Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday performed the ground-breaking of the four kilometre-long Kartarpur Corridor.
Addressing the ceremony, PM Khan welcomed all the guests who came from India.
He said the happiness he saw on the faces of the Sikh pilgrims was like Muslims feel when they reach near Makkah or Madina.
He said Pakistan would provide facilities to the Sikh pilgrims."The next year you come here, you will find every kind of facilities," he said.
Khan lauded Navjot Singh Sidhu and said he was impressed by former cricketer's command of the Sufiana Kalam.
Imran Khan described the situation between India and Pakistan with a verse of Munir Niazi that goes "Kuch Sher de log vi Zalam san, Kuj Sanu marran da shoq vi Si".
He said both the countries cannot move forward without breaking the chains of past.
Khan cited examples of France and Germany who fought many wars. "If France and Germany can move forward, why can't we?"
He said all the political parties, government and the army in Pakistan were on same page.
"We want civilized relationship. Kashmir is the only problem. Are not we capable of solving a dispute? We need will to resolve the issue," he said.
"Think about the potential we have. I want good relationship with India. If we open our borders and start trade, poverty would decline," he said.
Citing China's example, he said no other country has lifted as many people out of poverty as China.
He said he was unable to understand the criticism against Sidhu when he returned to India after attending his oath taking ceremony.
"What other options do we have other than friendship," he said.
The prime minister said both Pakistan and India can learn a lot from each other.
He once against reiterated if India takes one step towards friendship Pakistan will take two steps.
The prime minister was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and other government officials.
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa was also present.
According to Geo News, the prime minister was briefed about the corridor project upon his arrival.
The ceremony was also being attended by an Indian delegation , ambassadors of several countries as well as local and Indian Sikh pilgrims.
Cricketer tunred Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu was also among the prominent guests who were invited to the ceremony. He sat next to the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
"I am extremely happy to be part of this historic ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor," he said.
He said Pakistan always wanted to fulfill the demand of opening of the Kartapur crossing but it couldn't happen due to tense relations between India and Pakistan.
Navjot Singh Sidhu
Speaking at the ceremony, Sidhu commended Prime Minster Imran Khan for the initiative and reiterated that religion should not be looked at from the prism of politics and terrorism.
He said putting an end to terrorism and bloodshed, peace should be brought back to the region.
Sindh said whenever the history of corridor would be written, PM Khan's name would be on the first page of the books.
He said Prime Minister and the Pakistan military leaders fulfilled their promise.
Sidhu said Pakistani and Indian government should move forward .
"This is historic day for our nation. Desire of millions of Sikhs around the world have been fulfilled today," Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Cabinet Minister of Indian government said while speaking at the ceremony.
"A new history is being written,. Who would have thought we would reach here. Not even you Mr Prime Minister when you played cricket, nor our PM ,when he sold tea, would have thought that he would one day become a leader of millions of people," she said.
He called the initiative peace corridor which he said could become basis for the new start between Pakistan and India .
Earlier in the day, Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor had announced that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa will also attend the ceremony.
Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman on Wednesday shared on his Twitter account picture of some guests including diplomats of different countries who flew from Islamabad to Lahore on a special flight to attend the ceremony .
"The world comes together for the #Pakistankartarpurspirit - diplomats attending the groundbreaking ceremony by PM #ImranKhan ," he said in Tweet .
The caption accompanied multiple pictures of diplomats next to an aircraft .
In his first tweet from the Islamabad airport, Dr Mohammad Faisal wrote: "The journey begins. We move towards the peace which has remained elusive. A huge success for #Pakistan. A dream coming true for the Sikhs #Kartarpur #Islamabad
According to Geo News, the prime minister will be accompanied by some members of his cabinet and Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar.
Muhammad Saleh Zafir adds
Details regarding the crossing/immigration formalities and construction work for the road and buildings, including check-points, are being worked out by the two sides since the facility will be exclusively for Sikh pilgrims who will perform their religious obligations at the resting place of Sikh religion founder Baba Guru Nanak at Kartarpur Sahib.
It is likely that the movement of Sikhs to Kartarpur from India on regular basis will be possible mid next year. The opening of the corridor was first assured by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa in August last when visiting Indian political leader and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu requested him for the same. The corridor will connect the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Narowal district with Dera Baba Nanak in India's Gurdaspur district. Pakistan will build the corridor from the Indian border to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab's Gurdaspur district up-to the border will be constructed by India. It will facilitate the Sikh pilgrims visiting their most sacred sites in Pakistan.
The initiative for opening the corridor was taken by Pakistan which was later endorsed by the Indian side. The initiative has widely been lauded both in Pakistan and India as a step towards building bridges between the two countries. Well-placed sources told The News that ambassadors/high commissioners posted in Islamabad will attend the opening ceremony in large number. They will travel to Lahore by a special flight for their onward journey to the Karatarpur Sahib.
Navjot Singh Sidhu led his country’s delegation to Pakistan on Tuesday for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor. The Indian delegation comprising Minister for Food Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Minister for Housing Hardeep S Puri and Sidhu reached Lahore through the Wagah Border crossing where they were received by officials of the Punjab Rangers.
Speaking to journalists upon crossing the Wagah Border, Sidhu thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for inviting him to the ground-breaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor. “The seed that Imran Khan sowed three months ago has become a tree now and me and 120 million Sikhs could not be happier. I want to thank the Pakistani prime minister and officials,” he said.
“Karturpur Corridor will prove to be a path of peace and instead of 60 years, happiness can come in six months through it. This corridor will be the reason that borders between both the countries open,” Sidhu added.
Sidhu said he has brought a message of love and peace and added, “There are numerous artistes and cricketers in both the countries which everyone loves and there needs to be cricket matches between India and Pakistan.
"Religion should not be seen through the eyes of politics," the former Indian cricketer-turned-politician said. Responding to a question regarding criticism by some Indian ministers of his decision to visit Pakistan, Sidhu said, "I forgive those who criticised me. I have been a fan of Imran Khan since I was a child," Sidhu said as he joked and recited verses in Punjabi.
Later, speaking in Geo News programme Capital Talk, Sidhu said that India and Pakistan should hold talks to resolve their issues. He said all deadlocks can be ended if there is political will.
When asked about criticism in India for him hugging General Bajwa in his last visit here, Sidhu said that he would do the same if he gets the chance to do it again.
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