Lahore: Hundreds of Sikh pilgrims from India, Canada, United Kingdom and other parts of the world are gathering in Pakistan to visit sites related to Guru Nanak Devji.
Since the Kartarpur Corridor will be open to public only after Nove-mber 9, Sikh pilgrims are travelling through the Attari-Wagah border to go to Nankana Saheb, Guru Nanak Devji’s birth place, and Kartarpur Sahib — his final resting place.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will lead the inauguration function of the Karatarpur Corridor at around 12 pm on Saturday. He will receive the Indian jatha comprising former Indian PM Manmohan Singh, Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, Union ministers, several MPs and MLAs.
As per schedule, the leader of Indian delegation Giani Harmeet Singh — jathhedar of Akal Takht Sahib — will give a statement followed by Mr Khan’s speech. This will be followed by langar lunch at the gurdwara.
PM Narendra Modi will on Saturday flag off the first batch of over 500 Indian pilgrims that will travel to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
Mr Modi will inaugurate passenger terminal building, also known as integrated checkpost, where pilgrims will get clearance to travel through the newly-built 4.5 km-long corridor.
The Indian delegation after paying obeisance and the inauguration will return the same day.
Pakistan will not charge the service fee of $20 from Indian pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on November 9 and 12, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday.
“Abiding by the PM’s commitment, Pakistan will not receive any service charge from pilgrims on these two dates... Unfortunately, the Indian side has declined these facilitative measures,” Dr Faisal said.
Mr Khan’a statement has invited severe criticism from Opposition parties in Pakistan that have been critical of him for spending too much money on the Kartarpur Corridor.
Massive security arrangements have been put in place for the opening ceremony. Thousands of personnel have been deployed in Karatarpur out of which 600 are policemen, while the overall security will be overseen by the Pakistan Rangers and Pak Army. Movement of pilgrims other than the Indian delegation has been stopped on November 9. It is learnt that the gurdwara will be opened again for other pilgrims on November 10.
On the Indian side, too, heavy security arrangements have been put in place at Gurdaspur and surrounding area ahead of the inauguration.
“The police is on alert, we are aware of all the challenges,” said Dinkar Gupta, DG of Punjab police. At Attari crossing too deployment is heavy due to tackle rush.
Meanwhile, India once again made an effort to get the $20 service fee waiver for all pilgrims on all days. Sources said contradictory statements from Pakistan with regard to waivers announced by its Prime Minister Khan is only adding to confusion for the pilgrims.
“It is Pakistan who created confusion by trying to unilaterally abrogate the bilateral agreement. They never made a proposal but announced unilaterally, through a tweet. Then their ISPR said something different. India has taken a consistent position that let the provisions of the agreement prevail till these are amended through mutual consent to avoid confusion to the pilgrims, “ sources said.
“If Pakistan is really sincere towards the pilgrims, they should do away with the $20 fee, which is acting as deterrent for many pilgrims, especially from the lower economic strata. This also goes against the spirit of Khule Darshan Didar of the Nanak,” sources said.
It is learnt that the Indian side has also informed Pakistan that if they do not get final cleared lists from them four days in advance, India will consider all pilgrims, whose names have been shared, as deemed to be cleared and inform them accordingly.
“This decision is taken in view of paucity of times and interest of the pilgrims, so that they can plan their travel,” sources said.