Pakistan has issued more than 1,100 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India to participate in annual Baisakhi celebrations, said a statement from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
“These visas have been issued as a ‘special gesture’ by the Government of Pakistan in view of the importance of Baisakhi for Punjabis and Sikhs marking the start of their new year,” according to the statement that said the Pakistan High Commission extended special felicitations to all those celebrating the occasion and wished visiting pilgrims a fulfilling pilgrimage.
Read more: Sikh pilgrims celebrate Baisakhi Festival in Pakistan
The celebrations are planned to last from April 12 to April 22.
“The issuance of pilgrimage visas is a part of the Government of Pakistan’s efforts for facilitating visits to religious shrines. This also reflects the commitment of the Government of Pakistan to faithfully implement the bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines,” it added.
Under the framework of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, a large number of pilgrims from India visit Pakistan to observe various religious festivals and occasions each year.
Pakistan High Commission in India issues 1,100 visas to Sikh pilgrims to participate in annual Baisakhi celebrations being held from 12th to 22nd of this monthhttps://t.co/wYaUciPyQl
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) April 8, 2021
The managing body of the Sikh place of worship in India, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), welcomed the decision by Pakistan.
“We believe that those who want to visit religious shrines in Pakistan should be given visas,” said President Gobind Singh Longowal.
He told Anadolu Agency: “The Indian government must allow the pilgrims to visit Pakistan.”
In February, India had disallowed around 600 Sikhs intending to visit Pakistan from Feb 18 to 25 for the 100th anniversary of Saka Nankana Sahib. The group was expected to visit five gurdwaras in Pakistan.
Read more: Government will ask India to lift travel ban on Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan
Indian Ministry of Home Affairs had in a letter denying Sikhs permission to undertake the trip said that keeping in view the “capacity of health infrastructure in Pakistan” it could not allow such a large group to tour the country for a week.
The Indian home ministry also expressed concerns about the “safety” of the group because of what it said “considerable threat”.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk