LAHORE: Sikh pilgrims from the country and abroad, including 600 from India, participated in the 551st birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak on Monday.
The three-day celebrations of birth anniversary of the founder of the Sikh faith began on Saturday at Nankana Sahib, Kartarpura, Hassan Abdal and other places in Pakistan.
Langar was arranged for all the guests. Dozens of Sikh women cut up vegetables, kneaded flour and made bread in the kitchens of Nankana Sahib for feeding the hungry and Kar Seva is considered a religious duty in the Sikh faith.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri spoke at the central ceremony at Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, on Monday.
He said that despite rising cases of coronavirus, the government ensured holding of the birth anniversary under strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs). “We do not want followers of any religion to think that there is any discrimination being committed against them,” he said.
The minister told the audience that the work on Baba Guru Nanak University would be completed at the stipulated time and that a link road from Lahore-Sialkot Motorway would be built for Kartarpur Corridor so that the followers of Guru Nanak could reach Kartarpur Sahib from Nankana Sahib easily.
Mr Qadri said: “Pakistan treats everyone equally without any discrimination and has promised to remove all hurdles in the way of interfaith harmony.”
He said all minorities in India were facing brutalities at the hands of the majority Hindus.
The minister said Baba Guru Nanak was a great name for humanity and he would be remembered forever. He congratulated the followers of Baba Guru Nanak on his 551st birth anniversary. He also distributed gifts among the guests.
Punjab Minister for Minorities Affairs Ijaz Alam Augustine, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities Chela Ram, MPA Mahindarpal Singh and Indian Sikh leaders, besides about 4,000 local and foreign pilgrims, attended the ceremonies.
Later, a Palki procession was taken out from Gurdwara Janamsthan in Nankana Sahib.
Safety of religious sites
Felicitating the Sikh community, Prime Minister Imran Khan said rights of all minorities in the country would be safeguarded and their religious sites protected.
In a video message, the prime minister assured the Sikh community that his government would protect their holy sites in Pakistan, including the two most revered at Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur.
Both the sites are sacred to Sikhs just like Makkah and Madina are to the Muslims, he added.
Mr Khan said the government would extend every possible assistance and facility to the Sikh community, citing the example of the recently-revamped railway station in Hassanabdal.
“The policy of our government is to protect religious minorities in Pakistan and their holy places, may they be churches, temples or Buddhist monasteries,” the prime minister said.
The three-day celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary began on Saturday in Nankana Sahib with the arrival of over 600 pilgrims from India through the Wagah border.
The main ceremony took place at Gurdwara Janamasthan in Nankana Sahib. Celebrations also included the Nagar Kirtan procession, followed by Bhog ritual at night.
The prime minister had opened the Kartarpur Corridor last year on the occasion of Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary as a goodwill gesture to facilitate Sikhs within the country and from across the border.