Pak steps up security for Baisakhi festival

Pak has put stringent security measures for Baisakhi that will begin on April 12.

Updated: Apr 10, 2011, 19:08 PM IST

Lahore: Pakistani authorities have put in
place stringent security measures for the Baisakhi festival
that will begin at Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 12, including
the deployment of paramilitary Pakistan Rangers to provide
security to Sikh pilgrims from India.

Senior police official Akhtar Abbas said foolproof
security arrangements had been made for pilgrims at Gurdwara
Panja Sahib Hassanabdal.

Though the government had been guarding Sikh `jathas`
for many years, the security cover will be further
strengthened this year, he said.

More than 800 policemen, including commandos and over
100 officials in plainclothes, will be deployed for security
duties. For the first time, luggage scanners will be installed
at all sensitive locations.

Over 50 security cameras and walk-through gates have
also been installed, Abbas said.

"Some 900 Sikhs are expected to arrive here from India
while another 100 or so will come from other countries to take
part in the Baisakhi festival," Evacuee Trust Property Board
spokesman Amir Hashmi told a news agency today.

Besides the Pakistan Rangers, police will be deployed
to provide security to the pilgrims, he said.

Sikh pilgrims from Britain and other Western countries
had started arriving in Lahore while the Indian Sikhs are
expected to arrive through the Wagah land border from
tomorrow, he said.

Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee chief
Sardar Sham Singh said the ETPB had assigned duties to various
federal and provincial government departments to facilitate
the Sikh pilgrims during their 10-day stay in Pakistan.

Singh appreciated the efforts made by the Pakistan
government and ETPB for arrangements such as security and free
lodging for the pilgrims. ETPB chairman Asif Hashmi said his organisation will
ensure that the festival passes off peacefully.

"We have asked police and other law enforcement
agencies to make all efforts to maintain peace when the Sikh
pilgrims visit various districts and places, including Lahore,
Nankana Sahib, Narowal and Hassanabdal," he said.

Hindu Welfare Council chairman Manohar Chand said the
Sikh community felt secure in Pakistan.

"We are thankful to the government for holding all
religious events of the Sikh community in a peaceful
atmosphere," he said.

Around 3,000 Sikhs, including pilgrims from India, are
expected to visit Gurdwara Panja Sahib to participate in
religious rituals during the Besakhi festival, ETPB official
Syed Faraz Abbas told the media at Hassanabdal.

"We have finalised security and other necessary
arrangements, including food and accommodation, at Gurdwara
Panja Sahib for the pilgrims," he said.

After the religious rituals in Gurdwara Panja Sahib,
the Sikh pilgrims will travel to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace
of Guru Nanak, on April 14.

The pilgrims will go Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore on
April 17. Sikhs and Hindus from across Pakistan, including the
tribal areas, Peshawar, Swat, Tando Adam, Larkana, Sukkur,
Badin, Umar Kot, Karachi and Lahore will also join the Besakhi
celebrations.

PTI