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History created as Kartarpur Corridor goes open for Sikhs

KARTARPUR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor; a border corridor between Pakistan and India, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.
The corridor is being opened on the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev Ji beginning from Tuesday, to facilitate entry of Sikh pilgrims from India into Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Narowal.
Addressing the ceremony, the premier termed the corridor a gift for the Sikh community around the world -as they can now reach their holy place within no time- while adding that love and tolerance are the two traits that can bring lasting change in the sub-continent and around the world.
“True leaders unite the people of all religion, colour, creed and caste and fight all elements that divide them for greatness (of nations) lies in unity,” said the premier.
Imran Khan told the huge crowd that soon after becoming the PM, he approached his Indian counterpart and urged him to cooperate with his government in opening new avenues for the people of two countries in order to rise up to the challenge of rising poverty in Pakistan and India but to no avail.
The premier maintained that he reminded Modi that Pakistan and India can both benefit from mutual trade and tourism if they resolve the Kashmir issue amicably but the Modi government took a step backward and illegally annexed the disputed territory.
The PM also paid homage to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) for completing the project in record time.
Earlier, while, addressing the ceremony, former Indian cricketer and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu paid tribute to PM Imran Khan for “acting as a brave and courageous leader” by taking this historic step.
“The Sikh community is know for its bravery and steadfastness and I am speaking on behalf of the whole community, not only thank you but assure you that we will never forget this great act of yours,” said Sidhu.
He was of the view that Imran Khan showed exemplary courage by taking this huge step without thinking about political repercussions like other political leaders.
The landmark project initiated on the directives of Imran Khan as a peace-building measure for the region and to promote interfaith harmony, is entirely funded and executed by Pakistan as a gift for Sikh community.
Former Indian PM Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister of Indian Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh and a huge number of Sikh pilgrims have arrived at the holy site for the historic ceremony.

