As many as 2,000 Sikh pilgrims from India arrived at Wagha railway station on Tuesday by special trains to attend the festivals ‘Khalsa Janam Din’ and the Besakhi festival at Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassanabad.
The pilgrims were warmly welcomed by Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) Chairman Muhammad Siddiqul Farooq, Additional Secretary Shrines Khalid Ali, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) Acting Pardhan Sardar Tara Singh and board officials among others.
Talking to media, the ETPB chairman said that arrival of such a large number of pilgrims in Pakistan was a proof that Pakistan is a country of peaceful people, adding that people belonging to different religions are completely free in Pakistan to spend their lives according to their religious teachings. He said that Pakistan was a safe country for minorities.
He said, “We consider all Sikhs as one nation, whether they live in India, the US, the UK, Canada or any other country of the world, and we welcome all followers of Baba Guru Nanak”.
He said that on the directions of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, all facilities including accommodation, medical and travel with security arrangements had been provided to the pilgrims. He hoped that the pilgrims would face no difficulty during their stay.
Group leader Sardar Preetam Singh thanked the Pakistani government for making good arrangements for the pilgrims. He condemned terror acts in Pakistan including the APS Peshawar attack, and expressed sympathies with the victims’ families.
Soon after their arrival at Wagha railway station, the pilgrims left for Punja Sahib Hasanabadal. They will stay there for three days (April 12 to 14).
The central ceremony of the Besakhi festival will be held on April 14 where Sikh pilgrims will perform their rituals.
They will visit Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahab on April 14, and Sucha Sauda on the next day on April 15, Farooqabad to perform their rituals. The pilgrims will visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore on April 18 and Kartarpur Narowal on April 19 and will come back to Lahore on the same day.
The pilgrims will return to their homeland, India, on April 21.