LAHORE: For the first time in 70 years, Indian Sikhs will be able to make pilgrimage to their holy site of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib which had virtually been inaccessible for them due to the hostile relations between Pakistan and India.
Today, the first batch of 10,000 pilgrims is set to perform their rituals in the compound of the Gurdwara on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who envisioned the construction of Kartarpur Corridor a year ago, will inaugurate the much-anticipated overland passage linking the Dera Baba Nana shrine in northwest India’s Gurdaspur with the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan.
Dubbed as ‘Zero Point’, the corridor includes a bridge stretching for one-kilometer over the Ravi River, flowing between the two countries.
Pakistan has announced to allow the visit of 5,000 pilgrims to the shrine every day with additional numbers on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities.
As a special gesture, the government also waived off requirement of passport and 10-day advance intimation for whole year, a move which has not been warmly welcomed by India.
The stunning white-coloured edifice of Gurdwara Baba Nanak stands tall as a symbol of peace and harmony, despite the discordant relationship between the two neighboring countries.
The inauguration on November 9 coincides with the birth anniversary of the country’s national poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who in his poem ‘Nanak’, pays homage to the Sikh spiritual leader.
Iqbal in his verses ‘Phir akhir uthi sada Tauheed ki Punjab se – Hind ko ik Mard-e-Kaamil ne jagaya khwaab se’, means that ‘The voice of belief in oneness of God rose from Punjab as a man with perfect attributes, awakened India from a deep slumber’.
The package of facilities has been set in place for pilgrims including a nine-marque village for accommodation.
Regular visitors will be given a one-day pass and would be able to return the same day.
A Langar Khana inside the complex has a capacity to house around 2,500 pilgrims who will arrive after biometric registration at counters, set up by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
The Government of Pakistan had acquired around 800-acre land and handed IT over to the Gurdwara management; out of which, over 42 acres were allocated for construction of the Gurdwara complex and 62-acre land for the agricultural purposes to meet needs of the Langar Khana.
The Gurdwara is to be built in record time of 10 months and boasts a high construction quality with white marble and imported tiles.
Visitors will also be able to experience Sikh culture and history at the museum set up in the vicinity.
In addition, a 12-bed hospital has been established for health emergencies.
Around 250 cameras will have around-the-clock vigil for foolproof security and effective monitoring of the complex, while 1,500 staffers are assigned for facilitation of pilgrims.
Money exchange outlets and souvenir shops have also been set up.
As a monument of love, peace, and affinity, Gurdwara Baba Guru Nanak awaits its followers to visit Guru Nanak’s eternal abode.
Agencies add: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday said that the Sikh community expressed praises to Pakistan during his meeting at a photo exhibition in Singapore.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to journalists in Lahore here today, said that Sikh community showed gratefulness to Pakistan as the country has completed the Kartarpur Corridor project in record time.
The foreign minister said that Pakistan is giving a goodwill gesture to Indian government through Kartarpur Corridor, on the other hand, New Delhi authorities are busy in continuing atrocities against the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir and event barring them from offering Jumma prayers.
He criticised that India is consistently exhibiting narrow mindedness which could be witnessed around the world.
“We have completed the Kartarpur Corridor project in a record time period and Prime Minister Imran Khan will inaugurate it tomorrow [Saturday]. We will fulfil our promises with the Sikh community.”
“It is beyond thoughts of people that the construction work on the project would be completed in the shortest period. India would be agreed to sign the agreement despite hurdles. We have also invited Manmohan Singh in the inauguration ceremony and I’ve also received a response letter from him.”
“Manmohan Singh showed a willingness to arrive in the event like a common yatree. We will welcome him regardless of his status to join the inauguration ceremony.”
Qureshi detailed that the opening of the corridor will facilitate around 5,000 Sikh yatrees in a day. Pakistan has temporarily ended the condition of passport for the pilgrims while PM Khan ordered for not to receive service charges on November 9 and 11 at the event of Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, he added. The foreign minister highlighted that Islamabad has set an example of religious freedom and interfaith harmony around the world.