PESHAWAR: Sikh yatrees on their visit to the Peshawar Museum on Friday were teary eyed as they looked upon portraits that reminded them of their glorious past and historic connections with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“We consider this land as sacred as Saudi Arabia is for Muslims. I am very happy to be here,” said Navdeep, a pleasant young lady of Indian-origin from California during her first visit to Peshawar. She said that she had got a 15-day visa and wished she could come here again.

“I am not sure about countries but I know for sure that friendship of Muslims and Sikhs is very old one,” she said while answering a question regarding people-to-people contacts to build good relations between countries.

An elderly man Awtaar Singh Jawinda who has been living for the last 42 years in California said around 26 Sikh yatrees were in Pakistan on a 12-day visit. During this visit, they would be going to various temples (Gurdwara) and attending a religious festival too.

They would be observing and celebrating the birthday of Baba Guru Nanak on Nov 15.

“This is the second time that I have come to Pakistan. I am here for the second time because we received love from people here,” said Awtaar Singh, thanking the Tourism Corporation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for hosting a reception and arranging the visit to the historic Peshawar Museum having rare portraits of Sikh rulers.

Mohammad Ali Sayed, manager TCKP, said that Sikh yatrees were visiting Pakistan to attend their religious festival. It was a good opportunity to invite them to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which the Sikh guests happily accepted.

“Such visits strengthen religious connections with other countries and also help in projecting the historic and cultural heritage of this province,” said Mr Sayed who received the yatrees along with senior officials, and presented them bouquets. Secretary tourism Tariq Khan and managing director Mushtaq Khan welcomed the visitors warmly.

“Under the religious tourism initiative, first monks from Sri Lanka and South Korea visited the Buddhist sites here in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and now Sikh Yatrees are coming to Peshawar,” said Tariq Khan.

Director Archaeology and Museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cultural bonds attract Sikh pilgrims to Peshawar Dr Abdul Samad said that 90 per cent of the Sikh history, including monuments, temples and archaeological sites, was here in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Sikhs have strong cultural and religious links with this area, he said.

The Sikh yatrees, including men and women, looked very impressed with the historic building of Peshawar Museum. They also looked happy at the warm reception and many who were visiting for the first time said they hoped they could easily get visa so they could come every year.

“My uncle has Muslim friends. We feel strong connection with this land. Many Sikh friends breathed their last while still wishing to come to visit our sacred places here in Pakistan,” said Awtaar Singh with tears in his eyes.

Rajesh Singh Tony, a resident of Peshawar, who was also present at the reception, felt happy that Sikh yatrees could come to Peshawar. “Such visits prove to the world that this is a peaceful place and tourists should come here,” he said.

Published in Dawn November 12th, 2016

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