Hours after saying that Pakistan will charge Indian pilgrims $20 facilitation fee for using the Kartarpur Corridor to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the Imran Khan government made another U-turn and announced a waiver for November 9 and 12.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal announced the decision on Twitter and said, “PM Imran Khan had also announced waiver of service charges of US $ 20 on 9 and 12 November 2019. Abiding by the PM’s commitment, Pakistan will not receive any service charge from pilgrims on these two dates.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the first batch of over 500 Indian pilgrims on Saturday. The pilgrims will travel to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province through the Kartarpur Corridor which is being thrown open on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev.
The corridor connects Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib — also called Kartarpur Sahib — the last resting place of Guru Nanak Dev, in Narowal district in Pakistan.
India had signed an agreement with Pakistan on October 24 on the modalities for operationalisation of the corridor at ‘Zero Point’ of the international boundary at Dera Baba Nanak, the statement said.
The first batch of pilgrims includes former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Akal Takht jathedar Harpreet Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former CM Parkash Singh Badal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Navjot Singh Sidhu. SGPC members and all the 117 MLAs and MPs from Punjab including ministers are also part of the ‘jatha’.
Punjab Minister Tript Rajinder Singh said that all members of the first batch have been asked to reach by 10 am.
The state-of-the-art passenger terminal building, its design inspired by ‘Khanda’ which a symbol of faith in Sikh community, has been constructed on 18 acres of land.
The fully air-conditioned building, akin to an airport, has over 50 immigration counters for facilitating about 5,000 pilgrims a day.
The project was executed by central government agency — Land Ports Authority of India.
It has all the necessary public amenities such as kiosks, washrooms, childcare, first aid medical facilities, prayer room and snacks counters inside themain building.
The national flag has been hoisted at the site on a 300-ft-tall post.
Meanwhile, the five-day festival on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev began in Dera Baba Nanak and Sultanpur Lodhi on Friday and will conclude on November 12.
Modi will pay obeisance at Gurudwara Ber Sahib, former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur, who is incharge of celebrations, said.
The prime minister will be presented a ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee for participating in the celebrations.
Over five lakh devotees have paid obeisance at Gurudwara Ber Sahib.
Guru Nanak Dev had spent 14 years of early life at Sultanpur Lodhi and used to take daily bath in the holy Kali Bein.
Sultanpur Lodhi city is decked up with flowers, hoardings and several colourful gates to welcome the pilgrims.
A bicycle company of Ludhiana is also providing bicycles free of charge to devotees to commute in the city, Kaur said.
On November 22, 2018, the Union Cabinet had passed a resolution to celebrate the historic occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in a “grand and befitting manner”, throughout the country and across the globe.
The Cabinet had also approved the building and development of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the international boundary, to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, round the year, in a smooth and easy manner.
(With inputs from PTI)