Over 2,100 Sikh pilgrims from India arrived in Lahore on Saturday to participate in the 548th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, at his birthplace in Nankana Sahib in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Evacuee Trust Property Board spokesman Amer Hashmi told PTI, that the Pakistan’s embassy in New Delhi had issued more than 3,300 visas to Indian Sikhs however only 2,100 pilgrims have arrived in Lahore so far. Hashmi said ETPB chief Siddiqul Farooq and Pakistan Gurdwara Parbhandik Committee office-bearers greeted them at Wagah Border.
Several Sikhs have complained about currency exchange rate at the Wagah immigration. However, authorities have promised to intervene and assured better currency exchange rate to the Sikh pilgrims. The officials also deported a Sikh pilgrim after he was found to be on the list of ‘black-listed’ passengers, Hashmi said, adding for the first time the visiting Sikhs were served food at the Wagah railway station. Talking to reporters, Sikh leader Sardar Sohan Singh said, “We always receive love from the people of Pakistan. We want cordial relations between the two countries and people to people contact.”
Saddiqul Farooq said the board has taken good care of the Sikh holy places in Pakistan. “You will find a difference when you get to Gurdwara Janamasthan in Nankana Sahib,” he said. He told the Sikh groups leaders about extensive renovation work in gurdwaras in the country especially in the Punjab province. The Indian Sikhs have left for Nankana Sahib, some 80 km from Lahore, where they will attend the main function on November 13. The Indian pilgrims will also visit other gurdwaras in Punjab province before they leave for India on November 21. Guru Nanak Dev was born at Rai Bhoi Ki Talvandi (present day Nankana Sahib) near Lahore. He spent the last years of his life at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, about three kilometers from the International Border that separates India and Pakistan.