Gurdeep Singh joined Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in 2016. (Photo supplied)
Sikh community leaders are celebrating after Gurdeep Singh became the first Sikh to win election to Pakistan’s Senate.
Singh received 105 votes on March 3 to be elected to the upper house of parliament on a minority ticket. Senate members are elected for six-year terms.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic federal minister for minorities who was assassinated in March 2011, won approval for four Senate seats to be reserved for religious minorities.
Gurdeep Singh is the president of minorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on the central committee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. He joined PTI following the assassination of his brother-in-law and minority affairs minister Sardar Soran Singh in 2016.
Sardar, the first Sikh to sit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's assembly, was shot dead in front of his home in Bacha Killay village in mountainous Buner district.
“Today the murderer of Doctor Soran Singh lost. Soran has won,” stated his son Ajay Soran Singh in a Facebook post.
Kalyan Singh Kalyan, a Sikh professor in Lahore, termed the election of Gurdeep Singh as a success for all minorities.
“Gurdeep has a good opportunity to serve the community challenged to protect our places of worship. He must ensure implementation of the 5 percent job quota and 2 percent admission quota for minorities. The Sikh Marriage Amendment Act 2021 is another awaited demand,” he told UCA News.
In 2018, Pakistan became the first country in the world to introduce specific legislation for the registration of Sikh marriages. However, a special committee was constituted over the delayed bill.
National Lobbying Delegation member Khalid Shehzad condemned the absence of a Christian senator.
“Only Hindus and Sikhs represented minorities in the Senate elections. None of the Christians, protesting against blasphemy laws and forced conversions were granted a ticket. Sikhs have become a strategic minority and are prioritized in meeting with government officials,” he said.
“The Church should focus more on career counseling and growth of Christian students to occupy key spaces.”
In 2018, Pakistan launched a visa-free road link for Sikh pilgrims from India to visit a famous shrine in the neighboring nation.
The estimated number of Pakistani Sikhs is around 20,000. Most reside in militancy-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest.
In January, Ravinder Singh, 25, who lived in Malaysia and had returned home for his wedding, was murdered in Mardan city in the province.
Last July a cleric warned the Sikh community against visiting a disputed 18th-century Sikh gurdwara in the Punjab capital of Lahore.