Earlier, Indian PM Modi inaugurated the Integrated Check Post of Kartarpur Corridor at Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.
He thanked his Pakistan PM Imran Khan for respecting the sentiments of the people of India and said that the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor has “brought us immense happiness”.
Abiding by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s pledge, the requirement of passport and fees of $20 have been waived by Pakistan.
The foundation stone of Kartarpur Corridor to link Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Narowal district with India’s Gurdaspur district was laid by PM Imran Khan, on Nov 28, 2018.
The step highlights Pakistan’s efforts for promoting religious harmony and peace in the region. The Islamabad’s move to open the Kartarpur Corridor for the facilitation of the Sikh community is being widely appreciated by the Sikh leaders.
The officials of Pakistan and India in a historic event on October 24 signed an agreement for opening Kartarpur Corridor.
Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Director General South Asia and SAARC Dr. Muhammad Faisal and India’s Joint Secretary External Affairs SCL Das signed the agreement on behalf of their respective countries at Kartarpur Zero Point.
In the agreement, Pakistan has kept a service fee of $20 for Sikh pilgrims visiting the Corridor from the Indian side, unchanged.
Agencies add: Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan congratulated the Sikh community on the momentous occasion of Kartarpur Corridor’s opening, ARY News reported on Saturday.
The Prime Minister in a statement said that Muslims have a great understanding of the sanctity and prestige of religious sites and places of worship.
Imran Khan added that Pakistan was opening it’s hearts to the Sikh community and the corridor initiative went beyond the material and physical, rather it was a spiritual bond.
In conclusion prime minister said that the Kartarpur initiative was testament to the fact that Muslims harbor no ill will towards people of other races and religious beliefs, rather understood their love and admiration for their faith and gave them the respect and value they deserve.
Sikh pilgrims from India started arriving at Zero Point for immigration to attend the inauguration of a much-awaited Kartarpur corridor on Saturday (today).
The Corridor is being opened on the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev Ji beginning from Tuesday.
As per details, the first group of Sikh yataris reached border terminal and gone through the immigration process in a peaceful manner. As many as 76 counters for the pilgrims have been made functional by Pakistan for the immigration. The Sikh yataris have reached Gurduwara Kartarpur Sahib.
Abiding by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s pledge, the requirement of passport and fees of $20 have been waived by Pakistan.
Meanwhile, India’s former prime minister Manmohan Singh has on Saturday said that the opening of Kartarpur Corridor will significantly improve bilateral ties between Pakistan and India, and termed it as a “big moment.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan formally inaugurated the historic ‘visa-free’ Kartarpur Corridor for the Sikh community.
Manmohan Singh, Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and actor Sunny Deol were the prominent figures who arrived at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur for the inauguration ceremony as gates of the passage at zero point were opened today.
From Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Federal Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, Governor Punjab Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and others were present.
Amarinder Singh said the Sikh community had been waiting for a free passage for 70 years, and maintained that it is a good beginning. Former Indian opposition leader and Sikh pilgrims thanked Pakistan for its efforts to inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor.
Hundreds of Indian Sikhs began a historic pilgrimage to Pakistan today, crossing through a white gate to reach one of their religion’s holiest sites under a landmark deal between the two countries separated by the 1947 partition of the subcontinent.
Buses were waiting on the Pakistani side to carry the pilgrims to the shrine to Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak, which lies in Kartarpur, a small town just four kilometres (2.5 miles) inside Pakistan where he is believed to have died.
The secure visa-free land corridor is a rare example of cooperation between the arch-rivals, and even inspired a singular message of gratitude from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his Pakistani counterpart.
“I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, for respecting the sentiments of India. I thank him for his cooperation,” Modi said in televised comments earlier Saturday.
For up to 30 million Sikhs around the world, the white-domed shrine is one of their holiest sites, which for Indian Sikhs has remained tantalisingly close but out-of-reach for decades.
When Pakistan was carved out of colonial India at the end of British colonial rule in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the western side of the border, while most of the region’s Sikhs remained on the other side.
Since then, the perennial state of enmity between India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars and countless border skirmishes since independence, has been a constant barrier to those wanting to visit the temple.
The proximity of the shrine, known in Sikhism as a gurdwara, is such that Indian Sikhs can stand at the border and gaze across the divide at the building’s four cupolas.
“Our lifetime wish has been fulfilled, we never imagined this,” said Manees Kaur Wadha, an Indian pilgrim who came to Pakistan last week after managing to secure a visa, and was already at the shrine early Saturday.
“Since childhood, our elders had told us so many stories of Pakistan. They left (migrated) from here. But we never imagined we would ever be able to see it and have these feelings.”
Pilgrims on both sides of the border expressed hopes that the corridor might represent something else — a thawing in the relationship between India and Pakistan.
“Life is short,” said Wadha’s husband Davinder Singh Wadah.
“Everyone has to go… so why not to enjoy life and make this world a heaven, and I think this initiative is the beginning of it.”
At least 700 pilgrims are expected to pass through the corridor on Saturday, and more in the coming days.
Saturday’s opening of the land corridor comes just days ahead of the Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday on November 12 — an anniversary of huge significance for the global Sikh community.
Sikhs from around the world — including some from India, who entered through the main border crossing at Wagah after obtaining visas — have been arriving in Pakistan ahead of the celebrations for several days already.
Pilgrims could be seen on both sides of the border early Saturday readying for the corridor’s inauguration, with those already at the shrine washing their feet and queuing to enter as workers laid out dozens of coloured cushions, bright against the white of building.
The deal allows for up to 5,000 pilgrims a day to cross.
Pakistan has employed hundreds of labourers to spruce up the shrine, including building a border immigration checkpoint and a bridge, as well as expanding the site’s grounds.
Some residents in Kartarpur complained to AFP that the government had cheated them out of land to expand the complex.
Habib Khan, the 63-year-old imam of a small mosque just outside the gurdwara, said Friday he understood their concerns, but that Sikhs had “every right” to visit.
“This land is sacred for them,” he said.
The Sikh faith began in the 15th century in Punjab, a region including Kartarpur which is split today between India and Pakistan, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that preached equality.
There are an estimated 20,000 Sikhs left in Pakistan after millions fled to India following the bloody religious violence ignited by independence and partition, which sparked the largest mass migration in human history and led to the death of at least one million people.

