ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: A Sikh pilgrim was denied entry into Pakistan at the Wagah border by the immigration officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on account of a dubious expiry date on his passport, the FIA sources said.
Around 2,008 Sikh pilgrims reached Pakistan through Wagah Railway Station on Saturday to participate in the 3-day annual celebration of 548th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak.
However, according to some other officials, the immigration and law enforcing authorities deported ‘an unwanted Indian national’ who was trying to enter Pakistan in the disguise of a Sikh pilgrim.
According to them Pakistani authorities – during security check and immigration process – identified one Indian national, Gurmeet Singh, who had been blacklisted by the Ministry of Interior.
They said during the entry process immigration staff felt that Singh’s visa was tempered. They later separated him from other passengers and shifted him to Wagah Joint Check Post for thorough investigation and inspection of his travel documents.
During investigation and data check, immigration officials discovered that his entry was banned in Pakistan and he had been deported earlier for his involvement in unwanted and anti-Pakistani activities.
Earlier he travelled to Pakistan on a different identity. Later, Pakistani authorities deported the unwanted Indian citizen through Wagah Border on foot.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, an official of the Ministry of Interior said the ministry maintained a central database of all unwanted elements and miscreants whose entry is restricted from and to Pakistan.
All Pakistani embassies, airports and border control stations have access to the database. Usually, such elements are identified during visa issuance stage, but if they mistakenly get a visa, the Pakistani border control authorities bar their entry during immigration stage.
Evacuee Property Trust Chairman Siddique-ul-Farooq, who was available at Wagah Railway Station to welcome Sikh pilgrims, also confirmed that Pakistani authorities deported an Indian who was traveling with Sikh pilgrims. However, he said the passenger had reached Pakistan on expired passport.
Guru Nanak’s annual celebration
Sikh pilgrims reached Wagah railways station in a festive mood to celebrate Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary which will started on Sunday (today). During their stay in Pakistan they would visit Nankana Sahib and other places to perform rituals at gurdawaras. They will also visit various historical sites in different cities amid tight security.
Speaking to journalists, Farooq said Pakistan has issued to Sikh pilgrims 3,316 visas, which is the highest number of visas given to Sikh pilgrims in any year. The government has made special security arrangements for Indian guests, who would return to their homeland on November 19.
Talking to media, Sikh pilgrims thanked Pakistani government for their wonderful reception. Several Sikhs said though it was their first visit to Pakistan, the hospitality and reception showed by Pakistani people had changed their perception about the country.
“Pakistan’s image shown on Indian media is entirely different from the reality. I always respect Pakistan because it is the birthplace of my Guru and today my perception about Pakistan is changed forever due to the VIP protocol that is given to Sikh pilgrims,” said a Sikh pilgrim, Dalip Singh.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2016.