May 30, 2009 3:24 AM
Posted By Khalsa Aid Blog
I landed in Islamabad, Pakistan at 4 am today (Fri 29th may) and was greeted with a very warm and loud “Sat Sri Akal Sardar Ji" by one of the Pakistani officials at the airport. The official at the passport control asked me about my visit to Pakistan and I told him that I was from Khalsa Aid and had come to assess the situation of the refugees at Panja Sahib; he wished me the best of luck and stamped my passport. After clearing immigration checks I was out in the arrivals area of the airport where again I was greeted very warmly by the Pakistani members of the public.
I had about 4 hours of sleep and was feeling very tired from the long flight (18 hours travelling) and headed straight to Panja Sahib Gurdwara to meet the Sikh refugees. There were 4 of us in a tiny old car which had a windscreen that was about to shatter anytime. The car had no AC and the temperature outside was 45C degrees, if I opened the windows I felt the intense heat hitting me (and plenty of dust too) and if I kept the window shut it felt like as if I was in an oven. After seeing a guy who had just been killed in an accident on the main road we reached Panja Sahib Gurdwara.
There was a lot of security at the door to the Gurdwara Sahib and we all got searched.I was met by Sardar Sarung Singh who is the representative of the refugees in the Gurdwara Sahib. We went to the Darbar Sahib to pay our respects to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and noticed that there were at least 30-40 people sleeping on the floor and few people reading from the Gutkas.I was told by Sarung Singh that there were approx 3000 people taking refuge in the Gurdwara Sahib. I walked around and spoke to a few of the people there and heard the same heart breaking tales of sadness and how they all missed their homes.
I was also told that the Sangat was very disillusioned by the lack of any support from the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). The Dehli Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee ( DSGMC ) has so far given RS32000 for the health clinic which is at the Gurdwara Sahib.The DSGMC also met the Senior Pakistani Officials to seek permission to send relief worth RS 2 CRORE , I asked Sarung Singh what this relief consisted of or when it was coming, he told me that he has no idea and Mr Sarna of DSGMC has not contacted him since their visit on the 23rd of May. The refugees are feeling very let down by the mainstream Sikh organisations and they are hoping the global Sikh Sangat will not just forget about them and leave them to "rot ". The Pakistani Gurdwara Prabandak Committee is providing the daily Langar for the refugees at the cost of RS25000 a day.
I have arranged a meeting with Sardar Sarung Singh for tomorrow (30th May) to see how Khalsa Aid can assist them. I have already been informed that the clinic needs to stock up on medicines and I will follow this up with the clinic doctor. I was mobbed by a lot of people on the way out who were worried that we will forget about their plight but when I told them I was returning the next day they were shaking hands and smiling On the way back from the Panja Sahib I was totally knocked out and I slept on the shoulder of my local contact Tahir, I felt embarrassed but he was ok about it. I woke up at a police checkpoint with a policeman all excited and reaching into my window. He kept saying how the Sikhs are a great people and invited me for a cup of tea at the checkpoint. I shook the policeman's hand and thanked him for his kind words.
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