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With a literacy rate of 73 percent, Chakwal is the second-most literate district in Punjab, after Rawalpindi, with its literacy rate of 75 percent. Pakistan’s literacy rate, which is said to be 57 percent today, was 11 percent at the time of Partition. It was probably less than one percent back in 1910. On Oct 17, that year, Harbans Singh Seestani, one of the five top students of Munshi Sardar Sant Singh, laid the foundation stone of Sant Singh Khalsa School in Chakwal.

In 1949, a degree college was established in the building of the town’s Government High School. Rather than moving the high school to another building, the authorities thought it more convenient to merge it with Sant Singh Khalsa School. In the process the historical institution lost its original name and went by the name of the school that had been merged with it, Government High School, Chakwal.

In 1992, the institution was to undergo another name change. After a Government High School No 2 was established in Chakwal that year, the first school merely became School No 1. The degraded name is symbolic of one fact, though: that it is, as it had always been, the number-one school of Chakwal district.

However, rather than go out of existence the original name of Sant Singh Khalsa School resurfaced in New Delhi. There is a Sant Singh Khalsa School Chakwal Senior Secondary School in the Indian capital’s area of Lajpat Nagar. It is built on 40 kanals, or more than 70 acres, allotted by the Indian government after the five devoted students of Munshi Sardar Sant Singh filed a claim for compensation for the schoolhouse they had left behind in Pakistan.

When School No 1 in Chakwal held a ceremony last Oct 17 in celebration of the centenary of Sant Singh Khalsa School, a grandson of Sardar Harbans Singh Seestani, its founder, was the chief guest. Sardar Lakhandar Singh Bahal is a retired air vice marshal of the Indian air force.

The ceremony was held in the main hall of the school, with its high ceiling, which was a hallmark of the fine architecture of that time and which lent stateliness to the memorable occasion.

The other invitees included a number of former students and teachers of the beloved old school, both Indian and Pakistani. Retired general Abdul Majeed Malik, a former federal minister, and the director general of the Rangers, Maj Gen Mohammad Yaqub, were among the latter group.

There were tears in his eyes when Sardar Lakhandar Singh Bahal read out the inscription on the school’s original plaque in the Gurmukhi script, in which Punjabi is still written in India.

Ratan Deep Singh Kohli, who is chairman of Sant Singh Khalsa School Chakwal Senior Secondary School, said his speech: “The name of Chakwal will always live in India. The people of Chakwal hold a special place in the hearts of the thousands of students who enter and have entered the gate of the building of Sant Singh Khalsa School Khalsa Secondary School in New Delhi.” (The headmaster of the original school in Chakwal is Dr Mohammad Abid Hussain Kiyani.)

Beginning his speech with the recitation of “Bismillah-ir-Rehman-ir-Raheem,” he expressed his sympathies with those who had been killed in Pakistan’s devastating floods of July and August in 2010, and with the victims of the wars of 1965 and 1971.

The speaker related this incident about the great Sufi saint Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia (1238-1325), of whom the most famous disciple was Hazrat Amir Khusrau (b. 1253), who died the same year as his patron.

A Hindu temple near the home of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia stopped ringing its bells so that the sound will not disturb the revered figure in his prayers. After a few days, the saint enquired why the bells of the temple did not ring anymore. On being told the reason by Hazrat Amir Khusrau, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia responded with these words: “For ye your own faith; for me, mine.” The great man asked that the bells must go on ringing.

Happily, so many institutions retain their old names in our different cities and towns, including Gulab Daiwi Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Dayal Singh College, Gordon College, Holy Family Hospital, and King Edward Medical College. Then there is the town of Toba Tek Singh, whose residents strongly opposed the proposal for its name to be changed. In Sindh, the residents of Jacobabad (named after Brig Gen Sir John Jacob of the East India Company, who enjoys enduring admiration for his services to the people of the area and has a mausoleum there) similarly opposed the renaming of the city to Khangarh. Among the many Hindu and Sikh place-names in Karachi are Ramswami, Bhempura, Gurumandar and Nanakwara. The city of Chakwal itself has an area named Kot Ganesh Singh, just as Rawalpindi has an area called Mukha Singh State.

Therefore there is no reason why School No 1 should not revert to its original name of Sant Singh Khalsa School Chakwal, and upgraded to higher secondary level.

That would be the finest tribute the people of Chakwal can pay to a great benefactor, Munshi Sardar Sant Singh and the best way of repaying their debt of gratitude to him.
The richest person in the world - in fact all the riches in the world - couldn’t provide you with anything like the endless, incredible loot available at your local library. —Malcolm Forbes The oldest and largest public library of the country and one of the best things the British Raj left for the land, the Punjab Public Library, is having two-month-long quasquicentennial anniversary celebrations. Various events like seminars on Allama Iqbal and the importance of public libraries are being arranged besides a weeklong exhibition of books and journals on Iqbaliat. The Punjab Public Library was set up by Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab Sir Charles Aitchison who issued a notification for its establishment on November 7, 1884 and it was formally inaugurated on December 21, 1885. Sir Aitchison donated his own library, consisting of 75 books, to start the library and other philanthropists like Dyal Singh also contributed to the noble cause later on. The
 library was started in the Wazir Khan’s Baradari. The Baradari has an exciting history of its own. The construction of the Baradari was ordered by Governor of Lahore Wazir Khan in 1634 in Shah Jahan’s era around the same time when the construction of Masjid Wazir Khan was started. There was a grand garden around the Baradari which was taken over by the construction of government buildings with the passage of time. The Baradari remained a garrison for Sikh army in Ranjit Singh era, the settlement office for the East India Company and then the first telegraph office in the city during the British rule. It also housed the first Lahore Museum and became the Anarkali Book Club to be used only the Gora officers. New building and blocks of the library were erected in various phases in 1924, 1939 and 1992. Now the Baradari is currently used as a newspaper readers’ section, frequented even by those who are not library members. The Punjab Public Library has
 about 400,000 books, including 5,000 books in Gurmukhi, Sanskrit, Gujrati and Marathi languages, and around 3,000 rare manuscripts. It has around 4,000 general members, 2,000 students and 1,500 children members. The library is afflicted by multiple issues and the cause of the most of its problems is lack of funds. Muhammad Tufail, the chief librarian of the Quaid-e-Azam library who has been given the additional charge of the Punjab Public Library, says that lack of funds has the domino effect and most of the problems of the library will be resolved if it gets adequate funds from the government. He says that the issue is so severe that the expenses for whitewash of the library auditorium were arranged by selling the newspaper waste. The library needed Rs 30 million for the current year while only about Rs 16 million were granted and after paying salaries to the staff, only Rs 400,000 would be left for utility bills and buying books. The library needs
 another block which would cost around Rs 50 million while it requires Rs 5 million for buying new books. It also needs funds for digitisation of books, fumigation of old books and other repair work. The 125th year of the library bought new troubles with it. Earlier, the library was being controlled by a managing committee under the chairmanship of the Higher Education secretary. Five life members of the library used to be a part of the committee as well. A tussle arose between committee members and the chairman which led to litigation. There were differences between the chief librarian and the committee chairman and corruption charges were also levelled against the latter. Ultimately, the Punjab government took the library under its direct control on May 8, 2009 and gave its charge, for the time being, to the chief librarian of the Quaid-e-Azam Library, Muhammad Tufail. Its name was also changed from Punjab Public Library to Government Punjab Public
 Library. One wonders whether the change in name will change its fate. Muhammad Tufail says that the library will get rid of its management problems once it has a board of governors to look after its affairs for which proposals have been sent to the government. Now when the Punjab government is at the helm of the affairs of the library, it should bring about some improvement. The required funds should be immediately released to fulfil the library needs and to preserve its priceless collection of books and manuscripts. When one sees the recent list of the National Reconciliation Ordinance beneficiaries, which includes our top leaders and bureaucrats, one wonders why a few hundred thousand rupees can’t be spent on a public library. Perhaps because a library is a house of learning and part and parcel of education and our leaders don’t want educated masses who can challenge their exploitative rule

LAHORE (APP) - Over 3,000 Sikh yatrees will arrive here from India through special trains to celebrate Baisakhi from April 11 to 20.
Officers of Evacuee Trust Property Board and members of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee will receive the yatrees on Wagah border on Monday.
The yatrees will also visit Gurdwara Punja Sahib, Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sach Sauda Farooqabad, Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Narowal, official sources told APP.
The date of Baisakhi coincides with the ‘collective birthday’ of the tenth Sikh Guru Gobund Singh and the foundation of Khalsa (the Sikh brotherhood) in 1699. The Sikh community all over the world celebrates the day with enthusiasm.
LAHORE - Thousands of Sikh Yatrees arrived through Wahga Border from neighbouring East Punjab in India as well as from within the country to converge at Hassan Abdal to attend the annual Besakhi festival.
The Sikh Yatrees were given a warm welcome at the Wahga Border.
Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman Syed Asif Hashmi, Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Sardar Sham Singh, Ramaish Singh, Azhar, Faraz Abbas, Ezaz Zaidi and other officers and community leaders received the Yatrees at the Wahga Railway Station on Sunday.
The Punjab government has made all arrangements for the comfortable stay, security and food arrangements of the pilgrims. Besides Police, Rangers have been posted for the security. The walk-through gates, CCTVs, generators etc have also been set up.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has also assured them full protection as he said protection and religious freedom was fully available to minorities in Pakistan.
Talking to media, the leader of the Sikh pilgrim from India, Sardar Sohn Singh praised the arrangements made by the government for the pilgrims. He also praised ETPB for cooperation and befitting arrangements of travel and accommodation in Pakistan.