On November 3, the Pakistan Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) officially removed control of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur by the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (PSGPC), squarely granting it to its parent body, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPD) of Pakistan.

The latest decision by the Pakistan government comes ahead of the first anniversary of the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9, prompting fears that Pakistan may be seeking to re-ignite the separatist Khalistan movement against India.

As a statutory board constituted by the Government of Pakistan, the ETPD is responsible for administering evacuee properties left behind by Sikhs and Hindus who migrated to India following Partition. 

ETPB’s links to Pak’s ISI
However, it is widely known that the Former General Secretary of the PSGPC – which some have claimed is no more than a puppet body of the ETPD – Gopal Singh Chawla is a Khalistan element who has, on several occasions launched venomous tirades against India in his speeches, advocating terrorist activities in Punjab.

In June 2020, when the Delhi Police Special Cell busted three members of an arm of the Khalistan Liberation Front (KLF), reportedly, planning to carry out targeted killings in Northern India, they had admitted that they were in direct contact with Chawla who is believed to be sponsored by the Pakistan ISI.

In 2018, Chawla had himself openly admitted in a telephonic interview that he was aware of the Khalistani role in the killing of RSS leaders in Punjab. “The killing of the RSS leaders will continue in Punjab,” he said. He also confessed that he was a supporter of, and had relations with globally-designated terrorist and head of the terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Hafiz Saeed.

During bilateral talks over the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, India had demanded that Chawla be removed from PSGPC panel – something that Pakistan authorities eventually acquiesced to. However, just two days after the ETPB had decided to oust him from the PSGPC, he was seen at Gujranwala at the opening of the Gurudwara Khara Sahib, despite no other ETPB officials being present. According to some reports, Chawla continues to remain an unofficial yet influential member of ETPB.

Several reports have claimed that the ISI-sponsored ETPB harbours an ulterior agenda of promulgating anti-India propaganda and recruiting soldiers for the Khalistan movement. PSPGC president Satwant Singh has also openly backed militant movements in Kashmir calling upon the Pakistani Sikh community to “help Kashmiris.”

In 2018, Pakistan’s first Sikh police officer Gulab Singh had claimed that, along with his family, he was hurled out of his own home by members of the ETPB, for threatening to “expose their deeds.”

He alleged that then-PSGPC president Tara Singh, along with several Indian Sikh fugitives, had extracted donations up to Rs 15 crores from Sikhs in foreign countries but spent none of it on developing the Bebe Nanki Gurdwara for which the sums were intended.