ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday inaugurated historic Kartarpur Corridor which will facilitate the entry of Sikh community to visit Gurdawara Darbar Sahib in Narowal District.
On the occasion, in his message to Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Imran Khan said: “Let’s coexist as human beings. Imagine working together, alleviating poverty and illiteracy from the region. Just imagine the possibilities.”
He said a leader always unites people, never divides them. A true leader does not earn votes by spreading hatred.
PM Imran Khan said Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) united the people. He never spoke of hatred. He only spoke of bringing people together. Our religion says the killing of one human being is like killing of all humanity.
“Nelson Mandela will always be remembered in South Africa because he united people post-Apartheid. Apartheid-hit South Africa was totally divided. No one ever thought there would be peace and justice in South Africa. Everyone believed there would be bloodshed; but one leader who spent 27 years in jail forgave and united them all,” he added.
“Navjot Singh Sidhu asked me to open the border; the first thing after coming into power I spoke to Narendra Modi about alleviating poverty and working together. I told him let’s solve the Kashmir issue by talking and resolving like neighbors.”
“I remember going to a conclave in India and telling the then prime minister Manmohan Singh that we can lift the entire subcontinent by working together. I said the same to PM Modi. But unfortunately we have a huge human rights issue at hand; eight million people are under lockdown. The way people are kept like animals,” he added.
PM Imran said the rights of the people of Kashmir to self-determination, granted by the UN, were taken from them. I still maintain today; and if Mr. Modi is listening, justice is what brings peace and prosperity.
“People from India, the Sikh community can come here, and I am happy that I am here to witness this and open this corridor with you. I hope one day our relations are beyond hatred, beyond the conflict of 70 plus years.”
“France and Germany fought wars but look at them today with their cross border relations, their trade. I hope to see this in the subcontinent very soon. Thank you very much for this historic moment today.”
Earlier on his arrival at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the Prime Minister shook hand with former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and exchanged views with him. He also met former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu. Governor Punjab Chaudhary Sarwar and Interior Minister Ijaz Shah also interacted with Manmohan Singh.
The Construction of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor and renovation of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib which has now become the world’s largest Sikh Gurdawara, has been completed in record time. The ground breaking ceremony of the corridor was held on 28th November last year.
On his arrival, former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the opening of Kartarpur corridor as a big moment. He hoped that Pakistan-India relations will improve enormously as a result of this initiative.
The Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarindar Singh also described this initiative as a major beginning and expressed the confidence that it will lead to more such steps.
The first batch of 10,000 pilgrims is set to perform their rituals within the compound of the Gurdwara after seven decades on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Pakistan has announced to allow visit of 5,000 pilgrims to the shrine everyday with additional numbers on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities.
As a special gesture, the government also waived off the requirement of passport and 10-day advance intimation for whole year, a move which has not received a warm welcome by India.
The stunning white-coloured edifice of Gurdwara Baba Nanak stands tall as a symbol of peace and harmony despite a relation full of discords between the two bordering countries.
The inauguration on November 9 coincides with with birthday of the country’s national poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who in his poem ‘Nanak’ written in book Baang-e-Dara, holds the Sikh spiritual leader in high esteem for his monotheist beliefs.
FACLITIES AT KARTARPUR CORRIDOR
The package of facilities has been set in place for the visitors, including a nine-marque village to accommodate the Sikh pilgrims coming from across the world. The regular visitors will be given a one-day pass and they will return the same day.
A Langar Khana inside the complex has a capacity to house around 2,500 pilgrims, who will arrive in after biometric registration at counters set up by the Federal Investigation Agency.
The Government of Pakistan had acquired around 800-acre land and handed over the same to the Gurdwara management as a gift. Out of which, 42 acres were allocated for the construction of Gurdwara Complex and 62 acres for the agriculture purpose to meet the needs of the Langar Khana.
The Gurdwara has been built in record time of 10 months, with high quality construction along with white marble and imported tiles.
The visitors will have a glance of Sikhs history at the museum set up in the vicinity where the photographs of Sikh religious leaders have been put on display.
A 12-bed hospital has also been established for any health emergency for the pilgrims.
Around 250 cameras will have round-the-clock vigil for foolproof security and effective monitoring of the complex, while 1,500 staffers have been assigned for the facilitation of pilgrims.
