Indian family goes missing in Pakistan



Pakistani authorities are trying to trace an Indian family, including two minor children, which went missing in Pakistan earlier this month. The government of India has taken up the matter with Pakistan, Punjab Police sources said on Friday.

The family, which hailed from Sandhawala village in Faridkot district, 260 km from Chandigarh, had gone to Pakistani with a 'jatha' (group) of Sikh pilgrims for Baisakhi celebrations.

While the rest of the 1,718 pilgrims returned, the Sikh family comprising Sunil Singh, 38, his wife Sunita, 27, and children Umer Singh, 10 and daughter Huma Kaur, 9, did not return. Members of the 'jatha' told police that the family was last seen at the Panja Sahib shrine near Rawalpindi on April 12.

The jatha of pilgrims had left for Pakistan by train on April 11 and returned after a 10-day trip.

It is the first incident of its kind in Pakistan, The Express Tribune newspaper of Pakistan reported.

The Evacuee Trust Property Board in Pakistan - a government body responsible for arranging accommodation and security for Sikh pilgrims, confirmed that the family of four was missing, the newspaper said.

The missing family, coming from a poor rural background, had gone as part of a group of 384 pilgrims who were taken to Pakistan by the Bhai Mardana Yaadgar Kirtan Darbar Society of Ferozepur.

Society president Harpal Singh Bhullar said the passports, other documents and some belongings of the family were found in a room in Gurdwara Dehra Sahib in Pakistan.

Punjab Police, which sent its teams to Sadhanwala village near Ferozepur and to Rajasthan (from where Sunil Singh and his family had come eight years ago), said that the entire matter was being investigated.

"Our teams are probing the matter," Ferozepur Deputy Inspector General A.S. Chahal said.

Sunil used to work as a labourer with farmers in Sadhanwala village. His wife also did labour work while their children studied in a government school. The family lived in a two-room dharamsala given to them by the village panchayat.

Police investigation reveal that Sunil arrived in the village around eight years back claiming he was the son of one Gian Singh who had eloped with a girl from the village over four decades back. Sunil expressed his wish to settle down in the village after coming from Rajasthan, village headman Harjit Singh said.

Sadhanwala village is located close to army areas, close to the India-Pakistan international border, and intelligence agencies and police are taking the matter quite seriously.

"The issue has been brought to the notice of the ministry of home affairs," Amritsar-rural police chief Jasdeep Singh said. - IANS