Four members of a Sikh family from India have gone missing while visiting Pakistan to participate in celebrations marking Baisakhi, the first incident of its kind, according to a media report on Friday.
The four people from Sandhawala village in Faridkot were among 1,717 Sikh pilgrims from India who arrived in Pakistan on April 11. All the other pilgrims have returned home.
The missing Sikhs were identified as 38-year-old Sunil Singh, his 27-year-old wife Sunita and their children, nine-year-old daughter Huma Kaur and 10-year-old son Umer Singh, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.
The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) – a Pakistan government body responsible for maintaining shrines of minority communities and arranging the accommodation and security for Sikh pilgrims – confirmed that the four people were missing.
ETPB’s additional secretary (shrines) Khalid Ali said the Pakistan government is trying to trace the missing family.
The ETPB works with the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee to organise pilgrimages to Sikh holy sites.
Authorities are concerned that the development might “spark tension between the two countries”, the report said.
Around 2,000 Sikh pilgrims from abroad, including those from India, visited Pakistan for 10 days to celebrate Baisakhi.
Harpal Singh Bhullar, president of the Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, said the Pakistani government had issued 170 visas to his organisation this year, including those for Sunil Singh and other members of his family.
Every year, hundreds of Sikhs from India visit Pakistan to visit holy sites such as Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, and Gurdwara Panja Sahib and to join celebrations marking various events. Authorities stepped up security for the pilgrims a few years ago after the Taliban targeted Pakistani Sikhs in the country’s restive northwest.