ISLAMABAD   -   Opening of the Kartarpura corridor to facilitate Sikh community is an effort to normalise ties with India, Information Minister Fawad Chauhdry said Friday after the federal cabinet formally approved opening of the border passage.

Speaking at a news conference after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chauhdry said the cabinet had approved opening of Kartarpura corridor to facilitate Sikh community of India.

The minister announced Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform opening of Kartarpur border corridor on November 28. He said Kartarpur was a sacred place for Sikh community living across the globe. “This is a peace initiative. We expect India to respond. We have always been the first to take positive steps,” he added.

This week, Pakistan and India took a huge step towards peace by announcing to open the Kartarpur corridor for visa-free entry to the Indian Sikh yatrees (pilgrims). Pakistan has already conveyed to India its decision to open Kartarpura Corridor for Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary.

Earlier, India’s cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the development of the Kartarpur corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district to the International Border.

This will give Indian pilgrims easy access to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi river, in Pakistan, where Guru Nanak Dev spent 18 years. It was former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who made the first announcement that Pakistan was willing to open the Kartarpur corridor.  He was passed on this information by Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August.

Fawad Chaudhry said it was a longstanding desire of the Sikh people to facilitate them in visiting their sacred places so that they can perform their religious rituals there. He said visa-free entry will be provided to Sikh pilgrims from India and a mechanism in this regard is being finalised.

The minister said it will be a mega event and visa relaxation will be offered to Indian journalists enabling them to attend the event. He said local and international journalists will also be invited to witness the programme. He said Islamabad wanted normalization of ties with New Delhi to defeat poverty and this endeavor will be pursued with utmost sincerity.

The minister also said Arif Usmani had been appointed as the President of the National Bank of Pakistan. Usmani had previously held a senior post in a private bank.

A summary containing three names - Arif Usmani, Javed Kureshi, Nadeem Lodhi and Wajahat Hussain - were sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Usmani was picked.

On August 31, the federal cabinet approved the removal of the then NBP President Saeed Ahmed Khan for his alleged involvement in money laundering, and appointed Tariq Jamali as the acting president of the national bank.

Chaudhry said that the cabinet had decided to block unregistered second-hand mobiles in the country. He said that all smuggled mobiles will be blocked after December 31, 2018.

The information minister said used mobiles worth of about Rs2.5 billion were smuggled to Pakistan. He said that local mobiles should be encouraged.

The cabinet also reviewed the country’s political, economic and security situation. The cabinet was briefed on the law and order situation in the country and the cabinet condemned the recent acts of terrorism in the country. It also discussed the matter related to the chairman of Export Procession Zones Authority and approved a policy with regard to the usage of smuggled mobile phones.

Condemning the terrorist attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi, the Prime Minister said the law enforcing agencies took timely action to neutralise the terrorists.

He said: “We are determined to root out the menace of terrorism and those elements who are making efforts to destabilise the country.”

Khan said no other country had given such sacrifices and successfully curtailed the scourge of terrorism. He also condemned the attack in Orakzai Agency, calling it an attempt to create anarchy.

Finance Minister Asad Umar gave briefing to federal cabinet on agreements inked with the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.

The premier also reviewed targets given to the ministries and overall performance in first 100 days. The six-point agenda concerning future strategy in Balochistan was also discussed.