Sikh delegation meets Pak PM in Lahore, takes up flexible visa issue demand

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NEW DELHI - A Sikh delegation comprising leaders of various jathas met Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Lahore during the birthday anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, the first spiritual leader of the community.

They reportedly discussed several issues, including introducing flexibility in visa norms for pilgrims visiting Pakistan and ways to improve the look of dilapidated Sikh shrines.

The over 30-minute meeting on Saturday at a Punjab Government guest-house in Lahore was held in cordial manner.

According to reports, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) Jatha head Sawinder Singh Dobalia has offered Pakistan to build a Serai (inn) for the safe stay of pilgrims, as this year tents had caught fire.

He said the SGPC is ready to construct the Serai at its own cost.

American Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee chief Dr. Pritpal Singh said that pilgrims were willing to visit Pakistan during Gurpurab and wanted visa norms to be relaxed.

“We also took up the matter of repair and construction of Gurdwara buildings in Pakistan. The Pakistan Prime Minister has said that his government would extend all help to carry out the repair and construction of the Gurdwaras,” Dr. Pritpal Singh told ANI from Lahore.

There are 172 historic gurdwaras in Pakistan, but the Pakistan Government allows pilgrims to only visit about a dozen of them.

Media reports of gurdwara land being illegally occupied prompted the Sikh leaders to ask Gilani to help get their lands back.

During the meting, Dobaliya suggested that the SGPC should be consulted before making any renovation or construction in Sikh shrines in Pakistan.

Dr. Pritpal Singh urged Gilani to activate the international advisory board so that various Sikh issues, including the conservation of Sikh shrines are taken up as per the Sikh code of conduct.

The defunct international advisory board was formed three years ago and till date not a single meeting has been convened.

Dr. Pritpal Singh, Sawinder Singh Dabaliya, Shah Baz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minorities Minister, Sham Singh, Balbir Singh, Manmohan Singh, Massa Singh, Syed Asif Hashmi, chairman PETPB, Syed Zahir Bhukhari, Additional secretary PETPB were present at the meeting. By Ravinder Singh Robin (ANI)

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