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October 12, 2001
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Afghan Sikhs stranded in Pakistan

Satinder Bains in Chandigarh

About 40 Afghan Sikhs, including some women, have taken shelter in a gurdwara near Islamabad as they do not have funds to travel to India.

The Indian mission in Islamabad issued them with visas after they crossed over from Afghanistan, a small group of Afghan Sikhs which arrived in Amritsar on Friday on the Samjhauta Express told mediapersons.

"These Sikhs are too poor to bear the travelling expenses up to the Indian border," Partap Singh, who returned to India on the train, said.

Pratap Singh, an Afghan Sikh based in Kandahar, crossed over to Pakistan on October 1. He said he and his family too had stayed at the Panja Sahib gurdwara near Islamabad before resuming their journey to India.

India has said it would grant visas and other facilities to Hindus and Sikhs who wished to return from Afghanistan.

Two Afghan Sikh families had reached India on October 9. They told mediapersons that the Taleban had been treating them well, but they decided to return to India to escape the repercussions of a US-led attack.

Tarlochan Singh, vice-chairman of the National Minorities Commission, told IANS on the telephone from New Delhi that 160 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus had so far been issued visas by the Indian mission in Islamabad.

Indo-Asian News Service

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