'Pak govt to facilitate visits by Sikhs 4 times a year'
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Lahore, Apr 17: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today said the Pakistan government will facilitate visits by Indian Sikh pilgrims four times a year so that they can participate in different religious functions.
The premier made the remarks at a luncheon hosted for visiting Indian Sikhs at the Governor's House in Lahore.
"Sikh pilgrims can visit Pakistan four times in a calendar year and the government will extend maximum facilities to them," he said.
The Evacuee Trust Property Board and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee are working to facilitate Sikh 'yatris' or pilgrims during their visits to the country to participate in festivals and religious events, he said.
Officials said Sikhs from around the world usually visited Pakistan to take part in the Baisakhi festival and events marking the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and the death anniversaries of Guru Arjan Dev and Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
A large number of visas are issued to Indian Sikhs for the Baisakhi festival and birth anniversary of Guru Nanak and steps will now be taken to increase the visas issued for events marking the death anniversaries of Guru Arjan Dev and Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the officials told PTI.
Over 2,000 Indian Sikhs are currently visiting Pakistan to join the Baisaki festivities.
Gilani said special attention is being paid to the holy places of the Sikhs.
Facilties at gurdwaras across Pakistan have been enhanced and special dispensaries with free medicine had been set up for the pilgrims, he said.
Security systems, including closed circuit TV systems, luggage scanners, metal detectors and walk-through gates had been installed at shrines to ensure foolproof security, he said.
The federal government has set up a Ministry for Inter-Faith Harmony to bring different communities closer and Sikh-Muslim harmony in Pakistan was exemplary, Gilani said.
Pakistan's minorities and women were his constituency, he added.
Asked about the government's plans to establish the Baba Guru Nanak University, the premier said he would personally take up the issue with the concerned authorities so that the institution could be set up in the shortest possible time.
The Sikh yatris expressed their gratitude to Gilani for the facilities provided to them during their visit to Pakistan.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 18 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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