The first president of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), Sham Singh, breathed his last at 84 after brief illness at a Lahore hospital early on Sunday morning.
Sham Singh became the PSGPC president for the first time in 1999, a development that coincided with the Khalsa tercentenary. He has to his credit changing the face of Sikh shrines in Muslim-dominated Pakistan, which before his taking over as the president were a symbol of neglect.
Sham Singh was cremated with state honours at Nankana Sahib amid heavy deployment of police and high attendance of Sikhs. Singh, who wished to be cremated either at Nankana Sahib or Kartarpur Sahib, is survived by a son.
Sham Singh had been unwell for the past few months. On March 8, he was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) after suffering head injuries at his Lahore home. The PSGPC will perform the “bhog” and “antim ardaas” on April 8.
Was founder president of PSGPC
Sham Singh was the prime mover in setting up of the PSGPC, which effectively took away the control of Pakistan gurdwaras from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). Before that, the SGPC was managing Pakistan-based Sikh shrines during Gurpurbs and other religious congregations and even collected all the offerings.
Singh, along with the Pakistan evacuee trust property board (ETPB), changed all that and led the move that vested the control of Pakistani gurdwaras in the hands of Pakistani Sikhs.
Though the direct control of Sikh gurdwaras and properties attached to it continued to remain in the hands of the ETPB, Sham Singh has to his credit the development and management of Sikh shines, especially Nankana Sahib in Nankana district, Dera Sahib in Lahore, and Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, Rawalpindi. There are 300 Sikhs shrines in Pakistan that are under the control of the PSGPC.
His detractors, however, say Sham Singh remained unsuccessful in making the PSGPC an independent body by taking over its control from government agencies.
Wish to visit India remained unfulfilled
As the PSGPC president, Sham Singh tried to visit India twice, but on both occasions he was denied visa. He wanted to come to Hazoor Sahib in Nanded to take part in Gurta Gaddi Diwas to mark the tercentenary of Guru Granth Sahib in 2008, and on another occasion, he wished to travel to Golden Temple, Amritsar.
Sham Singh, who hailed from Sakhar town in Sindh province of Pakistan, was an illiterate, but the acumen with which he handled Sikhs’ issues helped him in emerging as a leader of the community, whose members are a handful minority in the neighbouring country. It also won him accolades from Sikhs all over the world.
Initially, Sham Singh remained the PSGPC president for six years, till 2005, and again took over the reins in 2008.
Officiating president after ‘bhog’
“Sikhs in Pakistan have been orphaned after his (Sham Singh’s) death,” said PSGPC general secretary Gopal Singh Chawla. Talking to HT over telephone, Chawla said the present committee would not like to bring in a new president till the present tenure ends in 2018.
“We would like to have a temporary arrangement by making one of the officer-bearers an acting president,” said Chawla. A 21-member house of the PSGPC (which has 15 elected members and six nominated from outside Pakistan), in conjunction with the ETPB, will take a final decision after Sham Singh’s “antim ardaas”, he said.