ATTOCK: The three-day Besakhi festival concluded on Friday at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, the third most sacred city for the followers of the Sikh religion.

According to reports, around 4,000 Sikhs attended the rituals. Of these, 1,500 Sikhs travelled especially from India, while over 500 came from various European countries. As many as 2,000 Pakistani Sikhs also attended the festival, adding colour to the annual Beskahi event which began in Hasan Abdal on Thursday.

This year’s festival marks the 319th anniversary of Khalsa (the pure ones) which is a name for the Sikh brotherhood. In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh, the last Sikh Guru in human form, asked his followers to sacrifice their lives for him.

1,500 Sikh pilgrims cross over from Wagah

Speaking at the concluding ceremony, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Yousaf said that the government was committed to providing complete religious freedom to people of all faiths living in the country.

The government had also made efforts to keep their worship places in good condition.

“Pakistan is committed to providing security to the minorities and you have witnessed this,” the minister said.

Referring to the devotees who came from neighbouring India, Yousaf said that Pakistan continues to issue visas to Sikhs coming from across the border. In this regard, he pointed out that this year our country has issued 3,000 visas to Indian Sikhs.

However, the minister lamented that India did not reciprocate and granted only 1,583 visas to its pilgrims.

On the other hand, Auqaf Chairman Siddiqul Farooq said that they are building a new 100-room hostel at Nankana Sahib to address the long-standing issue of boarding at the famous gurdwara near Lahore.

Sikh Group leaders Sardar Manmohan Singh, Ravindarjeet Singh and others expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made for them.

MPA Ramesh Lal in his address said that they had been making sure that visiting Sikhh devotees get the required facilities and added that the government had allocated Rs100 million for developing a water stream passing near the gurdwara.