As many as 2,300 Sikh pilgrims arrived in Lahore on Thursday to celebrate the Baisakhi festival.
“Pakistanis are wonderful hosts. This is my second trip to Pakistan and I am happy to see that the government has provided pilgrims even more facilities than last year,” Sukhwinder Singh, a 60-year-old pilgrim from India, said.
The government had issued 2,400 pilgrims for the festival.
The pilgrims will travel to Hassan Abdal on three special trains provided for them. They will stay there till April 14 and then go to Nankana Sahib where they will stay till April 16. They will then travel to Sacha Soda Sahib (Farooqabad). Later, they will visit Kataspur (Aimanabad) and finally return to Lahore to travel back to India.
The pilgrims were received by members of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGBC) and the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) officials including Shrines Additional Secretary Khalid Ali, Deputy Secretary Syed Faraz Abbas and Azhar Nazir Sulehri who showered them with rose petals.
As many as four stalls were set up at the Wagha border railway station for the pilgrims. These stalls carried medicine, food, water and tea. Rangers and a large contingent of police were deployed at the station to provide security to the pilgrims.
Abbas said the government wanted to provide maximum facilities for the pilgrims to ensure a comfortable stay.
Abbas said the government would offer free stay, food and medicines to the pilgrims.
“These pilgrims are our guests and it is our duty to ensure they enjoy their stay in Pakistan. Every year we try to improve the facilities available to them,” he said.
Parabhjot Singh, a 13-year-old pilgrim, said, “It is a great feeling to come to Pakistan for the first time. I came for a religious event and am amazed to see such a lovely reception for us.”
“We are here to celebrate 315th birthday of Khalsa faith and the love we have received on arrival cannot be explained in words,” said Indi Kaur, a 35-year-old pilgrim from Amritsar.
Shrines Additional Secretary Khalid Ali told The Express Tribune every year the ETPB hosted the pilgrims.
He said a medical camp had been set up for the pilgrims and fool proof security had been arranged.
“We try to ensure that the pilgrims leave with good memories. Such initiatives are also good for tourism,” he said.
Jarmoun Singh, another pilgrim, said, “I have been visiting Pakistan for Baisakhi Festival for the last 4 years. Every year, the ETPB provides us better facilities than before.”
“I will recommend to the government of Pakistan to have more immigration officials and desks for our arrival to Pakistan. It would help save time and effort,” said a 45-year-old pilgrim Parabhjit Singh.