More than 3000 Sikh yatrees arrived in Lahore through Wagha border from India to observe 548th birthday ceremonies of their spiritual leader Baba Guru Nanak. The three-day pilgrimage is a beautiful reminder that Pakistan is still a cultural home for many communities at home and abroad.

The Pakistan government has issued 3316 visas to Sikh yatrees in this regard. Three trains reached Wagha Railway Station yesterday carrying about 2000 pilgrims who were warmly received by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) officers. The ETPB management has made arrangements for security, food and transportation of the pilgrims as usual. The first sacred site for Sikhs is in Amritsar in India, but even if just 5 percent of all Sikhs come for pilgrimage to Pakistan each year – that’s 1.2 million – Pakistan needs to build the infrastructure, transportation, hotels, medical facilities, security, etc. The potential for religious tourism is there if the government acts.

Such visits strengthen religious connections with other countries and also help in protecting historic and cultural heritage. These are events that can be held up against the global perception of Pakistan being a dangerous country especially for people who come to visit. Every year, the pilgrimage happens peacefully and the visitors generally have positive things to day about Pakistan. “We consider this land as sacred as Saudi Arabia is for Muslims. I am very happy to be here,” a young Sikh lady was quoted as saying.

Such celebrations must be encouraged, and promoted by the Tourism section. They give the Sikh minority in Pakistan peace of mind and a feeling of belonging. Other events of minorities, including Christmas and Diwali, must also be respected.

It is hoped that the Pak Yatra ends without any security risks, and our friends who are coming to visit have reason to visit again, not just as a religious obligation, but because of the history, food, sights and love that Pakistan has to offer.