1,100 Indian Sikhs reach Gurdwara Punja Sahib in PakPTI | Islamabad | Updated: 04-11-2019 11:47 IST | Created: 04-11-2019 11:45 IST
Over one thousand Sikhs from India arrived at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Pakistan's Hassanabdal city on Sunday as part of the 'Nagar Kirtan', a religious procession, held to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev. The gurdwara in Punjab Province was decorated with colorful lights and pilgrims performed various rituals.
Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal said that more than 1,100 Sikhs crossed the border through Wagah on October 31 via Ludhiana and Amritsar, the Dawn reported. The Sikh pilgrims visited Gurdwara Janamasthan, Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Sodda Farooqabad and other shrines. The pilgrimage will conclude at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, where a gold palanquin 'Palki Sahib' will be installed.
"Around 1,300 visas issued for the Nagar Kirtan are over and above the contingent covered under the Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines 1974 between Pakistan and India," Gondal was quoted as saying. Gondal said the board, in collaboration with the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhand Committee and the district administration, has made security and accommodation arrangements for Indian and local Sikh pilgrims.
Speaking to media, a number of pilgrims hailed the initiative to open the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the Sikh community and lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan for laying the foundation stone for the Baba Guru Nanak University in Nankana Sahib and issuing a commemorative coin on the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. The Kartarpur Corridor, to be opened on November 9, will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, just 4 kilometers from the International Border, located at Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province.
Former president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, Sardar Paramjit Singh Sarna, praised the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, saying it was a longstanding desire of the Sikh community to be able to visit one of their holiest sites in Pakistan visa-free. He also thanked the government for constructing a new building at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.
He said Indian Sikhs were grateful to the government for issuing them the maximum number of visas, adding: "Pakistan is sacred to us and we love it, and we come here with a message of peace and brotherhood." Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee President Satwant Singh said the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev revolve around peace and humanity.
He said the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was a great gift to the Sikh community, and that "Pakistan is a pure land for Sikhs and a second home for the Sikh community around the world." Attock District Police Officer Shahzad Nadeem Bukhari reviewed security arrangements for the protection of the Sikh pilgrims. He told the media that multilayered security plans have been made to ensure that visiting pilgrims are safe.
Notwithstanding a chill in bilateral ties over Kashmir, Pakistan and India after tough negotiations signed a landmark agreement last month to operationalize the historic Kartarpur Corridor to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy Darbar Sahib in Pakistan. The two countries decided that 5,000 pilgrims can visit the shrine every day and that additional pilgrim will be allowed on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities by the Pakistani side.
Pakistan has announced that Sikh pilgrims from India would only need a valid ID and not a passport to travel to Kartarpur and are not required to register 10 days in advance to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. The prime minister also announced that the pilgrims who arrive on the day of the Kartarpur corridor's opening on November 9 and on the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikh Guru on November 12 will not be charged a fee of USD 20 to visit the holy shrine.