Dr. Mohammad Faisal, official spokesperson of the Foreign Office (FO), on Thursday, confirmed that former Indian minister and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu will be attending the inauguration ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. The FO spokesperson said that Sidhu will be issued a Pakistani visa to facilitate his travels.
Media reports reveal that last week, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has dispatched an invitation to Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the inauguration ceremony, scheduled for Saturday. Sidhu was also present at the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan last year, alongside attending the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor.
I want to congratulate our govt for readying Kartarpur, in record time, for Guru Nanak jee's 550th birthday celebrations. pic.twitter.com/dwrqXLan2r
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) November 3, 2019
Kartarpur Corridor Inauguration
Reports reveal that Sidhu has accepted the incumbent government’s invitation to attend the inauguration ceremony on Saturday. Indian media reports confirm that Sidhu can cross the Wagah border with a visa.
However, being an elected representative of the Indian state of Punjab, he needs political clearance from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led the Indian government in order to attend any ceremony held in Pakistan.
Speaking at the weekly press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Thursday, Dr. Mohammad Faisal said that Pakistan has allowed multiple concessions in honor of Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.
The FO spokesperson said, “As a special gesture on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, Pakistan has waived
a) Pilgrims from carrying a passport for the 550th celebrations;
b) the requirement to convey pilgrim information to the Government of Pakistan 10 days prior to the entry through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor;
c) The US $20 service charges per pilgrim, per visit, on 9th and 12th November 2019.”
Dr. Faisal stated on November 6, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood had briefed the diplomatic corps on Pakistan’s initiative of opening the Kartarpur Corridor. The briefing was attended by heads of diplomatic missions and foreign representatives based in Islamabad.
Reply to my letters, else will go to Kartarpur like ordinary devotee: Navjot Singh Sidhu to MEA https://t.co/aXtxCF4rcZ
— TOI India (@TOIIndiaNews) November 7, 2019
He said, “While highlighting the historic initiative by Prime Minister Imran Khan to open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on the auspicious occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the Foreign Secretary underscored that Pakistan has taken this step to meet the long-standing request of Nanak NaamLevas and especially the Sikh community across the world, particularly from India.”
“Opening of the Corridor is in line with the Islamic principles, Pakistan’s policy of promoting inter-faith harmony, and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of a peaceful neighborhood.”
Pakistan’s Historic Initiative
The FO Spokesperson noted that Pakistan has undertaken a series of activities to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. He said that the “Government of Pakistan is issuing a special coin and a commemorative stamp.”
Dr. Faisal continued, “Moreover, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has laid the foundation stone of Baba Guru Nanak University at Nankana Sahib. The Foreign Secretary stated that besides the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, pilgrims from India would continue to come through Wagah border, as well, their numbers have, however, been, increased.”
He said that Pakistan is all set to receive thousands of Sikh pilgrims from across the world, particularly from countries that boost large Sikh communities. “Our missions abroad are also fully facilitating visa requests from Nanak Naamlevas.”
Dr. Faisal observed that after Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood’s briefing, members of the diplomatic corps and heads of missions appreciated Pakistan’s historic initiative. He said, “Appreciating Pakistan’s historic initiative to open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and completion of the huge project in record time, the diplomats congratulated Pakistan and thanked for the arrangements being made for their facilitation.”
As a special gesture, #Pakistan announced concessions on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth Anniversary of #BabaGuruNanak to facilitate pilgrims. This has been REFUSED by #India in balatant disregard of Sikh sentiments.#Indiaconfused#PakistanKartarpurSpirit
— Dr Mohammad Faisal (@ForeignOfficePk) November 7, 2019
Tweeting from his official account, Dr. Mohammad Faisal shared Pakistan’s response on creating confusion amongst the Sikh Pilgrims after “rejecting” the concessions provided by Islamabad.
The FO spokesperson said, “As a special gesture, Pakistan announced concessions on the auspicious occasion of 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak to facilitate pilgrims. This has been REFUSED by India in blatant disregard of Sikh sentiments.”
Dr. Faisal continued, “If India does not wish to avail these facilitative measures for pilgrims, it is India’s choice. India is creating confusion to confuse.”
— Dr Mohammad Faisal (@ForeignOfficePk) November 7, 2019
Earlier in October, Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that Sikh pilgrims arriving at the Kartarpur Corridor from India will no longer require a passport, as long as they have a valid ID. Tweeting from his official account, the Premier had said, “For Sikhs coming for a pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived off 2 requirements: i) they won’t need a passport – just a valid ID; ii) they no longer have to register 10 days in advance.”
“Also, no fee will be charged on the day of inauguration & on Guruji’s 550th birthday.”
For Sikhs coming for pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived off 2 requirements: i) they wont need a passport – just a valid ID; ii) they no longer have to register 10 days in advance. Also, no fee will be charged on day of inauguration & on Guruji's 550th birthday
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) November 1, 2019
After a series of hard-hitting negotiations, Pakistan and India finally signed the Kartarpur Agreement in October, paving the way for the inauguration ceremony, scheduled for November 9. The iconic Kartarpur Corridor will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday, and once it becomes operational, Sikh pilgrims from India will enjoy visa-free access to Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.