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Nehru-Liaquat pact needs amendment to increase number of devotees from India to Pakistan

New Delhi: The demand for reviewing the Nehru-Liaquat pact is gaining pace especially for multiplying the visit of Indian pilgrims aspiring to pay obeisance at Sikh and Hindu religious shrines in Pakistan even as the Pakistan government is pushing to increase the day-long pilgrimage to Kartapur Sahib.

With time, not only the population of India and Pakistan has increased, but Pakistan also has opened more religious shrines for Sikhs and Hindus for the Jatha. Earlier, Pakistan allowed to visit just five of the Gurdwara, now they have increased it to about 14 Gurdwaras, given the fact that there are about 200 historical Sikh Shrines in Pakistan.  

Notably, an agreement between the governments of India and Pakistan regarding the security and rights of minorities was signed between the former Prime Minister of India Jawahar Lal Nehru, and Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, also known as the Nehru-Liaquat Agreement, signed on April 8, 1950. The pact guarantees the rights of minorities in both countries following the Indo-Pak divide and under the pact Pakistan allows around 3000 Sikh pilgrims to travel to Sikh shrines in Pakistan on four religious occasions.  

Visa versa, India reciprocate the gesture by granting the same number of visas to pilgrims from Pakistan who wished to pay obeisance at Ajmer Sharif Dargah and some other religious shrines. 

While stressing the need of reviewing the Nehru-Liaquat pact, president of Nankana Sahib Sikh Teerath Yatree Jatha Swaran Singh Gill said “the pact was signed in 1950 and it had been over 72 years now and since then the population has multiplied several times, there is a need to review the pact and make amendments accordingly”. 

Besides Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), a few Sikh NGOs also take jatha’s to Pakistan on different religious organizations. 

A philanthropist Dr Avtar Singh opined that Sikh NGOs and religious bodies should come forward in leading the Sikh jatha to Pakistan on religious occasions. “Fulfilling religious aspirations of faithful is a pious work and Sikh religious bodies should come forward and lead jatha’s to Sikh religious places in Pakistan and if required the Nehru-Liaquat pact should also be viewed to increase the number of devotees from India,” said Dr Avtar Singh. 

Presently, India sends Sikh jatha to Pakistan on the occasion of Baisakhi, the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev. However, two to three more jatha’s were sent to Pakistan depending upon the management of the Evacuee Trust Property Board. India also sends Hindu Jathas to visit Katasraj Temple and other historical Hindu temples situated in Pakistan. 

Interestingly, the Pakistan government had been stressing on increasing daily pilgrimage to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartapur Sahib via Integrated Check Post, Dera Baba Nanak since it levy a service fee of  US $20 from every pilgrim visiting the neighbouring country which was not in case of pilgrimage to Pakistan via any other border.