Lahore, April 25 (Express Tribune): Pakistan has imposed a ban on non-Sikhs coming with Sikhs to celebrate Sikh festivals like Baisakhi.
The ban, imposed by Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), implies that Muslim, Hindu and Christians will not be able to enter Pakistan along with Sikh pilgrims, who visit the country in hoards during Baisakhi and other Sikh festivals.
Hindu pilgrims will only be able to visit the country on the occasion of their religious festivals, according to the new travel restrictions.
The decision was taken after two Indian citizens went missing during the recent Baisakhi festival. It was also learnt that there were Christians, Hindus and Muslims among the Sikh pilgrims, who arrived on April 12.
ETPB Deputy Director Imran Gondal said that the lists of Sikh pilgrims from India are sent directly to the interior ministry rather than the board, due to which recognition of the pilgrims becomes a hurdle.
Pakistan’s Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has also protested over participation of people belonging to other religions in their rituals. India’s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has been clearly asked to send a copy of the list of the Sikh pilgrims to the ETPB.
Meanwhile, Amritsar’s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee head, Sardar Rajinder Singh, speaking to Express News via telephone, said that visa applications of the pilgrims are sent to the federal and state governments and verified by intelligence agencies.
He informed that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had sent only 718 pilgrims during the current tour while the other over 1,000 pilgrims came through different small travelling groups.
He also revealed that different groups take Rs1,000 from pilgrims for Pakistan’s visa and include names without verification while the committee charges only Rs250 for visa.
He promised that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee will ensure that people from other religious groups apart from Sikhs do not visit Pakistan in the future.