It is pleasing that notwithstanding high tension between India and Pakistan, Sikh pilgrims have arrived in Pakistan to perform their religious rituals. Almost 1700 hundred Indian Sikh pilgrims along with many more from across the world have arrived in Pakistan to celebrate their holy festival of Baisakhi. The festival commences with Sikhs bathing and worshipping at a sprawling pond at a temple in Hasanabdal.
Sikhs from all over the world come to Pakistan to visit their holly places and to participate in their religious festivals. Their very sacred religious places of worship are located in Hasanabdal and Nankana Sahib. Despite of the rise in tensions between both neighbours, Pakistan welcomed some Sikh pilgrims on a 10-day visit to celebrate Baisakhi festival. Baisakhi marks the beginning of a new solar year and harvest season. It is satisfying to know that Sikh pilgrims were very excited to be in Pakistan.
Pleasant reports emerged from Hasanabdal that pilgrims were very excited about visiting Pakistan as they appreciated the comfortable arrangements and maintenance for their holy sites. Government and Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) should be appreciated for the wonderful welcome and laudable arrangements. Visit of pilgrims not only strengthens people to people contact that can spread soft image of Pakistan but also provides chances to enhance religious tourism in the country. Similarly many Pakistani devotees who also visit shrines of Sufi saints in India every year, mainly Nizamuddin Auliya at Ajmer Sharif, appreciate the hospitality of locals.
Such visits also provide tremendous economic potential. Certainly Pakistan can take significant profit from religious tourism. There is just need to further enhance arrangements and facilities for the visiting pilgrims. Considering the fact that very sacred places of Sikh religion are based in Pakistan, just like sacred places of Muslims are in Saudi Arabia, we can boost religious tourism manifold. The benefits of religious tourism are certainly something that Pakistan can profit from. Softer visa policies for religious visitors, decent roadside motels for them, luxury traveling and improved security mechanism all initiatives can be used to promote religious tourism. Sikh pilgrims from Canada, Malaysia, United States, and from many other countries always look forward to come to Pakistan. At the moment only thousands of Sikh pilgrims visit Pakistan but better facilities can surely attract hundreds of thousands more.