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.


Pakistan says hospitals have 'ample resources' against coronavirus while doctors sound alarm

Updated 30 May 2020

Pakistan says hospitals have 'ample resources' against coronavirus while doctors sound alarm

  • ‘Only 25 percent of Pakistan’s hospital assets currently engaged:’ PM’s health adviser
  • In last 24 hours, 78 people died of coronavirus in biggest single day tally in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, said in a media briefing on Saturday that Pakistan’s health care sector had ‘ample resources’ to deal with coronavirus while doctors sounded alarm in the country’s most populous province, Punjab.
Pakistan saw a record jump in daily fatalities and cases on Friday with 78 people reported to have died from the virus in 24 hours including four health care workers. The total number of infected cases in the country stands at over 68,000 people with a death count of 1,400 as of Saturday.
“The overall situation in the country is under control as 25 percent of the country’s assets in the health sector are being used currently. It may be that a few hospitals in big cities which have huge influx are facing problems, otherwise we have ample resources to deal with COVID-19 patients so far,” Mirza said.
The PM’s aide also stressed the need for following standard operating procedures and adopting social distancing to contain the spread of the virus.
“In view of growing number of coronavirus cases and deaths due to this disease, the government is left with no option except to declare wearing of masks a must for everyone at public places, especially mosques, markets, shopping malls, public transport, and other crowded places,” he added.
Additionally, a resource management system was being launched to inform the public about the availability of beds and ventilators in different hospitals, he continued.
But some doctors have refuted the government’s claims regarding the state of the health care sector.
Vice Chairman of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) in Punjab, Dr. Shoaib Tarrar, said hospitals in big cities were almost full due to a huge influx of patients during the last week.
“The system is going to collapse in the coming days due to a rise in the number of patients. At Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi, we have only two beds available with oxygen facility. Our young doctors have informed us about similar situations in the whole of Punjab,” Dr. Tarrar told Arab News. 
Pakistan began relaxing its lockdown measures earlier this month, with shops, businesses and mosques opening up and hundreds of thousands thronging to the marketplaces in anticipation of Eid Al-Fitr last weekend. 
Dr. Javed Akram, Vice Chancellor of University of Health Sciences Lahore, said the government should focus more on capacity building at health facilities to deal with the surge in the number of COVID-19 patients.
“It all depends upon the peak of COVID-19 in Pakistan as it is very difficult to estimate when we will see its peak,” Dr. Akram told Arab News. 
“The government is taking a lot of measures but this is such a huge challenge that the whole world’s health systems have collapsed while dealing with it,” he said, and added that currently, the health system was coping with demand.
But he warned that if the public’s response to coronavirus containment efforts remained lax, there would be a greater surge. 
“Then we will see more influx which will compromise our health system,” he said.