Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims to arrive in Pakistan this month for religious festivals

In this file photo, Indian Sikh pilgrims pose on a train bound for Pakistan at the railway station at Attari, some 35kms from Amritsar, on November 21, 2018, as they prepare to leave for Lahore to mark the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2019

Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims to arrive in Pakistan this month for religious festivals

  • First batch will visit on Friday to participate in annual ‘Jor Mela’ to mark death anniversary of fifth Guru of Sikhism
  • Second batch will come on June 27 to pay homage to former Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjeet Singh

LAHORE: A batch of Sikh pilgrims from India will cross into Pakistan on Friday to participate in the ‘Jor Mela,’ a festival observed to mark the death anniversary of Guru Arjun Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of Sikhism and the first of the two Gurus martyred in the Sikh faith.
A second group of pilgrims is expected to arrive in Pakistan on June 27 to pay homage to the former Sikh ruler of united Punjab, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, on his death anniversary. The two groups will stay in Pakistan for ten days each, crossing over into the country from the Wagah border between Pakistan and India.
Many Sikhs see Pakistan as the place where their religion began: Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 in a small village near Lahore.
“Two groups of Sikh pilgrims are visiting Pakistan for 10 days each between June 14 and July 6,” said Ami Hashmi, the spokesman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board which is responsible for the maintenance of properties, including religious buildings and sites, abandoned by people who left for India during the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
“The first batch will arrive on June 14 for Jor Mela while the second will be reaching on June 27 for the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh,” Hashmi added. “ETPB has completed all arrangements for the 500 Sikh pilgrims.”
He said the Interior Ministry of Pakistan had directed the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi to issue 10-day visas to the pilgrims.
This March, arch-rivals India and Pakistan agreed to go forward with the Kartarpur Corridor, a new border crossing and route for Sikh pilgrims to visit a holy temple in Pakistan.
The Sikh minority community in India’s northern state of Punjab and elsewhere has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just over the border in Muslim-majority Pakistan. But to get to Kartarpur, travelers must first secure hard-to-get visas, travel to Lahore or some other major Pakistani city and then drive to the village, which is just 4 km (2-1/2 miles) distant from the Indian border. Pakistan has earmarked Rs.1,000 million for the corridor in its budget for fiscal year to June 2020.
In April, a large group of Sikh pilgrims from India performed ritual baths at a famous temple in northwestern Pakistan after arriving in the country to celebrate the harvest festival of Vaisakhi that marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year.
The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi had announced that it had issued around 2,200 visas to Indian Sikhs wanting to travel to Pakistan to participate in the annual Vaisakhi celebrations from April 12 to 21. Around 3,000 Sikhs in total had arrived for the festival from around the world, ETPB’s Hasmi said, 1,896 of them from India.


Government hopeful to avert opposition protest through dialogue

Updated 15 min 50 sec ago

Government hopeful to avert opposition protest through dialogue

  • Says it’s opposition’s right to protest, but the government won’t allow anyone to create chaos
  • Analysts maintain the JUI-F chief has acquired political relevance by mounting pressure on the government

ISLAMABAD: The government has started contacting opposition parties to dissuade them from launching a mass protest in the federal capital, said defense minister Pervez Khattak on Thursday.
“We have started negotiating with all opposition parties and hopefully [the effort] will yield positive results in the next couple of days,” he said in an informal chat with journalists in Islamabad.
The prime minister on Wednesday announced to form a committee led by Khattak to hold talks with the opposition factions, especially the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) that has announced to start its “Azadi March” on October 27 and enter the federal capital on October 31 to dislodge the government.
JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been struggling to start an agitation against the government since the general elections in July last year wherein his party only managed to clinch a dozen seats in the National Assembly.
He has now received political support from other major opposition groups – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – who accuse the government of deteriorating the country’s economy and victimizing opposition politicians by slamming them in jails on corruption charges.
“Pakistan is a democratic country and we want to resolve all issues of the opposition through dialogue,” the defense minister said, though he also warned the opposition parties against creating an environment of chaos and turmoil in the country.
“It is their [opposition’s] democratic right to protest, but if the opposition only wants to spread anarchy in the garb of agitation we won’t allow it,” Khattak added.
Meanwhile, the JUI-F has ruled out the possibility of talks with the government until the prime minister resigns from his position. “This is an illegitimate government, a product of rigged elections and we may talk to them only after the prime minister resigns,” Hafiz Hamdullah, senior JUI-F leader, told Arab News.
He said that “all preparations for the anti-government march are in place and no force can stop us now from marching toward Islamabad.”
Political analysts said the government’s engagement with the opposition parties to stop their protest at this stage would not yield result, but some differences over issues, such as transparency in elections and improvement in governance, can be worked out.
“Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was reduced to a nobody after the last year’s elections, has succeeded in garnering political relevance through mounting pressure against the government,” Zahid Hussain, a political commentator, told Arab News.
He said the opposition parties would protest against the government as per plan, but “they will neither succeed in getting the prime minister’s resignation nor a new date for fresh polls in the country.”