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With Pakistan silent on visa, Punjab delegation to Nankana Sahib all but called off

The ‘Nagar Kirtan’ which was flagged off from New Delhi on Monday passes through Ludhiana on its way to Gurdwara Shri Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, Tuesday. (Express photo: Gurmeet Singh)
Pakistan has denied permission for a composite delegation led by the Punjab government, along with representatives of SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) and DSGMC (Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee) to organise “akhand path” (recital of holy scripture) and hold “nagar kirtan” (religious procession) at Nankana Sahib, it has been learnt.
Visas for a 31-member delegation, led by five Punjab Cabinet ministers, and 400 others were not granted despite it having been recommended by the Government of India to the Pakistan High Commission. Sources in Punjab government said that they had sent the passports of the delegation to Pakistan High Commission in Delhi on October 23, with a copy of the letter written by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
“The High Commission refused to accept the passports for processing the visa. They kept the copy of the MEA letter. They told us that they would requisition the passports after Pakistan government decides on the future course of action. We had kept the passports in Delhi, hoping that we might be called anytime. We will now get the passports back Wednesday,” said an official.
However, a senior functionary in Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s office said that the visa was in process. “I am told that the visa is in process.” The five ministers who were part of the delegation include OP Soni (medical education), Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa (rural development), Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (jails and cooperation), Charanjit Singh Channi (technical education) Balbir Singh Sidhu (health). Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had sought the permission from Centre for the delegation.
The delegation was to enter Pakistan from Wagah border Tuesday. They were to initiate an Akhand path at Nankana Sahib gurdwara on October 30. “As there is no communication, the government is now thinking of initiating a Sehaj path in Sultanpur Lodhi from November 5 onwards. We do not need to go to Nankana Sahib,” said a government functionary, privy to the developments.
Meanwhile, it has been learnt Pakistan on its own decided to give leadership of a pilgrim group on the way to Pakistan from Delhi to SAD (Delhi) president Paramjit Singh Sarna.
Sarna told the Indian Express that his nagar kirtan got 1300 visas on Sunday. “We had applied for it two years ago,” Sarna said.
Manmohan Singh, union ministers part of first jatha
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh and Union minister Hardeep Puri are among the 575 people who will be part of the inaugural jatha to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan through the Kartarpur Corridor, central government sources said Tuesday.
India on Tuesday shared with Pakistan the list of 575 people. Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and MPs and MLAs from Punjab will also be part of the group, the sources said. The Punjab CM will lead the jatha that will return the same day after paying obeisance at the historic shrine, where Guru Nanak Dev is believed to have spent his last days, state government sources said.
The jatha members include leaders of all parties, leaders of the Sant Samaj, eminent people, NRIs and journalists. All 117 MLAs and 13 MPs from Punjab will be part of the delegation.
Senior Congress leaders hailing from the northern region, including Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, RPN Singh, Jitendra Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kumari Selja, Asha Kumari, Randeep Surjewala, Deepinder Hooda, PL Punia, Jitin Prasada, and RC Khuntia, are also part of the Indian delegation visiting Kartarpur, state government sources said.

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