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Indian pilgrims overwhelmed in Pakistan

Islamabad: Pilgrims from India who arrived in Pakistan at Katas Raj temples have called for eternal peace and warm relations between India and Pakistan.

“I am waiting for the day when citizens from both the countries living in the border areas can cross onto each other’s soil during their morning walk without any fear and barriers,” Dawn online quoted Sushma Gupta as saying in a ceremony at Katas Raj temples on Saturday.

Gupta was one of 124 Hindu pilgrims from India who arrived at Katas Raj in Katas village of Chakal district of the Punjab province on Friday under strict security.

“When we left for Pakistan, we were curious throughout the journey about how we would be received, and what Pakistan would be like. But when we reached Wagah border, we were left stunned by the love and warmth with which we were greeted,” Gupta said.

“Coming here, we found everything was same. Our language, culture, dress and our fields are all same,” Gupta said.

A cultural event was arranged at the temples on Friday night, during which Hindu artists from Sindh sang bhajans.

The recitation of the poetry of Saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was particularly well received.

Speaking at the ceremony on Saturday, Evacuee Trust Property Board chairperson Mohammad Siddiqul Farooq said the people of both the countries have always dreamt of everlasting peace and love between the two nations, which would only be possible if the governments took practical steps to attain peace.

“Although Partition caused irreversible loss to the people of both the countries, Partition is a reality and now we must accept this stark reality and move on. The best way to move forward could be that we open our hearts to each other,” he said.

Farooq said the ETPB is working to improve the facilities at Katas Raj temples. He also vowed to increase the number of pilgrims in the future.

“I am happy to tell you that last December 85 pilgrims came from India but this time, 124 people have arrived.”

Shiv Pratab Bajaj, the leader of the pilgrims’ caravan, said he would not forget the love and affection showered upon the people by the Pakistani side.

“Last December I demanded a hostel for pilgrims and this time, I am left overjoyed to see that construction is going on,” he said.

The pilgrims were also presented with gifts including dry fruits and shields.

Neelum Sharma and her husband Aditya from New Delhi were among the visiting pilgrims. They said this was their first time in the country and that they wished to visit Pakistan every year.

“When I left for Pakistan, my bedridden uncle asked me to pay homage to his motherland,” Neelam said.(IANS)

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