NEW DELHI :
Pakistan Prime minister Imran Khan on Sunday said his country will open the Kartarpur Corridor, that will allow Indian pilgrims to visit a revered Sikh gurudwara, on 9 November.
The announcement comes even as a pact that will formally set the modalities for the crossover of the pilgrims was yet to be signed by India and Pakistan, held up over disagreement over a $20 service fee that Islamabad has said it would levy on each Indian pilgrim.
The proposed corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, in Pakistan’s Narowal district, with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to cross into Pakistan. The gurudwara in Kartarpur was established in 1522 by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh faith, who lived the last years of his life in Kartarpur.
Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab's Gurdaspur district up to the border will be constructed by India.
"Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to public on November 9, 2019," Khan said in a Facebook post.
"The world’s largest gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the World. This will become a major religious hub for the Sikh community, and will boost the local economy, result in earning foreign exchange for the country creating jobs in different sectors including travel and hospitality," Khan said.
"Religious tourism is on the rise in Pakistan, earlier Buddhist monks visited various sites for religious rituals followed by opening of #Kartarpur Corridor," he added.
Earlier this month, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal had said "no date has been fixed so far" for the opening of the corridor. Last week, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said India and Pakistan had reached agreement on many issues except on the matter of the service fee. “Pakistan insists on levying a fee of $ 20 (approx. Rs. 1420) on all pilgrims. We have urged Pakistan not to do so in the interests of devotees, and also because this is a P2P (people to people) initiative. We hope that the Agreement can be concluded and signed in time for the great event," he said in a statement on Thursday.
Meanwhile a PTI report on Sunday said online registration of devotees visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur could not be started as India and Pakistan had not yet agreed upon on a number of issues, including Islamabad's insistence of charging $ 20 from each pilgrim, officials said.
"Since some issues are yet to be resolved, the online registration for the Kartarpur pilgrimage could not be started on Sunday," an official privy to the development said, PTI said.
Key unresolved issues include Pakistan's insistence of charging $ 20 from each pilgrim and the timing of the pilgrimage every day (first entry and last exit time).
On 16 October, the Chairman of the Land Ports Authority of India and Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Govind Mohan had said the online registration for pilgrims visiting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is expected to commence on 20 October, provided a pact is signed on remaining issues.
India had asked Pakistan to reconsider the decision on charging $ 20 per pilgrim, allow 10,000 pilgrims on special occasions and an Indian protocol officer to accompany the delegation that visits Kartarpur everyday.
Pakistan is yet to respond to India's requests, the official said, the PTI report said.
Last month, India and Pakistan agreed on visa-free travel of Indian pilgrims to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib using the Kartarpur corridor. Pilgrims will only have to carry their passports to visit the revered gurdwara in Pakistan.
Persons of Indian origin holding OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card too can visit the Gurdwara using the Kartarpur corridor.
It was also decided that 5,000 pilgrims can visit the shrine everyday and that additional pilgrims will be allowed on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities by the Pakistan side.
India and Pakistan have also decided that the corridor will be operational throughout the year and seven days a week and that pilgrims will have a choice to visit it as individual or in groups.