THE PUNJAB government has sought fresh permission from the Centre to allow a delegation of ministers and MLAs to visit Pakistan from October 29 to November 3 in connection with the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak.
Three ministers — Medical Education Minister O P Soni, Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Tourism Minister Charanjit Singh Channi — had in July taken Centre’s permission to visit Pakistan from August 22 to 27, but after scrapping of Article 370 in J&K, it had to be sought again. Punjab’s tourism department had written to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on August 16 but did not get any response.
The state government has now sought yet another clearance from the Centre for five ministers — Soni, Channi, Randhawa as well as Rural Development Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu — to visit the neighbouring country. Two MLAs — Inderbir Singh Bolaria and Amarinder Singh Raja Warring — too would be a part of the delegation, if the Centre gives clearance.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had taken up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit and urged him to permit the delegation to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan to initiate an Akhand Path in Gurdwara Shri Janam Asthan associated with Guru Nanak. “We have not heard anything from GOI yet. We will have to first hear from MHA and then from Union Ministry of External Affairs. After that we will have to seek visa from Pakistan,” said an official of the state government.
The Punjab government had permitted the delegation on October 1 to visit Pakistan. “The relationship between both countries is tense after Kashmir. We believe the Centre would allow this delegation as it is related to Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary celebrations,” the official added.
The delegation had earlier wanted to invite Pakistan President Imran Khan but with Pakistan making it clear that they would not invite PM Narendra Modi for the Kartarpur Corridor opening, and Punjab CM Amarinder Singh too specifying he would not participate in their opening function, it remains to be seen whether Punjab’s delegation will meet Khan or not. The delegation also wants to take up the issue of Pakistan planning to charge devotees $20 as visa fee.