Religious tourism

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That Pakistan issued as many as 2,200 visas to Sikh pilgrims from across the world is probably the first tangible step towards realizing its new visa policy that the prime minister launched a few weeks ago.

The Sikh pilgrims including those from India performed their religious rituals at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal on the occasion of the Baisakhi Mela. The main ceremony of Khalsa Janam Din was held on April 14. The government ensured foolproof security for the pilgrims.

The visiting Sikh leader Ravinder Singh Khalsa thanked the Pakistan government and the departments concerned for making immaculate arrangements. He expressed the wish that the Sikh community should be given more visas for the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.

In spite of the current tension along the Line of Control and aerial skirmishes that both the countries engaged in, it is an appreciable step by the Pakistan government to issue this many visas to the yatrees.

Only this Sunday a large number of Hindu pilgrims stranded in flash floods in the south of the country were timely rescued by the military and local administration.

Addressing the pilgrims in Hasan Abdal, prime minister’s aide Malik Amin Aslam said the Pakistan government believed in providing equal rights to all minorities and cited the example of the country’s decision to open the Kartarpur Corridor.

The Kartarpur initiative also indicates that Pakistan wishes peace and stability in the region. Even when the environment has been rife with hostility, Pakistan pressed for technical level dialogues on the corridor and went over to India as planned. It was however unfortunate that India did not reciprocate and postponed one meeting when it was scheduled to come over to Pakistan.

Pakistan has also completed most of the work on the corridor on its side of the border and looks forward to receiving more Sikh pilgrims on the birth anniversary of the Baba Guru Nanak this year.

Samjhota Express has already resumed its service and we saw jubilant faces alighting and boarding the trains that have relatives astride the border. These 2,200 will now surely be the ambassadors for Pakistan in whichever part of the world they come from.

Now that India has already gone into the elections phase, there is less of a chance of any further conflagration. And it is hoped there is no other compulsion for the Indian government now to whip up war frenzy anymore.