India repatriated to Pakistan nine fishermen and four civilian prisoners along with a child, the external affairs ministry said. On its part, Pakistan issued visas to over 2,600 Sikh pilgrims to attend the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev from today till November 11, a Pakistan High Commission release said in New Delhi. All the Pakistani nationals crossed over to their country through the land transit route of Attari-Wagah border on the basis of emergency travel certificates issued by the Pakistan High Commission, officials said. Among those repatriated, were two sisters and a 11-year- old girl, Attari border officials said.
Asserting that it attaches high priority to addressing all humanitarian issues, including early release and repatriation of Indian fishermen and prisoners in Pakistan’s custody, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said the release of 370 Indian prisoners, including 363 fishermen, has been secured in 2017, so far. “Nine fishermen and four civilian prisoners from Pakistan and a child were repatriated today via the Attari/Wagah border,” an MEA statement said, adding that two Pakistani civilian prisoners were also released on September 28, 2017.
Meanwhile, chanting religious slogans, over 2,200 Sikh pilgrims crossed over to Pakistan by three special trains from the Attari railway station to observe the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on November 4 at Nankana Sahib, located in Hasan Abdal, a city located in Pakistan’s northern Punjab, about 40 km northwest of Islamabad. Nankana Sahib is the birth place of first Sikh Guru Nanak Dev. Sikh pilgrims from all over the world visit the place to observe his birth anniversary. Among the Pakistani nationals repatriated were two sisters Fatima Bibi, 42, and Mumtaz, 29. Fatima Bibi’s 11- year-old daughter Hina was also sent back.
Mumtaz, her sister Fatima Bibi and Hina were lodged in Amritsar’s Central Jail for the last 11 years, jail officials said. While Fatima belongs to Gujranwala, her sister Mumtaz was a resident of Sikandrabad.
Hina will see her native place in Pakistan for the first time as she was born and brought up in the jail. Her mother Fatima Bibi was pregnant when she along with Mumtaz were arrested in a drug case, the officials said. Fatima Bibi and Mumtaz were handed down a ten-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2 lakh each. Their jail term ended in November, 2015.
The issue involving Hina’s nationality was also resolved recently. Their repatriation had been put on hold as an NoC was needed from the Union Home Ministry. A city-based lawyer Navjot Kaur Chabba along with her husband Tejwant Singh Chabba helped them and also arranged the Rs 4 lakh penalty that was paid. The couple had also approached the Prime Minister’s Office and the Union ministries of external affairs and home seeking their repatriation. On May 8, 2006, the two sisters had boarded the Samjhauta Express en route to Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh to visit their maternal uncles, but were arrested at the Attari railway Station for possessing 400 grammes of smack, jail officials said.
The Pakistani fishermen were brought to Attari border after being released from Gujarat jail, officials said. On the issuance of visas to Sikh pilgrims, the Pakistan High Commission maintained that the visas were issued in line with Pakistan’s efforts to promote religious tourism and people-to-people interactions. The High Commission said the government was committed to protecting sacred religious places and providing all possible facilities to the visiting pilgrims of all faiths. It also said that the visas issued by the High Commission in New Delhi were in addition to the visas issued to Sikh pilgrims participating in the event from other countries.
During their stay in Pakistan, Sikh pilgrims would also be allowed to pay obeisance at Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Lahore, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, Gurdwara Rodi Sahi, Gurdwara Sacha Sauda, Gurdwara Dehra Sahib and Bhai Lalo Di Khuhi (Aimnabad), which are located in different provinces of Pakistan.
The Sikh devotees are set to return on November 11 before the expiry of their visas.