AMRITSAR: In a first in many years, Pakistan has announced to issue “liberal visas” to Indian pilgrims for paying obeisance at Hindu shrines in the neighbouring country, said Pakistan government’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) chairman Siddiq-ul-Farooq during a meeting on Saturday with Hindu pilgrims who are visiting the neighbouring country to celebrate Shivratri.

“I have asked them to visit here in any number. I will take up their case with Pakistan government and ensure that maximum number of visas are issued to our Hindu guests,” said Farooq, while talking to TOI after the meeting.

He said Hindu pilgrims had expressed their desire to visit Hinglaj Mata and other shrines also. Ahead of the visit of the Hindu jatha, Pakistan government had carried out extensive development and renovation or Katasraj cluster of temples in Chakwal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province. ETPB had installed a water-treatment plant and a gold-plated shikhar kalash (peak urn) on the domes of the Hindu temples. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had visited Katasraj temple to inaugurate the development work.

“We see it as the one of the steps of Pakistan government to improve its image by facilitating the visit of Hindu devotees,” said sources.

ETPB deputy secretary (Hindu affairs) Faraz Abbas, who is accompanying the Hindu jatha, said they were appreciative of the development work and also gave their suggestions for implementation of maryada (code of religious conduct) at temples. “We have already employed a priest at the Katasraj cluster of temples. On the suggestion of Hindu jatha leaders, we will bring more changes as desired by them,” said Faraz. He added that Hindu pilgrims visited a temple dedicated to Lord Ram’s son Luv, built inside the Lahore fort. Accoridng to folklore, Luv founded the city of Lahore.