Money exchange outlets and souvenir shops have also been set up for the facilitation of visitors.
As a monument of love, peace and affinity, Gurdwara Baba Guru Nanak awaits his followers from around the globe to arrive at the soil of Pakistan – also the Dharti of Nanak (land of Nanak).
Navjot Singh Sidhu thanked Pakistan government, especially Prime Minister Imran Khan, for opening the corridor on the 550th Birth Anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Devji.
A 52,000 sft covered area purpose made building to cater for speedy facilitation of pilgrims is being constructed. It has 76 counters with facility for additional 50 counters to cater for additional need during special days.
Pilgrims will have a choice to visit Gurdwara on foot or on transport provided by Government of Pakistan (buses and electric carts).
Government of Pakistan has acquired over 400 acres land for the establishment of Gurdwara Complex. Master plan of the Gurdwara Complex has been developed keeping in view the present and future requirements.
A flood protection dyke is constructed around Gurdwara to protect it from floods. 148 acres of land is kept for Gurdwara and allied facilities whereas rest is kept for future residential and other needs.
In phase one, main Gurdwara complex is extended 10 times from 4 to 42 acres including:-.
10 acres (660 ft x 660 ft) of courtyard around existing main Gurdwara building.
152,000 sft of Baradari around the Gurdwara is being constructed having darshan deories, sarovar, devan asthan, amenities and 20 dormitories to host more than 500 pilgrims.
A purpose built Langar Hall over 28,190 sft with capacity of serving over 2000 pilgrims at one time.
An elaborate Mehmaan Khana over 115,880 sft area is being constructed having 20 dormitories and 40 family rooms with all facilities to host over 700 pilgrims intending night stay at Kartarpur.
26 acres land with additional 36 acres is designated as Kheti sahib where cultivation of crops on the land tilled by Guru Nanak will be done and served in Langar khana of Gurdwara for the pilgrims.
During Phase two, futuristic expansions will be carried out as per requirement and to host more than 10,000 pilgrims.
A dedicated tent village is being constructed to host and facilitate around 10,000 pilgrims during 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November 2019.
For the facilitation of Yatris a dedicated medical emergency center, and kiosk area is also being developed.
Dedicated security arrangements has been made to ensure safe, secure and hassle free visit of pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur,
The shrine is about 4 km (2-1/2 miles) from the border. The crossing and corridor - including a road, bridge over the Ravi River and immigration office - will replace a drawn-out visa process and circuitous journey through Pakistan.
Kartarpur Corridor for Sikhs across the world is one of the holiest shrines. It is the same place where Sikh religious leader Guru Nanak spent days leading up to his death. It is the place where Guru Nanak after a long pilgrimage of almost three decades finally decided to settle. It is believed that Guru Nanak spent his last years in Kartarpur farming and spreading the message of peace.
Guru Nanak lived at Kartarpur Ravi for over 17 years and this place became the principal seat of Sikh faith.
Kartarpur Corridor has been welcomed enthusiastically by the Sikh community, and also represents a rare instance of co-operation between the two countries, which have fought three wars against each other since independence.
Relations between India and Pakistan remain strained, but at a ceremony formally starting construction work on the pathway on the Pakistani side of the border, the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said: "We will only progress when we free ourselves from the chains of the past".
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed that the Kartarpur project would help improve the countries’ relationship.
"The more people meet, the more they realise how much in common we have and what we are missing by not resolving our outstanding issues." he said.
The first-of-its-kind agreement aims to facilitate Sikh pilgrims from India in visiting the shrine of Baba Guru Nanak – one of Sikhism’s holiest sites in Pakistan where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, died in the 16th Century – in Kartarpur, Pakistan without obtaining any visa but a permit with a validity of one day from dawn till dusk.
According to the agreement, “The government of Pakistan will charge USD 20 per pilgrim per visit as service charges.”
“5,000 pilgrims shall be permitted to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on any given day, with an additional provision for more pilgrims on special days including Gurpurab, Baisakhi, etc., subject to capacity.”
This means that the service charges of $20 will generate revenue for Pakistan and promote tourism from visitors and pilgrims from other countries as well.