LAHORE: The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) have decided on Saturday to grant visas to 10,000 Sikhs from India, so that they can participate in the 550th birthday celebrations of Guru Nanak.
Pakistani officials have given a green signal to the largest representatives of Sikhs, the Shiromani committee, and other small groups to take part in the celebrations.
After mutual consultation, the two bodies decided that the number of pilgrims, in accordance with the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, will be increased from 3,000 to 10,000.
Further, there will be no restrictions on the number of Sikhs coming to Pakistan from other countries, they stated.
Pakistan will issue visas to the Shiromani community and other groups, according to the quota. All such groups will provide a list of pilgrims to EPTB; no other individual apart from these will be granted a visa.
Approximately, 0.1 million Sikhs want to visit Pakistan from India, Canada, America, Malaysia and several other countries. However, making preparations for and ensuring the security of all attendees on such a large scale is not possible, said an EPTB senior official while speaking to Express News.
However, the final decision on the matter rests with the government and the federal interior ministry.
Although Guru Nanak’s birthday is in November later this year according to the Roman calendar, the Sikh community will celebrate the occasion according to the Nanak Shahi calendar in November 2019.
In April, the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Muhammad Yousuf announced plans to issue a memorable coin commemorating the 550th birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2018.