New Delhi: Pakistan on Tuesday issued a whopping 3,800 visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims to participate in the celebrations to mark the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs and the founder of Sikh-ism. Pakistan high commissioner Sohail Mahmo-od hailed the move as a “special gesture” by the Pakistan government.
While the move is bound to be welcomed by New Delhi, Indian security agencies have been concerned by attempts by notorious Pakistani spy agency ISI to try to radicalise Indian Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan to resurrect the terrorist Khalistan movement that wreaked havoc in India’s Punjab province in the 1980s and early 1990s. The terrorist movement was smashed by the Punjab police way back in 1994.
But the recent grenade attack in Amritsar is being viewed in India as a fresh attempt by the ISI to stoke terror in Punjab. Pakistani agencies have also been preventing the Indian high commissioner in Pakistan from visiting Sikh gurdwaras.
In a statement issued meanwhile, Islamabad said, “The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi has issued over 3800 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India to participate in the 549th birthday anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Pakistan from 21-30 November 2018.”
It added, “This is by far the largest number of visas issued in recent years to Sikh yatrees (pilgrims) for Baba Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary celebrations, well beyond the maximum number of 3000, mutually agreed between the two countries for this event.”
“We extend profound felicitations to our brothers and sisters celebrating this auspicious occasion and wish all yatrees a spiritually fulfilling yatra”, Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood said.
The Pakistan High Commission meanwhile also said, “The issuance of pilgrimage visas to Sikh pilgrims is in line with the Government of Pakistan’s efforts for promoting visits to religious shrines and people-to-people interactions. This also reflects the commitment of the Government of Pakistan to faithfully implement the bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines.”