Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistan Army on Thursday hoped that India will respond “positively” to Pakistan’s “goodwill gesture” of opening the Kartarpur border for the Sikh pilgrims. On November 28, Khan laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor on the Pakistani side while on November 26, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh laid its foundation stone in Punjab’s Gurdaspur.
The corridor will connect Sikh faith’s founder Guru Nanak Dev’s final resting place in Pakistan’s Kartarpur to the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district in India, fulfilling a long-pending demand of the Sikh community. Khan termed it unfortunate that Indian media gave a political colour to Pakistan’s positive gesture of opening the Kartarpur border.
Addressing the Cabinet, Khan said: “Unfortunately the Indian media has given Kartarpur (border opening) a political colour, as if we did this to gain some sort of political mileage… This is not true. We did it because it is part of (the ruling) Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s manifesto,” he said.
“We have religious sites that are important for Hindus and Buddhists; we should open them up and facilitate the people,” Khan said, without explaining. The Sikh community has responded very positively to the effort to open the Kartarpur border, he said. “It is to them (Sikhs) what Madinah is to us Muslims. We hope that India will also respond positively in return,” the Prime Minister said.
In a separate press conference in Rawalpindi, Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor of army’s media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Pakistan has taken several positive initiatives for peace with India, and the latest one was the groundbreaking of the Kartarpur corridor. He, however, regretted that the initiative was negatively presented in India, but hoped that India will “positively respond to this goodwill gesture”.
Ghafoor said that the corridor will be constructed in six months after which 4,000 Sikh pilgrims will be able to visit daily. “It will be a one-way corridor from the Indian side to Kartarpur, and the Sikh pilgrims will remain restricted to Kartarpur,” the officer added. Ghafoor also raised concern over the increasing ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary allegedly by the Indian forces, saying 55 civilians have been killed in cross-border aggression this year — the highest in history.