LAHORE - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Sunday drew parallels between Sikhism and Islam,stating that both Muslims and Sikhs shared identical values and cultural heritage.

“The most common value is "Tawheed"-the Oneness of God, and "we have to promote and strengthen these relations," he observed while addressing an international seminar and cultural programme 'Aj Sikh Qaum Kitthey Kharri Hai?' organised by Dyal Singh Research and Cultural Forum (DSRCF) in connection with the 544th birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak, here at a local hotel.

The Prime Minister said that the Sikh and Muslim communities of the Sub-continent had identical values and cultural heritage and could come closer together on the basis of these commonalities.

He said that Baba Guru Nanak was a great reconciliatory and reformer and was strongly against social immorality and lawlessness. Baba Guru had always advocated for love, human friendship, fraternity, peace, justice, truthfulness and harmony that was why people belonging to every religion respected him, he added. 

“Islam also advocates justice, peace, love, fraternity, equal rights for all segments of the society, including minority communities and ensures minorities respect and security while setting aside all petty disputes that cause extremism and inter-faith hatred”, he remarked. He said PPP-led government was committed to protecting the rights of minority communities and believed in promoting interfaith harmony and the relations between Sikh and Muslim communities in Pakistan were a very good example in this context. Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, Federal Minister for National Heritage and Integration Samina Khalid Ghurki, Minister of State Akram Masih Gill, ETPB Chairman Syed Asif Hashmi, Sikh Yatrees Jhattha (Group) leader Sardar Jang Bahadur Singh, Sardar Manmohan Singh Khalsa from the UK, Sardar Resham Singh Ji Babbar from Germany and All Pakistan Sikh Gurdwaras Parbandhak Committee's Chairman Sardar Shaam Singh were prominent among the participants.

The government, he said, had also established a separate Ministry of National Harmony to facilitate the minorities as well as restore their sacred places to enable them to perform their religious rituals with freedom as envisaged in the PPP manifesto. Greeting the Sikh community on the 544th birthday of their spiritual leader Baba Guru Nanak, Raja took pride in the fact that Pakistan had many holy places of Sikhs who had developed a spiritual attachment with its soil irrespective of wherever they lived.

The Prime Minister also took notice of the visa constraints for Sikh yatrees by the company hired by Pakistan's Embassy in the UK and tasked the Evacuee Trust Property Board's Chairman Syed Asif Hashmi to look into the matter. He also announced the establishment of a passport office in Shahdara, Lahore.

Earlier, Federal Minister Samina Khalid Ghurki said that the PPP government was taking all possible steps to mitigate problems of Sikh yatrees.

Minister of State Akram Masih Gill welcomed the Sikh yatrees and said that together they were taking forward the Baba Guru's message of peace.

Sikh Yatrees' Group Leader Sardar Jang Bahadur Singh said that they felt pleasure to be on the land of their spiritual leader and expressed their complete satisfaction over arrangements put in place by the Pakistani govt for the convenience of yatrees. Sardar Manmohan Singh Khalsa said they felt pleasure that Pakistan and India should come closer together and resolve all their mutual disputes with sincerity and in a democratic manner.

 "Whatever the nature of Pak-India relations may be, we believe in Sikh-Muslim friendship which must continue come what may", he added.

Sikh leaders also called for simplifying the visa procedure as well as enhancing the Sikh yatrees visa quota up to 25,000 individuals, thus creating space for more Sikhs to perform their religious rituals in Pakistan.

Later, the Prime Minister presented shields to the prominent Sikh guests and others.