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Pakistan says Kartarpur Corridor now open, visits from India still on hold

Immigration officials in Amritsar confirmed that so far there has been no indication from Union government to open the website for registration to visit Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar | Updated: June 29, 2020 11:07:50 pm
Pakistan reopens Kartarpur Corridor, but no visitor from India On Saturday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan was reopening the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for all Sikh pilgrims. (File Photo)

While Pakistan on Monday reopened its part of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, no pilgrim from India visited Gurdwara Darbar Sahib as registrations for the pilgrimage still remain suspended here.

On Saturday, Islamabad had made a sudden offer to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary on June 29. However, New Delhi had noted that it was being given a two-day notice as against the mutually agreed 7-day notice for travel, adding that Pakistan was trying to create a “mirage of goodwill” by proposing resumption of the pilgrimage suspended on March 16 in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Immigration officials here confirmed that so far there has been no indication from Union government to open the website for registration to visit Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan.

Capt favours opening Kartarpur Corridor

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, meanwhile, said that he was in favour of opening the Corridor in adherence to norms of social distancing, but added that Centre could not be ready for the reopening in a short time.

“I want the Kartarpur Corridor to be open. There can be social distancing…If they ask me, I will suggest that it can be opened with social distancing,” the Chief Minister said.

Special ‘Ardas’ held

A “special Ardas” was held at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur at 12.30 pm on Monday to mark the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Talking to The Indian Express over phone, president of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Satwant Singh, said: “Local sangat held a small function at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib on the occasion of the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Sangat from Pakistan can now visit Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Sangat from Nankana Sahib and Lahore also went to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib today….Everything is ready here. Now we have been waiting for permission from the Indian government to open the Corridor. Pakistan government has already announced its opening. All the arrangements have been made to entertain visitors from India.”

Amir Hashmi, the spokesman for the Evacuee Trust Property Board Deputy (ETPB), said: “Devotees wore masks and they were made to wash hands with sanitisers. All the precautions related to Covid-19 were taken. There was proper arrangement of security.” The ETPB looks after the holy places of minorities in the country.

About arrangements in place to tackle the Covid-19 threat, the Pakistan SGPC head added: “We have made all arrangements related to Covid-19. Our sevadars will remain deployed along the corridor and social distancing will be followed…”

Meanwhile, talking to news agency PTI, ETPB Director Imran Khan confirmed: “Pakistan today opened the Kartarpur Corridor. However, no Indian pilgrim visited it.”

He added: “Pilgrims from Pakistan and India are allowed to visit the Darabar Sahib by following the SOPs of social distancing. The ETPB and PSGPC have made special arrangements for the safety of pilgrims.”

Pak Muslims barred from visiting

Though Muslims from nearby areas have been visiting the shrine since the Corridor brought it to limelight in significant numbers, the Pakistan government has decided not to allow them to visit the gurdwara as of now.

“Now gurdwara is open only for Sikh devotees from India and Pakistan. It will not be opened for Muslims for now. Pakistan government has opened it for Sikhs only….Muslims have been stopped by Pakistan government to visit gurdwara due to Covid-19. Pakistan government wants to keep the crowd limited at the gurdwara, so that social distancing can be maintained. Muslims come in heavy numbers and it would make it difficult to maintain social distancing. So, Muslims have been stopped temporarily,” said Satwant Singh.

He said that Sikh population in Pakistan is only 15,000 and no Sikh families live in proximity to the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. “So mostly Muslims from nearby areas used to visit shrine,” said Satwant Singh.

Explained: The importance of Kartarpur in the Sikh religion

The pilgrimage and registration for the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara from India was temporarily suspended on March 16 in view of the coronavirus outbreak. The corridor, which opened in November last year, was used by 44,951 Indian pilgrims until January this year.

On Saturday morning, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a Twitter post, had said: “As places of worship open up across the world, Pakistan prepares to reopen the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor for all Sikh pilgrims, conveying to the Indian side our readiness to reopen the corridor on 29 June 2020, the occasion of the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.”

Sources in New Delhi had responded that “cross-border travel has been temporarily suspended as part of measures to prevent and contain the spread of coronavirus. Further views would be taken in consultation with health authorities and other stakeholders concerned.”

The developments surrounding the Kartarpur Corridor come days after Delhi informed Islamabad it was downsizing its mission staff strength by half and asked it to do the same.

(Inputs from PTI)

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