Biasakhi in Pakistan

1HASSANABDAL: This remote northwestern Punjab town remains sleepy throughout the year, but comes to life during the annual Sikh festival of Baisakhi.
Every year, the believers of the Sikh religion visit the Gurdwara Panja Sahib in large numbers from abroad and within the country to celebrate their religious Baisakhi festival. The ancient place of worship of Sikhism is located in Hassanabdal, some 45 kilometres away from Islamabad.
This time around, too, it is no different. Streets, especially those near the gurdwara, are swarmed by flowers of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
Around 10,000 followers of Sikh religion including 2,400 pilgrims from India participated in the 315th festival of Baisakhi, which concluded at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hassanabdal on Sunday.

Mena Bhatia, 54, a resident of Sant Nagar in New Delhi, reached Pakistan on April 10 to participate in the Baisakhi festival at Panja Sahib.
“It was my dream to visit Panja Sahib during my life. I am happy that I have succeeded in fulfilling my dream during my life,” she said.
She expressed her happiness about visiting Pakistan, while adding that thousands of Indians also wished to visit their religious places that were situated in Pakistan, but were unable to do so due to the difficulties in obtaining a Pakistani visa.

“Is it possible for the people of the two countries to visit each other without any restriction of visas?” Bhatia asked.
Gurpreet Singh, 32, from the Bathinda district of the Indian Punjab expressed similar sentiments about his visit to Pakistan.
“It has been an amazing visit. I had not expected such a remarkable welcome in Pakistan,” he said. Singh said that the government of Pakistan had made excellent arrangements for the Sikh visitors, adding that he would try to come next time along with his parents.

“There are no security issues in Pakistan. I feel like I am in Bathinda. I would like to come again and again to Pakistan,” he said.
Nirja Singh, 70, a resident of Ludhiana, expressed a wish to visit her birthplace of Faisalabad where she was born before the Partition.
“I would like to visit Faisalabad, because I do not know if life will give me another chance to visit Pakistan. But the visa restrictions from the Pakistani government only allow us to visit Hassanabdal, Nankana Sahib and Lahore,” she added.
Nirja further said that the governments of India and Pakistan should adopt the policy of free visa for their citizens, just like the United States and Canada.
P.S Kohli, 55, from New Delhi is visiting Pakistan for the first time in his life.

“As a follower of the Sikh religion, it is our dream to visit the Panja Sahib once in life,” he said.
He said that the Pakistan and India should resolve their issues through dialogue, as well as enhance the bilateral trade in the future.
Kohli added that although Pakistan was going through a difficult time as it has been fighting militancy for several years, he (Kohli) was hopeful that the Pakistani government will succeed in bringing peace to the country.
“I always feel sorry for the innocent Pakistani citizens whose lives are lost during terrorist attacks,” he added.
The Sikh pilgrims are visiting Pakistan from April 10 to 19 and will visit Lahore, Nankana Sahib and Hassanabdal during their visit.

 Source: Dawn