British Sikh soldiers visiting Pakistan with British High Commissioner Christian Turner in Pakistan. Image Credit: Defence Sikh Network UK

Islamabad: A 12-member delegation of British Sikh soldiers visited religious, cultural and historic sites in Pakistan this week as part of a defence and cultural engagement trip.

The delegation headed by Major General Celia J Harvey, Deputy Commander Field Army UK, visited GHQ (Pakistan military headquarters) and met Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the military’s media wing ISPR said.

During their stay, the delegation visited the cultural capital Lahore where they witnessed a flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagha border and toured the Lahore Fort, Allama Iqbal Mausoleum and Badshahi Mosque.

Sikh heritage sites

The British Sikh soldiers visited several religious sites in the country which included Darbar Hazrat Mian Mir, Haveli Naunihal Singh, Gurdwara Janamasthan Guru Ram Das, Samadhi Ranjeet Singh, Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Nankana Sahib Dera, Panja Sahib and Kartarpur Corridor, the official statement said.

Image Credit: Defence Sikh Network UK

Pakistan is home to some of the most significant Sikh pilgrimage sites including the birthplace and final resting place of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. Pakistan opened the Kartarpur corridor, a visa-free border crossing, in 2019 to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims access to one of the holiest sites of their religion, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, for the first time since the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. The Kartarpur corridor connecting Pakistan and India has reunited several families after decades.

“Pakistan respects all religions and also recognizes the need for promotion of religious tourism in the country. Kartarpur corridor is the practical manifestation of Pakistan’s unwavering commitment towards religious freedom and harmony,” said Pakistan Army Chief Gen Bajwa.

Saragarhi Monument

The British Sikh soldiers also visited Orakzai District in the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and went to the Samana Fort, Lockhart Fort and Saragarhi Monument, where they laid a wreath to commemorate the 21 Sikh soldiers who laid their lives there in 1897 as part of a British expedition. The monument commemorates the Battle of Saragarhi in 1987 which saw 21 soldiers from the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army fight against approximately 10,000 Orakzai and Afridi tribesmen to defend their outpost, according to Australian Sikh Heritage.

“Members of the Defence Sikh Network UK were privileged to take part in a defence engagement visit to Pakistan. During their trip, the team visited the Orakzai District, laying wreaths at the memorial dedicated to the 21 Sikh soldiers who fought in the Battle of Sargarhi in 1897” said Defence Sikh Network UK, the official UK Armed Forces organisation serving Sikhs and their community within the UK Ministry of Defence.