Lahore: Pakistan’s Punjab government on Thursday asked the law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of the Sikh pilgrims arriving in the country for the 100th anniversary of the Saka Nankana Sahib from this week.
On Thursday, India denied permission to around 600 Sikh pilgrims to visit Pakistan, citing the security and COVID-19 situation in the country.
The Cabinet Committee on Law and Order of Punjab government directed the law enforcement agencies and respective districts’ administration to ensure the security of the Sikh pilgrims and their holy places in all respects in connection with the Saka event.
The Cabinet committee said that coronavirus safety measures should also be ensured at Sikh gatherings.
Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which looks after the holy places of minorities in the country, said Pakistan had issued visas to 720 Indian Sikh pilgrims who were expected to arrive here via Waga border on Thursday to participate in the 100 years event of Saka at Gurdwara Janamasthan at Nankana Sahib, some 80 kms from Lahore, on Sunday.
In a communication to the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), an apex Sikh religious body, India’s Home Ministry on Wednesday said that the security situation in Pakistan continues to be adverse and there is a threat to Indian citizens in that country.
Besides, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected five lakh people in Pakistan and 10,000 people lost their lives due to the disease. The health infrastructure in Pakistan is also not adequate, the ministry said.
Citing these reasons, the Home Ministry conveyed to the SGPC that it has decided not to accord permission to the group that was expected to visit Gurudwaras in Pakistan from February 18 to 21.
Meanwhile, the ETPB expressed disappointment over the denial of permission to Sikh pilgrims to visit Pakistan at the last moment.
ETPB spokesperson Amir Hashmi said that members of the body and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) officials on Thursday waited for the Indian Sikhs at the Wagah border.
PSGPC President Sardar Satwant Singh noted that the Pakistan government had made all arrangements, including accommodation, medical and other facilities to facilitate the participants of the Saka festival.