News Desk |
The Governor of Punjab, Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, while speaking about the Kartarpur project said that out of respect for the Sikh community’s religious sentiments the additional land would not be constructed on due to its sacred nature and close association to Baba Guru Nanak: After spending many years travelling the subcontinent in lieu of his missionary work, Baba Guru Nanak settled here with a large number of his followers.
The importance of the site is magnified by the fact that Baba Guru Nanak passed away here on the 22nd of September, 1539. Realizing that this is where the founder of this major world religion passed away, the Government Of Pakistan has been eager to capitalize on this landmark’s history to attract thousands of religious tourists a year. The aim is not only to accrue economic benefit, but to promote a cultural and religious exchange and highlight Pakistan as a country opening up to the world.
— Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (@parbhandak) July 11, 2019
Governor appreciated the pace of work by FWO
The Governor noted the impressive pace of development work on the Gurdwara and the four-lane, 4.5 Km Kartarpur corridor by the Frontier works organisation (FWO) and various concerned authorities: “the FWO and other departments have completed the work on the corridor in a few months which could otherwise have taken years to complete”, he commented after he closely examined both projects for more than an hour. With a sum total of 408 acres of land being allotted to the corridor itself, the major project is being completed at a record pace.
The FWO was the primary contractor for this project in light of its unmatched experience in similar projects; it has been primarily or partially responsible for the Karachi-Hyderabad motorway, Lyari Expressway and countless other projects around the country. The FWO is the brainchild of the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers, that in 1966 created this new organization (FWO) specially equipped to deal with the mammoth task of constructing the Karakoram Highway (KKH).
Since successfully executing that unprecedented feet of engineering, the FWO has proved itself indispensable to the country’s infrastructure needs. It is hard to envision a project of such economic and strategic importance, bound to a strict time frame of completion, being undertaken without the professional experience of the FWO.
Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) Project Director Colonel Nadeem, Brigadier Atif, key National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK) officers, Commissioner Gujranwala, Narowal district coordination officer (DCO), Narowal district police officer (DPO), Gujranwala Regional Police Officer (RPO) Tariq Qureshi, Walled City of Lahore Authority (WCLA) Director General Kamran Lashari and key representatives of all concerned departments attended the meeting.
2nd round of talks with Pakistan on #KartarpurCorridor held today. Progress made in discussions on modalities & draft Agreement. We are fully confident to commence pilgrimage through #KartarpurCorridor on 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in Nov 2019. https://t.co/vyHtpehUz5 pic.twitter.com/ipU4ThjGE9
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) July 14, 2019
Kartarpur Terminal: 80% work already completed
The governor stated that the FWO and others have already completed 80% of the project and echoed PM Imran Khan and General Bajwa in their earlier commitment to conclude the project by Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday in October this year as a gesture of goodwill to the Sikh community: “Around 5,000 Sikh Yatrees will now be able to stay in Kartarpur.” Earlier, the Pakistani authorities had expressed some doubt over whether such a large number of pilgrims could be comprehensively catered to but are now trying to rise to the occasion by the time the corridor is inaugurated in October.
The governor clarified that the exclusive access given to devotees would be for a limited time period, after which they would return to India via the same corridor.
After India called off an essential project meeting on 2nd April earlier this year, the governor said that the second round of successful talks on 14th July between the neighbors augurs well for this unique bilateral effort. He added that he hoped India would also complete its share of the project as scheduled, and that the Punjab Government hoped to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the $17 million project.
Second Round of Talks between #Pakistan and #India on #KartarpurCorridor are underway.
The Pakistan side is led by Dr. Muhammad Faisal, DG South Asia/ Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whereas the Indian side is represented by Mr. S.C.L.Das. pic.twitter.com/myxxUISIsE
— Govt of Pakistan (@pid_gov) July 14, 2019
Sikh Pilgrims from around the world
The governor welcomed Sikh Yatrees from around the globe including the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. Pakistan can expect traffic from many other countries around the world too, such as Canada, as the Sikh diaspora is widespread and well-established.
The Government is working on accommodation that can house up to 5,000 pilgrims near the Gurdwara at any given time. The Governor announced that special arrangements were being made for the Yatrees to commute from the border checkpoint to the Gurdwara and that other amenities are also being added: “Work is underway at three food points for the pilgrims at Darbar Sahib where they will be provided quality meals and other facilities.”
Kartarpur Border Initiative: A Historical Background
The 4.5 km long corridor is the culmination of a bilateral effort that was initiated in the Vajpayee-Sharif era’s “Delhi bus diplomacy” phase. It was meant to allow thousands of Indian Sikhs visa-free access to one of their most sacred shrines, but India often refrained from making headway on the project due to political fears. Pakistan finally took the initiative last year and decided to open up the border for pilgrims.
First proposed in 1999, the concept is coming full circle at last in the form of the new Kartarpur project. The effort has been hailed as a positive step by the international community and particularly the United States, as it comes amidst a time of strained relations between the neighboring countries after the military escalation in February and a major international row between the neighbors over Kulbushan Jadhav’s death sentence.
The Governor himself heads a religious tourism and heritage committee whose central mandate is the promotion of such activity in Pakistan. Recognizing the immense economic potential in this line of development in the light of the Kartarpur project, he concluded that “Four federal ministers including the federal minister for religious affairs, three provincial ministers and officers of relevant departments are also part of the committee and we are trying to generate US$4 to 5 billion through tourism.”
— Eva zu Beck (@evabiankaz) September 16, 2018
The PTI government has been engaged in a concerted effort to boost Pakistan’s image in the international community as a country with a rich cultural and religious heritage, wondrous natural landscapes of every kind and a home to people with unmatched hospitality. Through initiatives like “Emerging Pakistan”, collaborations with influencers like Eva Zu Beck and heavy investment in advertisement, the soft image of the country is being refined and a new narrative built. The removal of visa restrictions for dozens of countries around the world, and the approval of $127 million to develop tourism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are telling of the PTI government’s grand aspirations for tourism in Pakistan.