OPENING KARTARPUR CORRIDOR: Pakistan's good will gesture to promote peace and tourism.


Byline: Nazir Ahmed Shaikh

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced that Sikh pilgrims who arrive from India to visit Kartarpur will no longer need a passport to cross over into Pakistan as long as they have a valid identity. In a tweet on Friday morning, the premier also announced that he had directed that the condition for pilgrims to register 10 days before their arrival to the Kartarpur shrine also be waived.

The initiative of developing the Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh community is a great goodwill gesture by the Government of Pakistan. However, Indian reservations regarding Pakistan's motives are a clear proof that India is not in favour of granting full religious rights to its minorities especially the Muslims and the Sikh community. From the perspective of the Sikh community, visa free access to the holy place would be a benefiting tribute to Guru Nanak, who rose to break the stranglehold of the oppressive systems of social and religious orders in nascent Punjab. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for the corridor on Nov. 28, 2018.

The Kartarpur Corridor is expected to open doors for region's economic growth and boost the tourism industry on both sides. People of both countries want peace and development. It will generate economic connectivity between two the Punjabs. It is a significant step towards reconciliation and is likely to foster shared cultural and historical linkages. Pakistan is also considering a similar arrangement for Hindu pilgrims who want to visit the Katas Raj Temple and Sharda Peeth; monuments of historic and spiritual value.

Geographically Kartarpur is in Narowal district of Punjab province. It is the place where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent the last 18 years of his life till his death in 1539. The gurdwara built here is one of the holiest shrines in Sikhism. Located across river Ravi in Pakistan, barely six kilometers away from Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur, Punjab (India), is Kartarpur Sahib. The population is primarily Punjabi, speaking Punjabi and Urdu. English is spoken by some as a second language. The ethnic groups include majority Gujjars and Jats. The gurdwara is also notable for its location near the border between Pakistan and India. The shrine is visible from the Indian side of the border. Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers on bluffs to perform darshan, or sacred viewing of the site, from the Indian side of the border.

The glorious white building is one of Sikh community's most sacred sites was built in 1925 at a cost of Rs.1,35,600, donated by Sardar Bhupindar Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala. It was repaired by the Government of Pakistan in 1995, and fully restored in 2004, at a significant amount.There are several masjids in the town. After the partition of India in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while many Muslim refugees from India settled down in Kartarpur.

The Pakistan government has approved the development of a corridor from Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur to the international border. Prime Minister Imran Khan's government on Tuesday earmarked Rs 100 crore in the federal budget 2019-20 for the development of the much-awaited Kartarpur corridor.

The visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur...

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