ATTOCK   -  Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has said that opening of Kartarpura border is a great peace initiative taken by Pakistan, which is duly being lauded by the whole world.

"The government is taking steps to facilitate Sikh yatrees coming from India and other parts of the world and the decision regarding opening of Kartarpura border reflects that Pakistan believes in religious freedom of minorities."

Sheikh Rashid was addressing the concluding ceremony of Baba Guru Nanak Birth Anniversary at Gurdwara Punja Sahib here in Hasanabdal on Monday.

The ceremony was attended by a large number of Sikh Community members including 3000 Sikh from India. The federal minister said that Pakistan believes in religious freedom which is evident from opening of Kartarpura border, saying that it is history in the making and would help expose those who stand on the wrong side.

He said all necessary arrangements would be made to facilitate Sikhs to visit Kartarpura, using the corridor as soon as possible.

The minister said that the federal government has sanctioned Rs400 million for the revamping of Narowal Railway Station while Rs250 million are being spent on the renovation of Hasanabdal Railway station.

Sh Rashid informed that Sikh yatrees coming from India are provided special trains having all facilities for visiting Gurdwara Punja Sahib and assured that additional bogies would be attached with the special trains to facilitate Sikh yatrees.

He said that opening of Kartarpura border would act as a bridge between India and Pakistan. "Opening of Kartarpura border was a long standing desire of the Sikh Community which is being materialised," he pointed out, adding that by virtue of this historic act, Pakistan has won the heart of millions of Sikhs across the world.

On the occasion, the group leaders of the Sikh community also spoke and expressed their satisfaction over the arrangements made for them at Punja Sahib and other gurdwaras.

Later while talking to newsmen, On Sohan Singh, contingent leader from Bhai Mardana Sikh committee, said that every religion of the world teaches love, tolerance and respect for humanity.

He lauded the Pakistan government's sincere efforts for ensuring religious freedom to minorities and safeguarding sacred places and Gurudawaras of the Sikh community in Pakistan.

He also thanked Pakistanis for rendering splendid hospitality to the visiting Sikh Yatrees who came from across the world.

However, leader of female contingent from India, Manmohan Kaur expressed her displeasure over mismanagement by railways department which has left over 113 Indian yatrees at Nankana Shib.

She said that despite prior information, additional coaches were not attached with trains and as result mostly elderly yatrees left behind at Nankana Sahib railway station.

She said when they protested they were sent by buses after waiting for many hours in chilly weather. She said that visa-free entry of the Sikh yatrees to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, after opening the Pak-India Border, would be a great facility for the Sikh yatrees.

ELABORATED SECURITY

On the other hand, under the Attock District Police the supervision of DPO Hassan Asad Alvi, had made elaborated security arrangements to provide foolproof security to the Sikh yatrees.

For the purpose, six DSPs, 17 inspectors, 68 head constables, 737 constables, 144 upper subordinates, 35 lady constables, elite force personnel and other 132 officers of different departments were deployed to maintain peace and order.

The Punjab Evacuee Trust Property Board provided accommodation, meals, medical and other facilities to thousand of Sikh yatrees.

MUHAMMAD SABRIN