Pakistan denies pilgrim visas to Sikhs from India
Pakistan has denied pilgrim visas to a group of Sikh devotees from India, who wanted to attend the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev at the Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan.
"We had applied for the Visa for Pakistan and when we came here, we got to know that our visas have been cancelled. We wanted to go for pilgrimage to Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan and now we are facing difficulty and we are disappointed after visa cancellation," said Vijendar Kaur, a female pilgrim.
Every year, thousands of Sikhs pay obeisance at the shrine, where the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak Dev was born.
The Shiromani Akali Dal Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee said in Amritsar that more than half the pilgrims were denied visas without assigning any reason.
"Every year, on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji, a large group of Sikh devotees goes for pilgrimage in Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan and this year also, through the Shiromani Akali Dal Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, we had applied from 1860 visas, out of which 971 visas were cancelled. I feel that it is wrong and disappointing for the devotees," said a member of Shiromani Akali Dal Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Ram Singh said.
Guru Nanak Dev, the first Sikh guru and the founder of the Sikh religion, was born on the full moon day in the month of Kartik as per the Hindu calendar. Hence, his birthday is celebrated as Guru Nanak Jayanti.
Singh said this has hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community and demanded flexibility in visa policies.
"We demand that the policy for visas should be flexible and the cancellation of visas at the 11th hour is not justified for a person, who has been waiting to go for the pilgrimage. This is a very important pilgrimage for the Sikhs and I want that the authorities should help us in the process of getting visas and steps should be taken to change the visa policies, so that the pilgrims are able to get the visas easily, without any problems," said Singh.
The two countries have gone to war three times since Pakistan split from India in 1947. The partition tore many families apart. The restrictions have been in place ever since.
In April, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visited India, the first trip by a Pakistani head of state in seven years. Last year Pakistan promised India most-favoured nation trading status.
But potential flashpoints between the two nations remain.