Sikh pilgrims leave for Pakistan to celebrate Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary
A Sikh jatha left for Pakistan via the Attari-Wagah border on Friday to celebrate the 551st birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak at his birthplace at Nankana Sahib.
This is the first time since the imposition of foreign travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic that any Sikh jatha has left for the neighbouring country.
Punjab Police protocol officer at Attari-Wagah border Arunpal Singh said he has a list of 883 Sikhs who have got visas for travelling to Pakistan on the occasion.
The Pakistan embassy has issued visas to around 900 Sikhs this year. It is learnt that more than 1,500 Sikhs had applied for the visa.
Every year, the Pakistan government had been granting visas to 2,500 Indian Sikhs. But this year, the list was shorter due to the pandemic.
A total of 325 visas were issued to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). The gurdwara body had applied for 503 visas.
Ferozepur-based Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society had sought 172 visas, but got approval for 152. Tarn Taran-based Khalra Mission Committee got 225 visas against 300 applications. The request list for visas of other small societies was also cut short by the embassy.
The jatha members had undergone Covid tests at a two-day free camp organised by the SGPC.
The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) has appealed to Sikhs visiting Nankana Sahib not to bring elderly people and children due to the pandemic.
The jatha will return on December 1.
This year, the PSGPC has also cut short the time of the pilgrims’ stay in Pakistan. The jatha will only be able to stay at Nankana Sahib.