Pakistan cancels Baisakhi celebrations to curb Covid-19 spread, Mosques still remain open for gatherings

The Pakistan government has cancelled Baisakhi celebrations, which were scheduled to begin from April 14, in Hassanabdal, where 3,000 Sikhs from India and 2,000 from around the world were expected to converge for the festivities.

A meeting of the officials with Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbadhank Committee (PSGPC) unanimously decided that as a step to curb the spread of coronavirus, there would be no Baisakhi celebrations at Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassanabdal this year and the scheduled visits of Sikh pilgrims have been cancelled too, Dawn reported.

Baisakhi is a Sikh baptism ceremony also known as the spring harvest festival, which marks the Sikh new year.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has already been apprised about the decision. Accordingly, the Foreign Office and the Indian government have also been communicated.

“We have monitored the situation closely in recent days and worked with government departments including the PSGPCand other stakeholders. We are committed to following the guidelines set by the federal government to ensure a safe environment for our Sikh pilgrim guests and we would not risk their health amid the global coronavirus outbreak,” Imran Gondal, Deputy Secretary of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) said.

Pakistan, in November, announced that it would give 3,000 visas to Indians for the Baisakhi festival, as well as limitless visas for pilgrims from other parts of the world.
The ETPB had also issued a schedule for Indian pilgrims that were shared with the Indian government. Security, boarding and lodging arrangements had been finalised at all the temples the pilgrims would visit.

Sardar Ameer Singh, General Secretary of the PSGPC, said that the decision was made to prevent all risks to public health and safety.
Keeping the emotions and religious fervor of the Sikh community in view, Singh added that only symbolic Baisakhi celebrations will be observed at the renowned gurdwara.

In a video message, Singh further reiterated the high priests of Akal Takht – the highest religious authority in the Sikh faith – who have already announced that Baisakhi celebrations around the world would be smaller in scale due to the coronavirus epidemic.