Updated: November 19, 2021 7:54:33 am
PUNJAB CHIEF Minister Charanjit Singh Channi alongwith some of his Cabinet ministers on Thursday offered prayers at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan after travelling through the visa-free Kartarpur Corridor that reopened for pilgrims after a gap of 20 months.
Channi, accompanied by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, PWD Minister Vijay Inder Singla, MLAs Harpartap Singh Ajnala and Barindermeet Singh Pahra and his family members crossed the border at around 1 pm to pay obeisance in sanctum-sanctorum of the revered gurdwara in Narowal, Pakistan, on the occasion of Prakash Purb of Guru Nanak. The delegation was welcomed with drum beats and served lunch at the complex.
“I am very happy to come here. I have received immense love from Punjabis, Pakistanis and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, and I am highly indebted for this,” Channi said after reaching the shrine.
He told pilgrims there that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown a big heart, and built the “beautiful complex with love and dedication”.
“We have received a lot of love and respect from here,” the Punjab chief minister said, adding that “Baba Guru Nanak belongs to all”.
The over 4-km long Kartarpur corridor links Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur, the final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, to Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district. Pilgrimage to the gurdwara was suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.
On his return, Channi urged the governments of India and Pakistan to simplify the process of obtaining permission to pay obeisance at the revered gurdwara. He also announced free bus service from across Punjab till Dera Baba Nanak for facilitating pilgrims having permission to visit Kartarpur Sahib.
Speaking to mediapersons, Channi expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan for taking the “historic initiative” of reopening the corridor. He said he had been urging the PM since long to reopen the route.
The chief minister said it is the need of the hour that the national governments of India and Pakistan make concerted efforts to simplify the process of obtaining permission to pay reverence at the holy shrine, adding that it will help devotees save time, money and energy.
Batting for opening of cross-border trade from Punjab borders, the chief minister said India and Pakistan should deliberate on commencing trade and commerce through it, adding that it will be helpful in ushering “a new era of unprecedented progress and prosperity” in the state. Besides giving impetus to economic activity in the region it will also help in improving people to people contact between both countries, he added.
Channi said it is a joyous occasion, and the long-pending ardaas of Sikh Sangat has been fulfilled and they can pay reverence at the holy shrine without any hindrance. He added that he was fortunate enough to be part of the Sangat paying homage since the demand of “khule darshan-didar” of Gurdwara Sri Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, fulfilled after a long period of over seven decades. He said, “Our Gurus showed path of humility, unity, peace and welfare”, and expressed hope that the corridor will play a pivotal role in “realising the great thoughts of our great Guru”.
Evacuee Trust Property Board spokesperson Amir Hashmi said in Lahore that besides the group led by Channi, a 21-member delegation of BJP leaders also visited the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
Kartarpur Corridor Project Management Unit Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Muhammad Latif, who received the Indian delegation at Kartarpur Sahib, said the Punjab chief minister was “very happy” to visit the shrine and said he would love to visit again.
Sidhu not part of jatha
Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu was not part of the Channi-led ‘jatha’ (group). Sidhu’s media advisor Surinder Dalla had on Wednesday said that the Congress leader was officially intimated that he could visit the shrine on November 20 instead of November 18.
Asked about this, Punjab minister Vijay Inder Singla on Thursday said the Centre had given permission to state cabinet ministers and MLAs to visit the shrine in a phased manner.
“Some got permission for today, some for tomorrow and others for day after tomorrow,” he said.
Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma told reporters that he was thankful to the Prime Minister Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for reopening the Kartarpur corridor.
Sharma, sporting a turban, said they prayed for peace, harmony and progress of the northern state.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday claimed that the Centre denied permission to a party delegation to visit Kartarpur Sahib, and dubbed it a “match-fixing” between Modi and Channi.
The Centre had decided to reopen the Kartarpur corridor from Wednesday ahead of Gurpurab, which marks the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, on November 19. The first batch of 28 Indian Sikhs, including women, had visited the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan on Wednesday by using the corridor on the first day of its reopening.
In November 2019, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had formally inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor as part of the commemoration of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak at a colourful ceremony, paving the way for Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit one of their religion’s holiest sites in Pakistan without needing a visa. WITH INPUTS FROM PTI, LAHORE
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