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Grand Mufti backs protesters in Lebanon

BEIRUT : Lebanon’s grand mufti, the top cleric for Sunni Muslims, called on Saturday for the formation of a new emergency government of technical experts and for those in power to meet protesters’ demands.
The country is in political and economic turmoil after three weeks of nationwide protests that prompted Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign last week.
“The time has come to meet the people’s demands and the national free will that transcends sects, political parties, and regions,” Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian said in a televised address on the occasion of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.
“The time has come and is opportune, after this national wake-up call, for the reform process to begin and for those in power to form an emergency government made up of competent people, without delay,” Derian said.
It is time “to immediately proceed with carrying out the reform package prepared by Prime Minister Hariri to solve the country’s problems”, he added.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, Lebanon’s top Christian religious authority, has also called for a change in government to include qualified technocrats.
Before he stepped down, Hariri agreed a package of reforms with partners in the coalition government aimed at easing an economic crisis that sparked the unprecedented protests against the sectarian ruling elite.
The plans included a 50% reduction in the salaries of current and former officials and $3.3 billion in contributions from banks to achieve a “near zero deficit” for the 2020 budget.
But Lebanese politicians have yet to make progress towards agreeing a new government to replace one that was toppled.
The country’s power-sharing system is based on 18 recognized religious sects and dates back to French colonial rule. It allocates posts for each of the country’s communities, forming forming the basis of its major political parties and creating a delicate balance between Christians, Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims and other groups.

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Masood, Imran discuss Kashmir situation

Bureau Report

KARACHI: Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan on Saturday met with Sindh Governor Imran Ismail in Karachi.
Matters of mutual interest, Kartarpur Corridor, worsening situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir and other issues were discussed in the meeting.
Speaking on the occasion Sardar Masood Khan hailed the government’s decision about Kartarpur Corridor.
Criticizing the Indian apex court’s verdict in Babri Mosque case, Imran Ismail said that the judgment has disheartened Muslims across the globe. He said that Indian occupied forces were making new records of brutalities in occupied Kashmir.
The Sindh governor urged the international community to help stop Indian atrocities in the held valley.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan had inaugurated the Kartarpur Corridor; a border corridor between Pakistan and India, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan.
The corridor was being opened on the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev Ji beginning from Tuesday, to facilitate entry of Sikh pilgrims from India into Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Narowal.
Addressing the ceremony, the premier had termed the corridor a gift for the Sikh community around the world -as they could now reach their holy place within no time- while adding that love and tolerance were the two traits that could bring lasting change in the sub-continent and around the world.

Germany celebrates fall of Berlin Wall

DM Monitoring

BERLIN: Germany on Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall that separated East and West Germany, with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier thanking Eastern European neighbours for enabling a peaceful revolution.
The toppling of the wall, which had divided the Communist-ruled East and the capitalist West in Berlin for nearly three decades and became a potent symbol of the Cold War, was followed a year later by the reunification of Germany in 1990.
“Together with our friends, we remember with deep gratitude the events 30 years ago,” Steinmeier said during a ceremony at the Bernauer Strasse Berlin Wall Memorial, which was also attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and heads of state from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
“Without the courage and the will to freedom of the Poles and Hungarians, the Czechs and Slovaks, the peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe and Germany’s reunification would not have been possible,” Steinmeier said. During the ceremony, Steinmeier and the presidents of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic placed roses in a small gap in the remains of the wall at the memorial.
In August 1989, Hungarian border guards for the first time allowed people from East Germany to cross freely into Austria, paving the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall three months later and with it the end of the Iron Curtain.
Steinmeier pointed out, however, that the historic event did not mark the “end of history” as U.S. historian Francis Fukuyama stated. The struggle of political systems had continued and the future was more uncertain than ever before, he added.
‘‘Liberal democracy is being challenged and questioned,” Steinmeier said. That’s why Germany and its European allies had to fight every day for a peaceful and united Europe with each country having to do its part to overcome differences, he added.
His message was echoed by Merkel in a brief speech during a commemorative service at the memorial’s chapel. “The values on which Europe is founded — freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, respect for human rights — are anything but self-evident.

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