Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced that Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikh pilgrims from all over the world as construction work on Kartarpur project enters its final stages. In a facebook post, he said that the project will be opened to the public on November 9 as promised earlier.
"The world's largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world," he added. About its positive impact on the country, he said that the project will become a major religious hub for Sikh community and will boost the local economy. "It [project] will result in earning foreign exchange for the country and creating jobs in different sectors including travel and hospitality," he added.
He continued that religious tourism is on the rise in the country, adding Buddhist monks had earlier visited various sites for religious rituals, followed by opening of Kartarpur corridor. Earlier on Saturday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had announced that former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has accepted an invitation to attend the Kartarpur corridor inauguration ceremony, scheduled for Nov 9. However, Singh will be visiting as a common man rather than as a special guest.
According to officials, the visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur, Pakistan, would be inaugurated just ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Baba Guru Nanak on Nov 12. The project is a rare recent example of cooperation between the two nuclear powers, who came close to war in February. India revoked the special status of occupied Kashmir in August, inflaming relations once again.
The Sikh minority community in India's northern state of Punjab and elsewhere has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just over the border in Pakistan. The temple marks the site where the guru died. To get there, travellers currently must first secure hard-to-get visas, travel to Lahore or another major Pakistani city and then drive to the village, which is just four kilometres from the Indian border.
Instead of visas, the Sikh pilgrims will now be given special permits to access the shrine. Indian pilgrims will pay Pakistan $20 to use the corridor, which includes roadways, an 800-metre bridge over the River Ravi and an immigration office. Up to 5,000 Indians will be allowed access daily, with plans to eventually double the capacity.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2019