–Imran says Pakistan to become major religious hub for Sikh community
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Sunday that Pakistan is all set to open its doors for the Sikh community from across the globe as the Kartarpur Corridor would be opened for public on November 9.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, he said that construction work on the project has entered the final stages and the corridor will be open to the public on November 9.
The prime minister said that the world’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the globe.
He said that Pakistan will become a major religious hub for the Sikh community.
The religious tourism will also result in increased foreign exchange reserves for the country besides creating jobs in different sectors, including travel and hospitality, the premier added.
On Monday, Pakistan had handed over the final draft agreement for the Kartarpur Corridor to India.
In the final draft agreement, Islamabad kept the service fee of $20 for Sikh pilgrims visiting the corridor from the Indian side, unchanged. As many as 5,000 Sikh pilgrims can visit Kartarpur daily and Pakistan will consider the possibility of allowing more pilgrims on special occasions.
India would provide details of the pilgrims 10 days before their planned visit to the Gurdwara built at the site where Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikhism, spent his final days. The names of the pilgrims would be cleared four days before the date of visit and transport will be provided at the zero point on the border, according to the draft agreement.
Meanwhile, the registration process has started for Sikh pilgrims who intend to visit Kartarpur on the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Construction process and renovation of the shrine have been completed and electricity has been supplied to the site from Shakar Garh’s grid station.
Imported marble has been used on the floor of the shrine which is spread on 10 acres. Fire extinguishers, sound systems and CCTV cameras have been installed at the site. Other than that, construction of temporary guesthouses and a border terminal building has also been completed.
PM Imran will inaugurate the project on November 9, three days before the 550th birth anniversary Baba Guru Nanak that will be celebrated on November 12.
It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan has accepted India’s demand of facilitating visa-free movement of 5,000 Sikh pilgrims per day, and now they will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur.
In November last year, the premier laid the foundation stone for the corridor, months after he assumed office after winning majority of seats in the parliament. India’s cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and other officials attended the ceremony.
Earlier, Pakistan formally invited former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh to attend the opening ceremony of corridor on the occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Speaking about the invitation to former Indian premier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday said that Singh will visit Pakistan as a ‘yatri’ (ordinary citizen) and not as chief guest for the corridor’s opening.
“He is welcome even as a common participant,” the foreign minister said.
Speaking about the corridor, Qureshi said that India was initially reluctant to open the corridor but due to public pressure from the Indian Punjab, New Delhi decided to arrange a ceremony related to the corridor the same day, he said, adding that the arrangements made by Pakistan were way better than those being finalised by India.
The corridor will also be the first visa-free corridor between the two neighbours since their independence in 1947.
Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak up to the border is being constructed by India. India is constructing a bridge at the zero point and has urged Pakistan to build a similar bridge on its side that will provide safe and secure movement of pilgrims.
It is pertinent to mention here that tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.