Pakistan firm to provide security to minorities: Yousaf

Beskahi festival begins as Sikhs mark 319 years of Khalsa

Raza Naqvi


Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Yousaf has Friday said that the Government is committed to provide complete religious freedom to people of all faiths living in the country.
Addressing the concluding ceremony of Besakhi Mela at Gurdwara Punja Sahib Hassanabdal, he said that government is not only ensuring religious freedom for the minorities but also keeping their worship places in good condition. He told the Sikh pilgrims ‘Pakistan is committed to provide security to the minorities and you have seen it’.
He said, Pakistan issues maximum number of visas to Sikhs coming from India, while the Indian government is busy in negative propaganda and issues limited number of visas. He said, this year Pakistan issued three thousand visas for Indian Sikhs but India allowed only 1583 visas which speak volumes about secularism of the Indian government.
Sardar Yousaf said, we are going out of the way to ensure safety and religious freedom. Chairman Auqaf Siddiq ul Farooq speaking on the occasion said the government had approved funds for the renovation of two gurdwaras situated in Peshawar.
He said to solve the issue of boarding, a new hostel consisting of hundered rooms would be built at Nankana Sahib. Sikh Group leaders Sardar Manmohan Singh, Ravindarjeet Singh and others expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made for them.
MPA Ramesh Lal in his address said all facilities are being provided to Sikhs and added that government has allocated Rs 100 million for developing the Nullah passing near the Gurdwara. Sardar Manmohan Singh, Sardar Ramesh Singh, Balvindar Singh, Ravindarjeet Singh, Sardar Balwant Singh , Nazar Lothian from UK also spoke on the occasion and expressed their satisfaction over the arrangements made for them. On the occasion MPA Sardar Bishan Singh , Secretary Auqaf Mian Abdul Qadeer, DC Attock Rana Akbar Hayat , Additional Secretary Tariq Khan , Deputy Secretary General Faraz Abbas, Deputy Secretary Imran Gondal , Asstt Administrator Abdullah Owais , Caretaker Azmat Ullah Khan and others were also present on the occasion.
Around 1500 Indian Sikhs with over 500 from various European countries and over 2000 Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs have added colour to Beskahi festival that began here on Thursday. This year’s festival marks 319th anniversary of Khalsa (the righteous Sikh brotherhood). ‘In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh (the last Sikh Guru in human form) asked his followers to sacrifice their lives for him.
Ashnan takes place twice a day, early in the morning and at sun-set and is followed by worship. The followers also keep embracing five Ks, the Kaccha (shorts), the Kanga (comb), the Karda (bracelet), the Kais (hair) and the Kirpan (sword). Embracing all these five Ks are obligatory in their religion and is practiced since centuries.
Baisakhi is widely celebrated by Sikhs in Punjab, with festivities centered on Panja Sahib Complex in Hassanabdal. Baisakhi, an ancient festival dating back to the 17th century, also marks the beginning of a new solar year and harvest season. It is one of the most significant holidays in the Sikh calendar, commemorating the establishment of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in 1699, by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
The Sikh history revealed that Besakhi Festival marks the constitution of Khalsa Panth in 1699 by Guru Govind Singh Maharaj, with whom the miraculous tales of Punja (hand print) are associated. This guru also introduced Sikh practices of wearing a turban, carrying a dagger and never cutting the hair or beard.

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