LAHORE - To ensure peace and progress in the region, all issues between Pakistan and India need to be resolved through dialogue.

Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, speaking at a seminar organised by Diyal Singh Research and Cultural Committee here on Saturday, said friendly ties with the neighbours was need of the hour.

To promote that spirit, Aziz said, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had extended the hand of friendship to the Modi government in India by attending the oath-taking ceremony of Indian prime minister. At that time, he added, resumption of dialogue between two countries was agreed upon between the two countries to sort out the issues but, to a great surprise, India backed out and the process was deadlocked. He said Pakistan desired cordial relations with India and resolution of all outstanding issues through peaceful means.

Aziz said Constitution of Pakistan guaranteed religious freedom to all minorities in addition to protecting their rights. He said government had reserved seats for them in the Parliament and they were also having a special quota for jobs in government departments.

The seminar was attended by a large number of Sikh yatrees who are on a visit to Pakistan in connection with the celebrations of Vaisakhi.

Chairman Evacuee Trust Board Siddiqul Farooq, in his speech, announced to establish Baba Guru Nanak University in Nankana Sahib and initiation of projects to provide better lodging facilities to visiting Sikhs in future.

Sardar Manhoman Singh Khalsa from UK highlighted the value of Muslim-Sikh friendship to underline the need of their close ties given the circumstances at the international level. Recalling the 1984 massacre of Sikhs by Indira Gandhi government in India he said, “The wounds of that tragedy are as fresh today as they were in the past.” He further said, “It is an unforgettable incident for every Sikh who still stands for the right to Khalistan, a separate homeland for Sikhs, as it was claimed by other communities in the world.”

He also voiced for right to Kashamiri people and condemned the atrocities unleashed on them by the Indian forces. He said the dream of the Hindu under the present government to convert Muslims to Hinduism by 2021 would never come true.

Sardar Sham Singh, Sardar Gopal Singh Chawla and others also spoke on the occasion.

The yatrees expressing their sentiments said that they were much pleased that due care was being given by the Pakistani government to Sikh religious places. They were quite satisfied with the arrangements made for their stay in Pakistan and other needs. They said they found peace in Pakistan and passed the days without any fears. During the seminar yatrees chanted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans.