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India stopping Sikh pilgrims from entering Pakistan

LAHORE: Despite the issuance of visa by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, several Sikh pilgrims couldn’t enter the country after Indian authorities stopped them at Attari Railway Station on “technical grounds”

The pilgrims wanted to take an interest in the 10-day Jorr Mela held to mark the martyrdom of Arjun Dev Jee, beginning from Friday (today) in Hasan Abdal and different parts of Punjab.

The Samjhota Express, which continued for India from Lahore Railway Station with routine travellers and should bring somewhere in the range of 80 Yatris (Sikh pilgrims) from Attari, returned unfilled, according to official sources. Meanwhile, 14 pilgrims entered Pakistan via Wahga Border, where they were warmly received by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) officials. Later, they were sent to Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hasan Abdal, by a special bus under tight security.

Imran Gondal, ETPB’s deputy secretary (shrines) said that,

“The Pakistan High Commission issued visas to as many as 80 Yatris on June 7 (Wednesday) after receiving clearance from its ministry of interior. Some of them (total 14) had the visa to enter Pakistan on foot via Wahga border and the remaining got a visa to travel by a special train that is sent by Pakistan to transport such travellers under a protocol.”

Mr Gondal explained,

“Actually, the Pakistani rail authorities first sought permission from their Indian counterparts to dispatch a special train for bringing Yatris from Attari. But they (the Indian authorities) refused to receive the train, stating that their ministry concerned was yet to accord permission in this regard. So, the Pakistani authorities requested the Yatris to travel by Samjhota that left for India at about 10:45 am. But the Indian authorities stopped Yatris from boarding it, stating it was not the train dedicated for Yatris.”

However, he said those having a visa to enter Pakistan on foot have reached Lahore and proceeded for Hasan Abdal. He added that when India refused to send Yatris by Samjhota Express, Pakistan rail authorities again sought permission (from India) to send the special train to Attari.

The ETPB official added that,

“But Indians didn’t allow us, depriving several Yatris of an opportunity to participate in an important religious event.”