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Sikh shrine taken over by hooligans

world Updated: Aug 21, 2007 14:39 IST

IANS
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An 18th century Sikh shrine in Naolakha Bazaar in Lahore has been "taken over by a group hooligans" and the government is "hesitating to take action" against the Muslims who have locked the Sikhs out, Daily Times said on Tuesday.

It said the government's action was "almost like the way Islamabad hesitated over the Lal Masjid affair," and asked if President Pervez Musharraf was "aware of the potential danger in this development."

In an editorial, the newspaper urged Lt Gen (rtd) Zulfiqar Ali Khan to "act without delay." A failure on his part, it warned, could prompt the Muslim clerics opposed to the government to "escalate the incident into a national crisis."

"Is President Musharraf aware of the potential danger in this development?" the editorial asked.

The shrine in the heart of Lahore is under the control of The Evacuee Trust Property Board (EPTB).

The newspaper did not explain how General Khan, a former chief of the Water and power Development Authority (WAPDA) that deal with development of water supply, is connected with the shrine.

The newspaper said that the 'hooligans' had locked the Sikh devotees out and had painted Islamic motifs. They claim that the shrine was originally the "tomb of one Pir Kaku Shah, a claim not supported by the local Muslim community."

The Sikh temple in Lahore's Naulakha Bazaar is the remains of Bhai Taro Singh who was known to be a patron of the poor. He died in 1745, harassed by a local ruler. The Sikh community built a temple in his honour which is now in the custody of the EPTB as alien property.

"Whatever the facts, General Khan should take no more time in deciding the matter unless he thinks the Sikh shrine is no longer evacuee property after 60 years," the newspaper observed.

The plea for avoiding "Lal Masjid-like situation" was a reference to the military-led operation last month at the controversial mosque where 167 people died and many injured in the process of evacuating Muslim devotees and students, both boys and girls.

The military action, taken after nearly six months' siege, earned praise for Musharraf among the world community and the liberals at home, but has angered the conservatives and the clergy, leading to several suicide attacks.