Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has continued to keep his promise to allow religious tourists from India to visit the country. Following the grand opening of the Kartarpur Corridor on 9 November, Pakistan has now opened its doors to temples in Katas Raj, where about 100-200 Hindus can visit via the Wagah Border.
Wagah is 29 km from Lahore (Pakistan) and 27 km from Amritsar (India). The Hindu pilgrims will be visiting the holy shrine in the Potohar Plateau region of Pakistan’s Punjab province later this week.
The Katas Raj Temple is a complex of several Hindu temples connected to one another by walkways. The temple complex surrounds a pond named Katas which is regarded as sacred by the Hindus.
“Hindu pilgrims will cross the Wagah Border on Dec 13 and will reach Katas Raj the next day,” Evacuee Property Trust Board Deputy Secretary (ETPB) Syed Faraz Abbas told the Pakistan news daily Dawn.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Khan highlighted Pakistan’s potential for religious tourism when a new policy of relaxing visa applications was announced.
He had spoken about opening the sleeping Buddha, the Katas Raj temples, Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur as a few of the many religious sites to be opened to visiting Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs.
In November, Pakistan’s ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf announced plans to restore Hindu places of worship.
Even though the relationship between India and Pakistan hit a nadir in February 2019 — when the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group claimed a suicide attack on an Indian military convoy which left over 40 Indian servicemen dead in Kashmir's Pulwama district— Pakistan has continued to entertain religious tourists from India.
The tensions between the two countries escalated following the subsequent dogfight in February. Over the past four months, a massive deployment of forces has taken place in the western sector of India after Pakistan threatened its neighbour with retaliation in the wake of Jammu and Kashmir's special status being revoked by New Delhi.
In 2012, Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority had hinted the country’s contemporary Buddhist population was minuscule with 1,492 adults holding national identity cards (CNICs). The total population of Buddhists is therefore unlikely to be more than a few thousand.
Pakistan's government has authorised the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, to establish a Buddhist temple at one of its ancient Buddhist heritage sites, a media report said recently.