ISLAMABAD      -    Pakistan yesterday said that the Kartarpur corridor – to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan tomorrow - will change the history of the region.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said that over 10, 000 Sikhs from India and other parts of the world will attend the inauguration of Kartarpur corridor by Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

Faisal regretted that the Indian posture of not reciprocating to Pakistan’s peace overtures for resolution of all outstanding disputes including those relating to Kashmir, water, Sir Creek and Siachen. He said that Indian cricketer and politician Navjot Singh Sidhu has been issued visa to attend the opening ceremony of the corridor on November 9.

The pilgrims from different countries including Canada, Britain, America, Singapore, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, New Zealand and Australia will also participate in the inauguration ceremony, he added.

To a question, the spokesperson said that the opening of the Kartarpur corridor was the sole initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan which was followed by the Indian side.

Faisal said that no fee will be charged from the Sikh pilgrims coming to Kartarpur on November 9 and November 10. “The passport condition for the travellers has been waived only for one year,” he said.

Under the 1974 agreement with New Delhi regarding religious pilgrims, he said, about 5000 pilgrims will come from India whereas Pakistan’s missions abroad had issued the same number of visas.

The spokesperson said that Kartarpur was a dedicated corridor for the people from India to come, pay respect and go back the same day. “They cannot go anywhere else,” he clarified.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated that Sikhs from all countries will travel to the world‘s largest Gurdwara. “This Gurdwara will strengthen local economy, many jobs will also be created in travelling, religious tourism and hospitality sectors,” he said in a social media statement. “Buddhists have also been coming to visit different religious spots in Pakistan.”

The historic agreement aims to allow the intending Sikh pilgrims visit Baba Guru Nanak’s shrine – one of Sikhism’s holiest sites in Pakistan where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, died in the 16th Century.

The Sikh minority in India has long sought easier access to the temple, which is just over the border in Pakistan. Five thousand pilgrims shall be permitted to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib through the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor on any given day, with an additional provision for more pilgrims on special days including Gurpurab and Baisakhi, subject to capacity.

Considering the agreement, the amount of revenue Pakistan can generate sums up to $100,000 every day and since the corridor will remain open 365 days of the year, it can potentially generate a direct income of $36.5 million.

The shrine is about four kilometres from the border. The crossing and corridor - including a road, bridge over the Ravi River and immigration office - will replace a drawn-out visa process and circuitous journey through Pakistan. 

Dr Faisal said Pakistan hoped that the corridor will provide an opportunity especially to the Sikh community to come and observe the prayers at Baba Guru Nanak Sahib’s shrine.

The spokesperson said humanitarian nightmare in occupied Kashmir was worsening with continuous military lockdown and communications blockade by India.

He said that around eight million Kashmiri people had been cut off from the rest of the world. He asked the world community to impress upon India to half blatant human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and move towards resolution of the festering dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions.

Kabul urged to ensure diplomats’ safety

To a question about the harassment of Pakistani diplomats in Afghanistan, the spokesperson urged the Afghan government to fulfil its responsibility regarding protection of the members of Pakistani mission.

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

About Yemen peace agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia, Dr Faisal expressed the confidence that this will lead to reduction of tension in the region.

He said that dates for the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were being worked out. He said the visit will soon take place.