ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to relax its visa policy for Sikh devotees wishing to attend rituals at their religious sites in Pakistan, said a senior official on Sunday.
The managing director of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor Khan, announced this while talking to Sikh pilgrims visiting Nankana Sahib for the 549th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism — Guru Nanak Dev.
In his detailed discussion with local and foreign devotees, Mr Khan discussed the facilities being provided to the pilgrims and also the problems faced by them. Those who attended this meeting included MNA Shazra Rai Mansab Ali, MPA Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, Sardar Jaga Singh, Sardar Avatar Singh and Prof Kaliyan Singh.
The Sikh representatives told PTDC managing director that they faced a lot of difficulties in acquiring visas from India and other countries like Canada, the United Kingdom and Thailand.
Due to this problem alone, thousands of devotees who wanted to visit Pakistan each year failed to do so, they said.
They also complained about shortage of lodging facilities for the pilgrims in Pakistan. They, however, said they felt welcomed here because Pakistanis were a hospitable people.
“We are not only in love with Pakistan religiously but also ethnically,” a Sikh leader said.
On the occasion, Mr Khan said: “We are willing to relax the visa policy through the foreign ministry so that pilgrims could enjoy better facilities next year on Baba Guru Nanak’s birthday.”
He expressed the hope that with a relaxed visa policy in place more and more Sikhs would visit Pakistan and the country would be able to earn millions of dollars every year.
He said that Pakistan was a secured and friendly country where people from every religion could perform their religious rites without fear. “The government is committed to providing security to people of all faiths.”
Due to the negative propaganda in international media in general and Indian media in particular people were afraid to visit Pakistan, he said. “We need the support of global tourism community to end this widespread propaganda.”
The PTDC chief said the government was planning to establish appropriate accommodation facilities at the sacred places of Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus. He said a think tank had been set up to promote tourism in the country.
Speaking on the occasion, Prof Kaliyan Singh said the Sikh community hoped the problems faced by tourists and pilgrims in Pakistan would be solved soon.
22 Jan 2019
23 Jan 2019