The minorities have long been demanding the appointment of the Chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) from among themselves in Pakistan but in vain. Among them, many hold the view that since the inception of ETPB, no minority chairman has been appointed thereof but the slot has always been retained by the majority—Muslims.
Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani is a minority Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan (MNA) from Sindh who also heads a Task Force for Implementation of Minority Rights in Pakistan and is the Patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC). He has been consistent in his demand for the appointment of Chairman ETPB from the Hindu community.
Talking to this scribe, he said that Hindus are the largest minority in Pakistan and sons of the soil; therefore, Chairman ETPB should be appointed from among them. He further said that he had knocked the door of the Supreme Court to get justice for the minorities living in Pakistan and added that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had listened to the grievances of the community.
Dr. Vankwani informed that on 24th November 2018, during the hearing of a case, the Supreme Court had issued orders to appoint a minority chairperson for the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), but the previous government could not implement the orders of the Apex Court.
He was of the view that Pakistan was a minority-friendly country and he hoped that one day a person from the minority community would be appointed as Chairman of ETPB. “On the direction of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, a Task Force for Implementation of Minority Rights in Pakistan has been constituted so that implementation of minority rights could be ensured,” said Dr. Vankwani.
Earlier, a bench of the Supreme Court led by the then Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had heard a suo moto case and had ordered the government to appoint the chairman of ETPB from the minority. Subsequently, orders were issued to the then Attorney General to get approval from the cabinet for the appointment of the chairman from the minority community but contrary to the foregoing orders, Imran Khan, the then Prime Minister, appointed Mr. Aamer Ahmed as the chairman ETPB.
Following this, the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC) raised voice against Imran Khan’s this decision but it went unheard. PHC had also said that they would knock the door of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if Imran khan did not appoint chairman ETPB from Hindu Community.
The PHC President Gopal Khamuani and Secretary General Parshotam Ramani had criticized Khan’s policy and had alleged that even Board members were taken from Christian and Muslim Communities, adding that both communities have nothing to do with the properties of Hindus. In their statement, they said that Imran Khan had failed to protect the rights of minorities in Pakistan. The decision to make chairman from the majority community was also criticized by the Sikh community. The Sikh community had demanded the appointment of Chairman ETPB from among themselves.
Talking to Balochistan Voices, former Pardhan of The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) Sardar Bishan Singh, said that the chairman ETPB should not come from Hindu community. He shared that they had 160 big Gurdwars and 29000 small Gurdwaras in Pakistan, so chairman ETPB is a very important slot and Sikhs are entitled to it.
He said that there were many Gurdwaras that need to be restored in Pakistan. He also opposed that Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani should not be made chairman ETPB. According to Bishan Singh, Dr. Vankwani tried many times for chairmanship but was not appointed because of the opposition of the Sikh community. He said that Pakistan did a good job by opening the Kartarpur Corridor for the Sikh community of India, adding that on similar lines Pakistan can give a good gesture by appointing a Sikh as chairman ETPB from Pakistan.
Bishan Singh shared with Balochistan Voices that many Gurdwaras needed restoration and renovation in Pakistan. ‘Some of them require complete restoration,’ he added, saying that Sikh community had no objection if (late) Rana Bhagwan Das was made chairman ETPB as he was a man of principles.
A social Hindu activist from Sindh rejected the statement of Sardar Bishan Singh and said that the chairman ETPB should come from Hindu Community as it is the largest minority community in Pakistan. While talking to Balochistan Voices, he shared that there were as many as 1288 Hindu temples, 522 Gurdwaras, and worthy Hindu property which needed urgent attention of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, adding that if the chairman comes from the Hindu community, all temples would be restored and renovated and would be made fully functional. “The majority of the Hindu community resides in Sindh province. They face cases of blasphemy and forced conversion. If the chairman is appointed from the Hindu community, corruption would be eradicated from the Board.
“The chairman hailing from the majority community doesn’t understand the sanctity of the temples and Gurudwaras as well,” he said and added that it was their genuine demand to appoint Hindu chairman of Evacuee Trust Property Board.
He shared that in Liaqat–Nehru pact 1950, leaders of both countries had signed an agreement that India would appoint a Muslim head to look-after evacuee property in India and Pakistan would appoint a Hindu head in Pakistan for the same purpose. He said that Pakistan should have appointed the chairman from the Hindu community since the inception of ETPB as thousands of acres of ETPB are occupied by illegal occupants.
“If a chairman comes from the Hindu community, he will not spare any person involved in corruption or illegal occupation,” said the activist, requesting anonymity. He further said that rent of properties including shops, houses, etc. was not being paid by the people, adding that the amount collected by ETPB should be spent on the welfare of the minorities so that they could prosper.
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