Over 4,000 Sikh pilgrims from India have arrived in Pakistan to celebrate Guru Nanak's birth anniversary at Nankana Sahib amidst unprecedented security arrangements.
Nankana Sahib is the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the first guru of the Sikhs and the founder of Sikhism. Sikh pilgrims arrived at Wagah in three special trains on Wednesday to celebrate the Guru's 539 th birth anniversary.
Pakistan Sikh Gurdawara Parbandhak Committee and Evacuee Trust Property Board officials received them.
"Geographic boundaries cannot end the love, brotherhood and affection that Sikhs and Muslims share," a Sikh pilgrim said on his arrival at Wagah.
The pilgrims said Pakistan was not new to them as it is their ancestral land. "We have come to pay homage to Guru Nanak Dev who has guided us to purity and sincerity," another pilgrim said after eating a meal at a langar or community kitchen.
Shiromani Gurdawara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC) leader Sardar Amreek Singh Vocchoa said, "Pakistan is our second home. How can we be homesick while in Pakistan?"
"There could be mistrust between the two governments, but people want to live peacefully," he added.
Metal and explosive detectors and walk-through gates have been installed at gurdwaras and security checks are being carried out by law enforcement agencies with the help of organizers and security agencies, the Daily Times reported.
Over 1,000 personnel of Rawalpindi Police and over 100 mobile squads have been put on high alert to avert any untoward incident. Police patrolling has also has been stepped up on the GT Road from Rawalpindi to Hassanabdal, which will be visited by the Indian pilgrims.
Policemen equipped with metal detectors have been deputed in and around the Rawalpindi railway station, bus stations and hotels where the pilgrims are staying in Pakistan.
Vocchoa said 2,314 people had applied for visas through SGPC and all of them were granted permission to participate in the celebrations. "The state of emergency has no relevance to the pilgrims," he said.
Sardar Harinder Singh Saigol, another SGPC leader, said, "I don't want to go back after receiving so much love from Pakistanis."
Karmail Lal Kalra, an elderly pilgrim from Amritsar, said he wanted to visit his native town Mianwali. Prakash Kaur said she had came to Pakistan after over 60 years and wanted to meet five childhood friends in Lahore.
Several gurdwaras were built in honour of Guru Nanak at Nankana Sahib, 75 km southwest of Lahore. The prominent ones include Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Gurdwara Bal Lila, Gurdwara Patti Sahib, Gurdwara Kiara Sahib, Gurdwara Mal ji Sahib, Gurdwara Tambu Sahib and Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi.
During their stay in Pakistan, the pilgrims will also visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore, Gurdwara Succha Sauda in Farooqabad and Gurdwara Rohri Sahib in Aimanabad.