Over 1,500 Indian pilgrims arrived here on Saturday to join the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak despite an advisory issued by India against visiting Pakistan in view of the deteriorating security situation.
“Some 1,500 yatris (pilgrims) have arrived in the first special train and a couple of hundred others are expected in the second train,” Fraz Abbas, Deputy Director of Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), told PTI.
Mr. Abbas expressed satisfaction at the arrival of such a large number of Indian pilgrims in testing times.
Earlier, Pakistani authorities persuaded their Indian counterparts to allow special trains to cross the border to transport Sikhs who wished to participate in the celebrations despite the advisory against visiting Pakistan.
Mr. Abbas said the Indian Railways had on Friday refused to allow Pakistan’s special trains to go to Amritsar to transport the pilgrims.
“On the request of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad persuaded its government and got the issue sorted out,” he said.
ETPB Chairman Asif Hashmi and other officials greeted the pilgrims at the Wagah border.
After completing immigration procedures, the pilgrims left for Gurdwara Janamsthan at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, where a three-day festival will begin on November 2.
Jageer Singh, a member of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee, told reporters at Wagah that he was satisfied with the security arrangements.
“Though the law and order situation in Pakistan is not ideal, we are not afraid of coming here no matter what happens because this place is very sacred for us,” he said.
The ETPB, which maintains shrines of minority communities and arranges visits by foreign pilgrims, has put in place strict security measures in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks across Pakistan.
The paramilitary Pakistan Rangers have been deployed for the security of the pilgrims.
Senior officials of the Indian High Commission have also been sent to Lahore to oversee arrangements for the pilgrims.
The Indian government had on Tuesday advised pilgrims against visiting Pakistan in view of the deteriorating security situation.
“The government of India is of the view that it is not advisable for Indian pilgrims to visit Pakistan in the prevailing situation when frequent terrorist attacks are taking place in Punjab province... where all gurdwaras are situated,” said a statement from the home ministry.