Lahore, November 8: Thousands of Indian Sikh pilgrims are eagerly waiting for the historic opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor which will allow their visit to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib from Saturday, amidst conflicting statements by the Pakistani authorities and the army regarding the requirement of passport and the USD 20 facilitation fee.
The corridor, connecting the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in the Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, will be thrown open to the pilgrims on Saturday with the two countries set to hold separate ceremonies to mark the occasion, indicating the bilateral tensions over the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate the corridor, days ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on November 12.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Saturday inaugurate the Integrated Check Post (ICP) of the Kartarpur corridor. The check post is located at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur in Punjab.
The inauguration of the ICP check post will facilitate Indian pilgrims to visit to Gurudwara Kartapur Sahib in Pakistan.
India had signed an agreement with the neighbouring nation on October 24 on the modalities for operationalisation of the corridor at ‘Zero Point’ of the international boundary at Dera Baba Nanak.
The agreement will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib where Guru Nanak spent last 18 years of his life.
Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor and the travel will be visa-free. Each visitor would be required to pay USD 20 as fee, though India has requested Pakistan not to charge the Indian pilgrims.
Sikh pilgrims have started coming at the Nankana Sahib from India and other countries in connection with the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood on Wednesday said that pilgrims from India would be coming through Wagah border as well.
“Similarly, thousands of pilgrims from across the world, especially from countries with large Sikh community, are coming to Pakistan,” he said in a statement.
However, there have been conflicting messages from Pakistan over the key issue of whether Indian pilgrims will require passport to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib there, and a caution from New Delhi that Islamabad needs to desist from anti-India propaganda marked the run-up to Saturday’s inauguration.
Pakistan army spokesman asserted that passport would be required to use the corridor while the Pakistan foreign office contradicted it, saying Khan has waived the condition of passport for one year for Indian Sikhs visiting the Gurdwara.
During his weekly media briefing in Islamabad, Pakistan FO Spokesman Mohammad Faisal said the condition of passports for Indian Sikhs was waived for one year in the wake of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Prime Minister Khan also waived the requirement to convey pilgrim information to the Pakistani government 10 days prior to entry, and he also waived USD 20 service fee per pilgrim on November 9 and 12, Faisal said, adding Pakistan has “formally conveyed this to India”.
India and Pakistan relations touched a new low after the Indian government on August 5 abrogated the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and its bifurcation into two Union Territories.
Pakistan’s Punjab police on Thursday deployed a 100-member special ‘Tourism Police Force’ for the security of the Indian pilgrims using the Kartarpur corridor on a daily basis from Saturday. (PTI)