On Wednesday, the Gurdwara Kartarpur Governing Council held its fourth meeting, presided over by the Religious Affairs Secretary, Sardar Ijaz Khan. The council urged the federal government to take notice of India’s restrictions on Sikh pilgrims traveling to Pakistan. It called upon the government to request ease in the restrictions.
Other attendees of the meeting included officials from the ministry of foreign affairs, the ministry of finance, the ministry of interior, Nadra, the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), and concerned security agencies.
During the meeting, the attendees were apprised that India is not allowing Sikhs to visit Pakistan due to an array of excuses, even though it had sent two Hindu pilgrim groups. The meeting decided that the prevention of Sikh pilgrims from visiting Pakistan is an issue that would be raised on a high level and on priority.
Moreover, the officials from the ministry of foreign affairs revealed that the Indian home ministry did not allow a Sikh Jatha comprising of approximately 600 pilgrims to visit Pakistan, who were visiting in honor of Saka Nankana Sahib’s 100th anniversary. The Sikh Jatha had planned to visit five gurdwaras in a span of four days, from 18th to 21st February.
Commenting on the issue, religious affairs secretary, Sardar Ijaz Khan stated “The state should not have double standards for different religions.” He added, “The biased attitude of the Indian authorities and prejudice towards religious minorities was unfair.”
Also discussed in the meeting was the Kartarpur Corridor project’s arrangements and the status of the ongoing development projects aimed at facilitating the pilgrims was also reviewed, like the connecting roads leading to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib.
The potential to attract foreign and domestic investments into the project was discussed. The investments could be utilized to promote religious tourism as well as religious tolerance.
The Kartarpur Corridor was inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019. The opening of the Corridor on the eve of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak fulfilled the long-awaited desire of Sikh devotees of the international community.
The Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, close to the Pakistan-India border, is one of the holiest sites in Sikhism. The temple is located around 4km (2.5 miles) from the border with India. Kartarpur Corridor provides a visa-free passage between Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Narowal, and Dera Baba Nanak shrine, Gurdaspur India.
This landmark initiative by the Government of Pakistan had been immensely appreciated by the Sikh community all over the world including India. The first Guru of Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak Saheb, had spent the last 18 years of his life in Kartarpur.
Pakistan had promised the Sikh community of completing the project before the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.