TAXILA: Sikh devotees from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Hindus from interior Sindh and over 450 pilgrims from neighbouring India have commenced their rituals at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal in connection with the 183rd death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who ruled Punjab in the 19th century.
It is the second time during the month of June that Indian Sikh pilgrims are paying their visit to Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal. Earlier upon their arrival, they were welcomed by officials of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the local administration.
ETPB Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal and Assistant Commissioner Ishtiaque Ullah Khan received the pilgrims. Officials of the police, Elite Force and the Anti-Terrorist Squad were deployed at the gurdwara to avert any untoward incident.
Talking to newsmen in Hassanabdal on Saturday, the pilgrims said they were satisfied with the arrangements.
A leader of one of the groups, Sardar Balvinder Singh, thanked the Pakistani government for allowing a large number of pilgrims to visit their religious places.
Indian Sikh contingent leader Gurmeet Singh Bahoo also thanked the government for making arrangements for them and appreciated the religious freedom and security provided to them. ETPB Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal said the Pakistan embassy had issued visas to over 450 Indian pilgrims and subsequently the board had made necessary arrangements for their boarding, lodging and transportation to different gurdwaras, including Punja Sahib Hassanabdal, Dera Sahib Lahore, Gurdwara Janam Asthan and Gurdwara Sacha Sauda Farooqabad.
He said keeping in view the regional security threats to Sikhs, foolproof security arrangements would be made in collaboration with the district administration and law enforcement agencies, adding that the board as per the vision of the government remained committed to preserving sacred religious places and providing facilities to the pilgrims of all faiths.
Responding to a question, Mr Gondal said the Indian pilgrims would return on June 30, adding that every year, a large number of devotees from neighbouring India visited Pakistan to observe their religious festivals.
The pilgrims will proceed to Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, on June 26.
Mr Gondal said the main ceremony of the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the concluding ceremony of Bhog would be held at Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, on June 29.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2022