ATTOCK-Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf Saturday claimed that the government has evolved a roadmap to bring around 38,000 seminaries, housing 3.5 million students, into mainstream educational system.

The minister was talking to newsmen after attending Bhog ceremony held in connection with Sikh religious festival Besakhi here at Gurdwara Siri Punja Sahib Hassanabdal on Saturday.

Sardar Yousaf was of the view that issues pertaining to curriculum, equivalence, examination system, procedures involved in the process of mainstreaming. “Strategy for further up-gradation of seminaries is already under consideration with two different bodies, representing the seminaries - Wifaqul Madaris and Ittehad-i-Tanzeemat-i-Madaris with Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Ministry of education and National Security Adviser,” he informed.

He ruled out any delay or slow-paced registration process being pursued by the provincial governments, clarifying that such matters take some time. “The present government is committed to address the issue amicably,” he asserted.

Responding a question about Hajj operation 2018, the minister said that the government wants early court judgment so that the Hajj flights schedule may be finalized. He claimed that under the strict policy of the PML-N government, Hajj schemes remained corruption free during the last four years. Sardar Yousaf was of the view that due to better management by the present government during this year, pilgrims will perform Hajj at a cost of Rs237,000 instead of Rs300,000 under the government scheme. He said Hajj arrangements for the year 2018 would be better than the previous years as PML-N government is committed to serving the masses. He said that under Government Scheme, applicants of persons having age of 75 or over and those applicants who remained unsuccessful in last three or four consecutive years would be selected for hajj 2018 without any balloting.

To another question regarding denial of visas to Pakistanis intending to visit religious places in India, the minister said that Pakistan consistently following provisions of the 1974 Protocol on visits to Religious Shrines and issues more visa than protocol. “But New Dehli even not allow 500 Pakistanis devotees to participate in the Urs at Ajmer Sharif and Nizamuddin Auliya in recent months,” he regretted, and added that it’s a blatant violation of 1974 protocol arrangement. “Pakistani Government makes strenuous and sincere efforts to preserve religious sites and facilitate visits of pilgrims of all faiths,” he pointed out.

Earlier speaking as Chief Guest at Bhog ceremony of Beskhai festival, the federal minister said that minorities enjoy equal rights in the country and the government is making all-out efforts to look after their worship places. He said the government has already initiated multimillion development programs for provision of various facilities at all Gurdwaras across the country. He said that Pakistan is the only country where separate marriage act for the Sikh community has been introduced. “All possible steps are being taken for maintenance, protection and upkeep of gurdwaras and other religious places of minority communities,” Sardar Yousaf maintained. He said that Sikhs, as well as all the religious minorities, enjoy complete religious freedom along with constitutional rights. It is governmental policy to ensure protection and provision of different facilities to the Sikh community and other religious minorities for performing their religious rituals under state patronage, he said.

He said that 2019 would be observed as the year of celebration of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak and over 20,000 Sikh Yatrees would be invited to take part in the celebrations. He said the government has also planned introducing a special coin to mark the celebrations.

Speaking on the occasion, Sikh yatrees group leader Sardar Gurmeet Singh lauded efforts made by the Pakistani authorities for the preservation and restoration of the Sikh Gudrwaras and provision of modern boarding facilities. He also hailed Pakistan’s sincere efforts for ensuring the religious freedom of the minorities and safeguarding the sacred places and Gurudawaras of the Sikh community in Pakistan.

Muhammad Tariq, secretary of the Evacuee Trustee Property Board (ETPB), Member Punjab Assembly Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora and President Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) Sardar Tara Singh also spoke on the occasion.

ATTOCK: Sikh Yatrees perform religious rituals during Besakhi Mela at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal.–Online