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INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Over 1,400 Indian Sikhs arrive in Pak for 'Baisakhi Festival'
 
Lahore, Apr 12 (PTI) More than 1,400 Sikhs arrived here today from India to participate in the Baisakhi Festival at Gurdwara Hasan Abdal in Rawalpindi district of Pakistan's Punjab province.

The Sikhs, who arrived on three special trains, were greeted by the officials of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandik Committee at the Wagah railway station amidst tight security.

"Some 1,430 Sikh Yatrees arrived here today via Wagah Border on three special trains. After immigration and serving them food they left for Gurdwara Punja Sahib Hasan Abdal," ETPB deputy director (shrines) Fraz Abbas told PTI.

"We were expecting more than 2,000 yatrees to arrive from India for the festival. However, only six yatrees travelled by the third train," he said.

But he was not aware of the reason as to why less number of yatrees reached here for the festival.

Abbas said special measures have been taken to provide security to the visiting Sikh pilgrims.

"The Rangers and Elite Force besides police personnel have been engaged to provide security to the Sikhs," Abbas said.

In the wake of recent terror attacks in Lahore the government has taken "extraordinary" security measures for the visiting Sikhs. The main event will be held on April 14.

The Sikhs would also visit Gurdwara Janamesthan Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Sacha Soda in Farooqabad, Gurdwara Kartarpur Narowal and Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore.

The Sikh Yatrees will visit Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore on April 18, Kartarpur Narowal on April 19 and return to Lahore on the same day.

A seminar titled 'Besakhi' will be held in Lahore on April 20 where Punjab Governor Malik Rafique Rajwana will be the chief guest.

The Indian Sikhs will return to India on April 21.

ETPB Chairman Sididqul said that special arrangements have been made for the Indian Sikhs.

"Security of Gurdwaras in Pakistan has been given to the Pakistan Rangers. Pakistani people want good relations with India and prayed for easing tension between the two countries," he said.

Sardar Balvinder Singh, a visiting Sikh leader, expressed his gratitude to the ETPB for arrangements for the Indian Sikhs.

He, however, complained that the immigration process at Wagah was slow.

"The immigration process should be fast so that the yatrees leave for their Gurdwaras," he said, adding the people of both the countries want peace and not war.


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