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November 8, 2019

Over 10,000 Sikhs to attend Kartarpur opening tomorrow

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November 8, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Thursday over 10,000 Sikhs from India and other parts of the world will attend the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor to be performed by Prime Minister Imran Khan tomorrow (Saturday).

At his weekly news briefing, Foreign Office Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said under the 1974 agreement with New Delhi regarding religious pilgrims, about 5,000 pilgrims will come from India, adding: “Our missions abroad have issued the same number of visas”. He said the pilgrims from different countries, including Canada, Britain, USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, New Zealand and Australia will attend the inauguration ceremony.

“Kartarpur is a dedicated corridor for the people from India to come, pay respect and go back the same day. They cannot go anywhere else,” he added. Responding to a question on a statement by director general Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) wherein he termed passport a must requirement for Indian pilgrims using Kartarpur Corridor, Dr Faisal clarified that the passport waiver for Kartarpur pilgrims would extend up to one year as a special gesture on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak. “This is the formal position of Foreign Office and the ISPR statement is also in line with it,” he added.

The spokesman mentioned that $20 service fee per pilgrim would not be charged for first two days after inauguration of the corridor i.e. November 9 and 10. He added the package of goodwill gestures also included abolishing the requirement of 10-day advance intimation. He confirmed that Pakistan had issued visa to Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu for his visit to the shrine.

He also said promotion of Hindu and Buddhist sacred places situated inside Pakistan was also under consideration as the country happens to be a cradle of ancient civilizations for centuries.The spokesman rejected the propaganda linking Pakistan’s efforts on Kartarpur Corridor to encouraging Khalistan movement, saying: “There is no such negativity in our policy”. He said Kartarpur Corridor was solely the initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which was subsequently followed by India after much hesitation.

Asked if Pakistan would like to open similar corridors with Kargil and Laddakh to facilitate meeting of families living across the border, he said Pakistan had no objection on opening of more passages, however, India’s hesitation in holding discussions on several matters was a major hurdle.

On a recent map issued by the government of India identifying Azad Kashmir as well as certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan as its territory, the spokesman said: “Pakistan’s position is in line with UN Security Council resolutions which state that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory”. He said the final resolution of Jammu and Kashmir territory only rested with holding of a free and fair plebiscite in the valley.

On upcoming visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said it would take place soon for which the dates were being finalised.

To a question on the US State Department’s “Country Report on Terrorism 2018”, the spokesman said he “completely rejected the presence of any terror groups inside Pakistan”.When asked about the harassment of Pakistani diplomats in Afghanistan, the spokesperson urged the Afghan government to fulfill its responsibility regarding protection of the members of Pakistani mission.

He said the embassy of Pakistan in Kabul will be processing visa applications for medical emergency during the closure of consulate service there.

When asked to comment on Yemen peace agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia, the spokesperson expressed the confidence that this will lead to reduction of tension in the region.

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