Sikhism in Pakistan
Sikhism in the area of present-day Pakistan has an extensive heritage and history, although Sikhs form a very small community in Pakistan today. Most Sikhs live in the province of Punjab, a part of the larger Punjab region where the religion originated in the Middle Ages, and Peshawar in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikhism, is located in the Punjab province.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Sikh community became a powerful political force, with Sikh leader Ranjit Singh founding the first Sikh empire, which had its capital in Lahore, the second-largest city in Pakistan today. Significant populations of Sikhs inhabited the largest cities in the Punjab such as Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while many Muslim refugees from India settled in Pakistan.
In the decades following Pakistan’s independence in 1947, the Sikh community began to re-organise, forming the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC) to represent the community and protect the holy sites and heritage of the Sikh religion in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has begun to allow Sikhs from world over to make pilgrimages to Sikh places of worship in Pakistan and for Pakistani Sikhs to travel to India.
The Pakistani Sikh community in modern times
Though, Pakistan maintains the title of Islamic state, the articles twenty, twenty-one and twenty-two in chapter two of its constitution guarantees religious freedom to the non-Muslim residents. Since independence in 1947, relations between Pakistan’s minorities and the Muslim majority have remained fairly and politically stable. From 1984 to 2002, Pakistan held a system of separate electorates for all its national legislative assemblies, with only a handful of parliamentary seats reserved for minority members. Minorities were legally only permitted to vote for designated minority candidates in general elections.
The historical and holy sites of Sikhs are maintained by a Pakistani governmental body, the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, which is responsible for their upkeep and preservation.