On November 24, a delegation of international pilgrims led by Shri Guru Maharaj from Anandpur Sahid, India landed at Peshawar Airport to visit the samadhi (shrine) of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj, with religious enthusiasm and zeal.
These Hindu pilgrims had arrived from different countries including the US, Spain, Australia, India, the UK, Singapore and Europe; a large number of Pakistan’s Hindus also joined them. In order to facilitate them, a special chartered flight of PIA and an Emirates flight were arranged by the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC).
All security agencies of Pakistan including the Rangers, ISI, FIA and ASF ensured the best measures to provide foolproof security to the international delegation. While describing their pleasant experiences of the one-week-long trip in Pakistan, the guests expressed special gratitude for the hospitality, especially the friendly attitude, of PIA staff and security officials which won their hearts. They also appreciated the excellent arrangements made by the provincial governments of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Shri Param Hansji Maharaj was a God-fearing saint and philanthropist. His shrine is located in Teri, District Karak in present-day KP where he breathed his last. His followers, in his loving memory, continued to establish hundreds of other ashrams (monasteries) across the globe.
It was an honour for me that for the first time since Independence, Hindu pilgrims from all over the world landed on Pakistani soil to visit the shrine/Terri Temple at my invitation. Their historic arrival also reminded me of the incident that happened two decades ago when an attempt was made to encroach upon the shrine in 1997. In the struggle of approaching the Supreme Court, I also had the active support of civil society and the media.
Finally, I succeeded in my struggle to restore the shrine this year. In my view, the credit for this landmark achievement goes to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed who took immediate notice of the attack on the shrine by some miscreants last year, and after the restoration of the Terri temple, he attended the Diwali celebrations as a special guest for expressing solidarity with patriotic Hindu minorities.
The recent experience with PIA was so good that the Pakistan Hindu Council has proposed to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with our national flag carrier under which the two organisations will strengthen bilateral cooperation for the promotion of religious tourism in the country.
In the first phase, a special flight of 169 passengers will be operated from Karachi to Peshawar monthly. Similarly, an international flight carrying 330 passengers from Dubai to Peshawar will also be functional. Both flights will return on the same day.
PIA, in the next phase, will start flights from other international cities, including Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi to bring pilgrims to the Terri temple.
Another proposal for introducing chartered flights for the Hinglaj Mata Mandir, Balochistan is also under consideration. The Pakistan Hindu Council also intends to start a helicopter service from Islamabad for facilitating the followers of Shri Param Hansji Maharaj.
In my view, the significant arrival of such a large number of foreign pilgrims has not only improved the image of Pakistan but also paved the way for the promotion of faith tourism in the best interest of our beloved country.
Shri Guru Maharaj was also happy with his historic visit to Pakistan. He ordered me to make arrangements for the pilgrims on a monthly basis. He also asked to establish a free dispensary and other healthcare/welfare facilities for the locals.
Shri Guru Maharaj also ordered me to play my due role in arranging a goodwill meeting between the prime ministers of Pakistan and India so that peace and prosperity could prevail in our region.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He tweets @RVankwani
Originally published in