By The Newspaper's Staff Reporter
Dawn : June 22, 2018
LAHORE: 284 Sikh pilgrims arrived in Lahore from India via Wagah border on Thursday to participate in the week-long rituals to mark the 179th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.
Headed by their group leader, Sardar Balvinder Singh, the pilgrims arrived at the Wagah railway station through a special train at about 12:30pm.
They were given a warm welcome by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) officials, including Secretary Tariq Wazir, Deputy Secretary Imran Gondal, Public Relation’s chief Amir Hashmi, Pakistan Gurdawra Parbandhak Committee’s former chairman Sardar Bashan Singh and others.
“We really want that both Pakistan and India should have unprecedented friendly relations with each other. We also desire that there should be no visa for the citizens of the two countries,” said Balvinder Singh while speaking to the media on the occasion.
“Such an ideal situation will enable us to visit Pakistan anytime for observing religious rituals at temples of our spiritual leaders,” he added.
Under an agreement between India and Pakistan, 500 Sikh pilgrims may visit Pakistan to mark the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. This time, according to an official source, 307 people applied for visa at Pakistan’s high commission (New Delhi).
“The Pakistan High Commission issued visas to all 307 applicants. But 284 of them reached Lahore via Wahga,” an official told Dawn.
Amid tight security, the Sikh pilgrims reached the Lahore railway station. Later, they left for Hasanabdal to visit the Panja Sahjib temple through another special train.
“They will stay in Hasanabdal for two days and then reach Nankana Sahib. Here they will stay for two days for performing rituals at the temple of Baba Gurunanak Dev Jee. They will also visit temples in Narowal and Aimanabad. And finally, they will return to Lahore on June 29 to attend the main ceremony in this regard. On 30th, they will return to India,” the official said while giving details of the 10-day schedule of the pilgrims.
Earlier, the ETPB secretary while speaking to the pilgrims and the media at Wagah appreciated Pakistan’s embassy for facilitating the pilgrims by issuing them visas.“Pakistan is a country that always welcomes the Sikh and Hindu pilgrims from India. Similarly, the minorities living in Pakistan are much happy,” he added.