ISLAMABAD: The leaders of the Sikh community visited Jamrud Fort in Khyber District on Wednesday for the first time since the independence of Pakistan.
The Jamrud Fort is located beside Bab-e-Khyber at the entrance of the Khyber Pass and is 17km away from Peshawar. It was built by the Sikhs in 1836 in 54 days to keep a watch over the invading Afghans who had been entering the plains of Punjab for hundreds of years. At Jamrud, the Sikhs succeeded in creating a frontier defence line against foreign invaders. It was at this fort that the famous Sikh general of Ranjit Singh’s government, Hari Singh Nalwa, breathed his last.
Due to the absence of a strong government and a proper security network in the area, and the rough mountainous terrain, the area became the hub of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Islam, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi militants after the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Over 90 per cent of the Khyber Agency was under the control of the militants in 2007 until Pakistan Army started an operation in 2008 to clear the area of militants in order to restore routine life. The operation continued for years and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of TTP militants and the martyrdom of Pakistan Army soldiers. In October 2014, the armed forces of the country launched a military offensive named Operation Khyber-1 in the Khyber Agency, resulting in the displacement of thousands of locals. However, peace has now been restored in the area to a great extent.
Speaking on the occasion, Sikh leader Gopal Singh said that during the meeting with Peshawar Corps Commander Mazhar Shaheen two days ago, they informed him about the problems faced by the Sikhs in districts Khyber, Ourakzai, Kurram and Peshawar. He also said that they expressed their desire to visit the historical places built by the Sikhs in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The 25-member delegation was taken to various parts of the fort and was given a detailed briefing about its strategic importance. They were told that two of Hari Singh’s rooms were still intact with one being the room where he recovered from the injuries sustained in a battle and the other being the room where he conducted his daily business.
Gopal Singh said that on the instructions of the Peshawar Corps commander, Sector Commander Shahbaz Khattak visited the Bara Bazar and listened to the problems faced by the Sikh community in order to resolve them forthwith.
Further, the Sikh community demanded security for the protection of their historical sites and sought restoration of the places which were in use of Hari Singh. They were assured that the restoration work would be started soon after consultations with the relevant departments.