Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to India Syed Haider Shah Tuesday said his country was investigating and “trying to ascertain facts” on what actually happened with Sikh pilgrims. The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday had summoned Shah and lodged a strong protest against alleged denial of consular access to Sikh pilgrims who are currently in Pakistan to visit shrines for Baisakhi festivities. The protest was also lodged against for alleged surfacing of Sikh referendum 2020 posters, related to Khalistan, in gurdwaras there. Speaking at the convocation of Guru Nanak Khalsa College for Women, Gujarkhan Campus, in Ludhiana, Shah said in reply to a query, “We are investigating. We are trying to ascertain facts… ki hua kya hai? (What has actually happened). It is being sorted out through diplomatic channels and both governments are in touch.”
“There is nothing that can’t be sorted out through talks. It is our belief. The relationship between both countries will certainly improve,” he said.
Calling it an “honour” for the government of Pakistan to host and serve Sikhs from India, Shah said his country would hold full-scale celebrations of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev scheduled for 2019. “Guru Nanak Dev was not only the guru of Sikhs but the entire humanity. Pakistan will be fully cooperating with India and also celebrate his 550th birth anniversary next year. In fact, our preparations and celebrations from our side will be more than what India is expecting from us,” he said. Shah said Pakistan would extend full cooperation for Indian pilgrims who apply for visas to visit Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib in Lahore (birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev).
Earlier, during his convocation address to the students, Shah stressed on Pakistan’s cultural affinity with India, especially with the Sikh community. “We have deep bonds of cultural affinity (with India), especially with Sikh community. Baisakhi festivities are going on there. Government of Pakistan feels honoured to serve our Sikh brothers and take care of your relatives in Pakistan. We will continue to do that,” he said.
Shah said his stay in India had been ‘memorable’. “Professionally, it has been an important and challenging assignment for me and worthwhile in understanding complexities of relationship between both countries,” he said. Meanwhile, Professor Ravinder Bhathal, president Punjab Sahit Akademi, met Shah and demanded that Pakistan extend cooperation for kavi darbaar being planned in Pakistan and India next year for 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. Paramjit Singh Sarna, president Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi) and former president Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, also president of the college where Shah came, said, “We face problems in getting visa for our sewaks who do kar sewa at Gurudwara Dera Sahib in Lahore. We met him several times to discuss such issues. We are glad he accepted our invite to preside over our college’s convocation,” said Sarna.
Sarna said Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan should ignore Khalistan posters and slogans. “It hasn’t happened for the first time. Sikh pilgrims in Pakistan should just focus on praying which is purpose of their visit. They should simply ignore such things,” he said.
Shah also left a note in Urdu in college’s visitor’s diary.