BY PETER GILL LAHORE: The authorities had to involve the Indian embassy officials on Saturday to persuade their government to allow Pakistani trains to bring some 1,800 or so Sikhs eagerly waiting at Attari to leave for Wagah to reach Nankana Sahib where 541st birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak are scheduled to be held on Monday (tomorrow).
The Indian Railways authorities had on Friday intimated the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) that they would not entertain the special trains sent from Pakistan to collect the Sikh devotees.
“After this development, board chairman Syed Asif Hashmi approached the Indian embassy officials here and sorted out the issue finally and we sent two special trains to Attari around noon to bring the Sikhs who were protesting there for non-arrival of Pakistani trains,” ETPB Deputy Director (shrines) Fraz Abbas told Dawn.
The Indian government had already issued a warning to its citizens, especially Sikhs, not to visit Pakistan because of ‘deteriorating law and order situation’.
The first special train arrived later in the day on Saturday at Wagah Railway Station with 1,500 or so Sikhs, while the other reached there after midnight carrying some 300 devotees. The officials of the board and Pakistan Gurdawara Parbhandik Committee greeted the devotees.
Jageer Singh, a member of Shurmani Gurdwara Parbhandik Committee (SGPC), told journalists at Wagah Border that he was satisfied with the security arrangements. “Though the law and order situation in Pakistan is not ideal but since this place is very sacred for us we are not afraid of coming here,” he said.
Sorang Singh of Amritsar said the Indian government did not want Sikhs to visit Pakistan but they did not care about the warning. “I am lucky to get a chance to visit the place where my Guru was born. I may not get this opportunity next time. Visiting Gurdwara Janam Asthan is a dream of every Sikh in the world,” he said.
Harbans Kaur Samana, also an SGPC member, was of the view that both India and Pakistan should facilitate Sikhs to attend their main fes tival in Pakistan. In the wake of recent terror attacks, the ETPB has taken strict measures for the security of visiting Sikhs. Besides police, the Pakistan Rangers are also performing security duties. "Baba Guru Nanak's birth anniversary is a major Sikh congregation in the country and the government is always very keen to provide them with best facilities," Mr Hashmi said. After going through the immigration process, the Sikh pilgrims left for Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak Dev Jee where the main function would be held on Nov 2. A good number of local Sikhs and Hindus will also attend the festival.
The Palki (with Granth Sahib in it) will be taken out on Nov 2 to mark the end of the festival.The Palki will also be carried through the other adjacent Gurdwaras -- Paiti Sahib, Palia Sahib, Tambu Sahib, Panjhvin Padshahi, Chehnvin Padshahi, Salji Sahib and Giyara Sahib.
During their 10-day stay in Pakistan, the pilgrims will also visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore, Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasanabdal and Gurdwara Kartarpur, Narowal.