Tuesday 12 November 2019
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PM Imran addressing Kartarpur Corridor inauguration ceremony

Prime Minister Imran Khan is addressing the ceremony being held to formally inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor, which will allow Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit one of the religion s holiest sites in Pakistan. Former Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu earlier addressed the ceremony, thanking Prime Minister Imran for taking the bold step to build the Kartarpur Corridor without looking at gains or losses . Navjot Singh Sidhu addresses the ceremony. — DawnNewsTV You have won hearts, he said while addressing the premier. Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri in his address said today s ceremony and the opening of the Kartapur Corridor is the biggest message of peace and love since Partition. Imran Khan, the promise you had made to the millions of Sikhs has been fulfilled. And I congratulate Sardar Navjot Singh as it was you who brought this idea to the prime minister. Baba Guru Nanak spent the last days of his life here. He spent his life bringing people together and spreading the message of love. In your last days here you continued to spread the message of oneness, truth, peace. His teachings carry the lessons of humanity and its well-being. This was the prime minister s personal interest and his commitment, he said, adding that he prayed Prime Minister Imran will be rewarded by God for winning people s hearts. Doors of Kartarpur have been opened Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his address gave the credit for the project coming to fruition to Prime Minister Imran Khan and the government team. The doors of Kartarpur have been opened for you, the foreign minister said while addressing members of the Sikh community across the world. He said the message of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev was one of peace and love, but seeds of hate are being sown in the region. If the Berlin Wall can be demolished, if the Kartarpur Corridor can be opened, then the temporary boundary of the Line of Control can also be ended, Qureshi said, adding that the promise of granting the right of self-determination to the people of occupied Kashmir can also be granted. He asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had earlier in the day thanked Prime Minister Imran, whether he will also give his Pakistani counterpart the chance to thank him. You can do so, he told Modi by lifting the curfew in occupied Kashmir, ending the use of pellet guns, ending the violations of human rights [and] by ending the communication blackout . Manmohan leads Sikhs delegation Sikhs from across the border started arriving in Pakistan today to make a historic pilgrimage to the shrine of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, which is located in Kartarpur, as Islamabad and New Delhi make history by opening the Kartarpur Corridor today. Prime Minister Imran arrived at the corridor inauguration ceremony using the shuttle service being used by pilgrims, according to state broadcaster PTV. The premier, who is accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri and other officials, is also expected to address the gathering. Former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh led the first delegation of Sikh pilgrims as they crossed into Pakistan through the Kartarpur Corridor. Indian Punjab s Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was also part of the jatha (caravan). I hope India and Pakistan relations improve enormously as a result of this beginning, Manmohan told PTV as he walked towards the Pakistan side, terming the occasion a big moment . The Indian Punjab chief minister said they were all happy because it had been a desire of Sikhs to visit their religious sites in Pakistan for 70 years. Indian Punjab CM Amarinder Singh speaks to Pakistani media. — DawnNewsTV This is a beginning, I hope it s going to continue and many more gurdwaras are going to be allowed, he remarked. Former Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu and Bollywood actor-turned-politician Sunny Deol are attending the opening ceremony. Foreign diplomats, accompanied by Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal and Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, are also in attendance. In pictures: Spruced up Gurdwara Darbar Sahib set to welcome Sikh pilgrims from around the world Before seeing off the first group of pilgrims — who will be received by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the shrine — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed members of the Sikh community and hailed the opening of the corridor. I also thank Pakistan s Prime Minister Imran Khan for understanding India s wishes and turning Kartarpur into reality, Modi said in his speech. He also thanked the labour in both countries for completing the construction in such a short time. The Indian premier said that Baba Guru Nanak was not just a revered figure for Sikhs but for the entire humanity. About 8,000-10,000 pilgrims are expected to arrive from around the world to mark Guru Nanak s 550th birthday on November 12. The premier had performed the groundbreaking of the visa-free corridor last year. Since then, the government has employed hundreds of labourers to spruce up the shrine, including building a border immigration checkpoint and a bridge, as well as expanding the site s grounds. After tough negotiations between Islamabad and New Delhi, Pakistan and India had finally signed an agreement regarding the project last month. In this picture taken on November 6, workers clean the floor at the Shrine of Baba Guru Nanak Dev at the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, ahead of its opening in Kartarpur. — AFP Ahead of the opening, the prime minister also announced special waivers in order to facilitate Indian pilgrims. Pilgrims who arrive from India will no longer need a passport to cross over into Pakistan as long as they have a valid identity. The premier had also announced that he had directed that the condition for pilgrims to register 10 days before their arrival at the Kartarpur shrine be waived. Furthermore, the pilgrims who arrive on the day of the Kartarpur Corridor s opening and on Baba Guru Nanak s 550th birth anniversary will not be charged any fee to visit. Up to 5,000 Indian Sikhs have been allowed access daily, with plans to eventually double the capacity. Sikhs from around the world — including some from India who entered from the main border crossing at Wagah after obtaining visas — have been arriving in Pakistan ahead of the celebrations for several days already. Opening border and hearts In a statement issued hours before the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, Prime Minister Imran congratulated the Sikh community residing in Pakistan as well as in India on the occasion. The premier said that the unprecedented gesture of goodwill [...] is a reflection of our deep respect for Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji and religious sentiments of Sikh community . Today we are not only opening border but also our hearts for the Sikh community, the statement read. The prime minister in his statement further said: The inauguration today is also a testimony of our commitment towards peace of the region. We believe that the road to prosperity of region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace. We believe that interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence will provide us an opportunity to work for larger interests of people of the sub-continent. While congratulating the Sikh community once again, I also wish to thank all those who contributed towards transforming this vision in reality in record time of 10 months only. Tantalisingly close For up to 30 million Sikhs around the world, it is one of their holiest places. When Pakistan was carved out of colonial India at independence from Britain in 1947, Kartarpur ended up on the western side of the border — though most of the region s Sikhs remained on the other side. Read: The Kartarpur Corridor is more than a symbol of new peace For them, it is tantalisingly close — just four kilometres inside Pakistan, so near that Indian Sikhs have been known to stand on the other side and simply gaze across the divide at the site. People hold balloons arranged in the shape of number 550, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, in Amritsar on November 8. — AFP But decades of enmity between India and Pakistan, nuclear arch-rivals who have fought three wars and countless skirmishes since independence, has left extreme restrictions on their ability to visit. “This land is sacred for them,” Habib Khan, the 63-year-old imam of a small mosque just outside the gurdwara, told AFP on Friday. Vans of pilgrims could be seen travelling through Kartarpur on Friday. The Indian flag could be seen flying across the border, just beyond fields dotted with eucalyptus and guava trees — though it was half obscured by the heavy smog that has blanketed large swathes of South Asia in recent days. Contingents of Rangers dotted the rice-growing region which, being so close to the border, is heavily secured, with multiple checkpoints. With additional reporting by Sanaullah Khan in Islamabad.

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