MHA denies Sikh group permission to visit Pakistan

Inputs indicate threat to safety, it says

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has denied permission to a Sikh jattha (group) of around 600 pilgrims to visit Pakistan for the 100th anniversary of the Saka Nankana Sahib.

The group was expected to visit five gurudwaras in Pakistan from February 18 to 21. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), an apex Sikh religious body, had sought permission from the MHA.

In a letter sent to Bibi Jagir Kaur Begowal, president, SGPC, on Wednesday, MHA said “recent inputs indicate threat to the safety and security of Indian citizens visiting Pakistan… As the jattha which may have nearly 600 members is scheduled to visit five gurudwaras across Pakistan over a period of week, we apprehend considerable threat to the safety of a large number of our citizens during this visit.”

The letter said that traffic on India-Pakistan international border remained suspended since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “While the pandemic continues to persist, it is pertinent to note that Pakistan has so far recorded over half a million cases, with 10,000 plus deaths due to COVID. Considering the capacity of the health infrastructure in Pakistan, it is not advisable for a large group of our citizens to visit Pakistan for a week during pandemic.”

It added that the MHA had not accorded permission to the group for crossing over to Pakistan, which was mandatory in the wake of the suspension of traffic between the two countries due to the pandemic.

According to a 1974 bilateral protocol with Pakistan, four Sikh jathhas visit important Gurudwaras in Pakistan every year.

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