Pakistan open to visa-free Sikh pilgrimage
Tridivesh Singh Maini
New Delhi, April 15: Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gillani has assured a delegation of Sikhs of full support in the maintenance of Sikh shrines.
The delegation which called on Gillani in the presence of Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Education and Minority affairs, comprised Sikhs from Pakistan, India, the US and the UK.
The Pakistan PM also lauded minorities for their contribution to the Pakistani society. The Sikh pilgrims thanked the PM for the maintenance of Sikh shrines and the arrangements made for their visit.
Bibi Surjeet Kaur from Kashmir requested the Pakistani Government to ease out visa norms for Sikhs wanting to travel by the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus.
She said that a lot of Sikhs from Indian Kashmir were keen to visit their religious shrines on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.
Earlier during the Baisakhi celebrations at the historic Sikh shrine of Panja Sahib, the Religious Affairs Minister emphatically stated that the Pakistani Government has no objection to visa free travel of Sikh pilgrims from Dera Baba Nanak (Indian Punjab) to the historic Sikh shrine of Kartarpur Sahib (Narowal) via what would be called the Kartarpur Corridor.
The Government of India would also have to give consent for visa free travel from Dera Baba Nanak to Narowal. This would be an important step as Sikhs from India and abroad have been demanding this ever since 2001. Since 2003, the Pakistani Government has been taking important initiatives for the upkeep of Sikh religious shrines.
Prominent among those in the delegation were American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Coordinator, Dr Pritpal Singh, Hardev Singh, Surinder Singh Dhuri, Balvinder Chaheru, Baldev Singh, Kuldip Singh, Bibi Surjeet Kaur from Kashmir and two Pakistani Sikhs — Bishan Singh and Sham Singh.