Lahore: About 130 members of a group of Pakistani Hindus travelling to India on a month-long pilgrimage are set to cross the Wagah land border on Saturday, authorities said.

After clearance from the Interior Ministry, immigration authorities yesterday began allowing the group of some 250 Hindus to cross the border on Friday.

About 115 Hindus walked across the frontier on Friday before the crossing was closed for the day. Despite possessing valid travel documents, the Hindus were virtually detained by immigration authorities for about seven hours on Friday following reports in the electronic media that they intended to migrate to India.

The Hindus belong to Balochistan and Sindh provinces, where the minority community has been the target of extortions, kidnapping for ransom and forced conversions.

"Some 115 Hindus left for India on Friday and remaining will go today as there is no bar on their travel," Fraz Abbas, a Deputy Director of the Evacuee Trust Property Board told agency.

The ETPB is responsible for managing the shrines of Pakistan's minority communities. After reports emerged that 250 Hindus from Sindh and Balochistan intended to migrate on the pretext of travelling to India for a pilgrimage, Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed the development was a conspiracy to defame Pakistan.

The Hindus were allowed to cross the border after representatives of the community assured the government that they would return following the pilgrimage, he said. President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday took serious notice of reports of a "sense of insecurity" among Pakistani Hindu families and directed authorities to allay the minority community's grievances.

He asked authorities in Sindh to assess the situation and to submit a report to him. The President also constituted a three-member committee of parliamentarians to visit different parts of Sindh to express solidarity with Hindus and to reassure them about their security. The committee includes federal minister Moula Bakhsh Chandio.


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