Pak drops controversial Khalistani separatist from Sikh committee

LAHORE: Pakistan has dropped controversial Sikh leader Gopal Singh Chawla from its team which is holding talks with India on the Kartarpur corridor in Wagah, a senior Pakistani official said Sunday, after New Delhi objected to the presence of the Khalistani separatists in a 10-member committee which would facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of the corridor.
Officials from India and Pakistan Sunday held the second round of talks to discuss draft agreement and operationalisation of the Kartarpur corridor.

The second round of talks, which were scheduled on April 2, was cancelled by India after Pakistan nominated Khalistani separatists in the 10-member Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhik Committee (PSGPC) to facilitate Sikh pilgrims after opening of the corridor.
India voiced concerns over the presence of Khalistani separatists like Chawla in the committee and said it will wait for a response from Islamabad on the issue and will not go ahead with the meeting.

Chawla is the secretary-general of the PSGPC.
“Chawla has been removed from the secretary general post and he is no longer a member of the PSGPC. Chawla is also not part of the Pakistani delegation which is taking part in the second round of talks in Wagah,” a senior official of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) told PTI.

The ETPB is a statutory board that manages religious properties and shrines of Hindus and Sikhs who had migrated to India following the partition.
The official said the PSGPC Pardhan (president) Tara Singh has also been removed and the new election will be held soon to elect new president and the secretary-general.
“Apparently, removal of Chawla is a damage control step by the Imran Khan government,” the official said, adding that he had become so controversial that the Khan government was forced to revamp the whole PSGPC.
Chawla was seen with Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at the goundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Narowal, 125-km from Lahore, in November last. PTI