With just hours left in the opening of the historic Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Friday took credit for the initiative and alleged that the BJP government reluctantly accepted it. He also said that the $20 fee will be waived off on November 9 and November 12 for pilgrims.
“Kartarpur initiative was taken by Pakistan. BJP govt reluctantly accepted this initiative. This corridor is one of love. There are many who are associating sinister designs to it. Some feel there is a deep-seated design to fan some movement in Indian Punjab. No that is nonsense,” Qureshi said during a press conference in Lahore.
Adding that Pakistan delivered on its promise, Qureshi said that the promise of Prime Minister Imran Khan has been fulfilled. “No one believed it, but when you see the Gurdwara tomorrow and the one that was there last year, there is a significant improvement,” the foreign minister said.
“Lot of enthusiasm in Pakistan for Kartarpur. We could have done more but unfortunately, our overtures were rebuffed. Jingoism continued and we understood that the dictate of electoral politics was running it all. Unfortunately, things deteriorated further after the election and not settle down as expected. After August 5 relations came down to a level that to every sane mind they became scary. Two nuclear-armed neighbours came face to face,” he added.
Raking up the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, Qureshi said that the developments surrounding Kartarpur continued despite ceasing bilateral relations between the two nations over J&K as Pakistan did not want to disappoint the Sikh community. “What happened on August 5 bilaterally means nothing. There cannot be a bilateral exchange at this stage. We do not want dialogue for the sake of dialogue. I do not see any meaningful dialogue taking place,” the minister added.
The landmark corridor is being inaugurated amidst tight security in the backdrop of tension between the two countries over the Kashmir issue. (File)
PM Modi, Imran Khan to inaugurate Corridor on either side
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Saturday flag off the first batch of over 500 Indian pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province through the Kartarpur corridor, his counterpart Imran Khan will inaugurate the corridor on the Pakistani side and receive the Indian Sikh pilgrims including former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
The landmark corridor is being inaugurated amidst tight security in the backdrop of tension between the two countries over the Kashmir issue.
Modi will also inaugurate the Integrated Check Post of the Kartarpur corridor. The facility is located at Dera Baba Nanak, Gurdaspur in Punjab. India signed an agreement with Pakistan on October 24 on the modalities for operationalisation of the corridor, a long-pending demand of the Sikh community in India.
The agreement will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.
Conflicting statement from Pakistan over requirement of passport
However, there have been conflicting messages from Pakistan over the key issue of whether Indian pilgrims will require a passport to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib there. Pakistan Army spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said 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 foreign office 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.