The recent denial of visas to 788 Sikh devotees by Pakistan, preventing them from celebrating Guru Nanak Jayanti (Gurupurab) at historic gurdwaras in the country, stands as a stark reminder of the deep-rooted intolerance that continues to plague Pakistani society, particularly towards its minority communities. This insensitive decision not only denies Sikh devotees the opportunity to practice their faith and connect with their spiritual roots, but it also serves as a stark illustration of Pakistan’s blatant disregard for the rights of its religious minorities.
The Sikh community holds a special reverence for Pakistan, as it is the birthplace of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, located in the Punjab province, is one of the most revered Sikh shrines in the world. The denial of visas to Indian Sikh pilgrims seeking to visit this sacred site during Guru Nanak Jayanti is a profound act of disrespect towards their faith and a clear violation of their fundamental right to religious freedom.
Pakistan’s refusal to accommodate Sikh pilgrims is not an isolated incident. Despite multiple requests from India, Pakistan has consistently refused to reduce the exorbitant fees charged for pilgrims utilizing the Kartarpur Corridor, the only land route connecting the two countries’ gurdwaras. Also, several Gurdwaras in Pakistan have been allowed to become ruins, without any proper upkeep and maintenance.
The denial of visas to Sikh devotees and the persistence of high Kartarpur Corridor fees are not merely administrative decisions; they are symptomatic of a deeper societal ill – the pervasive intolerance towards religious minorities in Pakistan. The Sikh community, despite its significant contributions to Pakistan’s history and culture, has long faced marginalization and discrimination. The recent denial of visas is just another manifestation of this deep-seated prejudice.
This particular incident reflects the country’s inability to embrace its diversity and provide equal opportunities to all its citizens. It is time for Pakistan to recognize the importance of religious tolerance and take concrete steps to protect the rights of its minority communities. Only then can it hope to build a truly inclusive and harmonious society.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Khalsa Vox or its members.