan; its beautiful sceneries, friendliest people, cheapest fares, safer cities, and communicating authorities. You can now browse and see hundreds and hundreds of stories where tourists happily yet sadly stated that Pakistan is in no way the same they have seen on media since childhood.
Sikhism, on the other hand, though is a minority in Pakistan, but the clashes between minorities and authorities are a very rare thing to experience. The minorities living with other majorities or minorities in their neighborhood have no descrimination at all. They all celebrate their festivities together and sob on each other’s pain together.
As a Tour Guide and a frequent traveler, I highly recommend you travel to Pakistan as a Sikh Yatree, or as a tourist to gather life-long memories. Happy Gurpurab and Happy Yatra to Pakistan!