2,500 Sikh pilgrims arrive to celebrate Baisakhi

* Security arrangements for the guests finalised

LAHORE: As many as 2,500 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrived in the city on Thursday through Wagah border on a 10-day trip to celebrate the 315th Baisakhi festival of Sikhism.The pilgrims crossed the border into Pakistan on three special trains. They left the city for Hassanabdal later in the day. Evacuate Property Trust Board (EPTB) Vice Chairman Chaudhry Riaz Ahmed and Shrines Additional Secretary Khalid Ali welcomed the Jatha (pilgrims) at Wagah Railway Station. Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) Pardhan (chief) Sardar Sham Singh, officials of Rangers and the ETPB were also present. Additional Secretary Khalid told Daily Times that the government had finalised security arrangements for pilgrims during their stay in different cities of Punjab. He said that Rangers and police personnel would remain deployed in every compartment of train during their journey from one place to another except from Nankana Sahib to Farooqabad when the pilgrims will travel by road. He said that the district coordination officers and district police officers would be responsible for carrying out security arrangements for pilgrims in their respective areas. According to schedule prepared by the ETPB, the pilgrims will perform Ardas and Paath Sahib at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hassanabdal on April 12. They will celebrate main ceremony of Baisakhi festival by offering religious ritual (Bhog Akhand Paath) at Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14. However, they will leave Hassanabdal for Nankana Sahib on the same day. They will arrive at Gurdwara Sacha Sauda in Farooqabad on April 15 and at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore on April 16. Later, they will travel from Lahore to Gurdwara Ruhri Sahib in Eimenabad and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur before returning to India on April 19 via special trains.  The ETPB made special arrangements for serving food among the pilgrims on their arrival. It established medical camps to provide free treatment to ailing pilgrims while Rescue-1122 personnel were also present to deal with any emergency.   Harjeet Singh, a resident of the Ferozepure city in Indian Punjab, praised the arrangements made by the Pakistani government for pilgrims at Wagah Railway Station and said that facilities were much better than the past. An elderly man and his wife from Delhi were happy and feeling themselves lucky for having the opportunity to celebrate the festival and visit their sacred worship places in several cities of Pakistani Punjab. They said that they would pray for peace.

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