ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday announced that the government has issued a commemorative coin to mark 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikh religion, and invited Indian cricket star and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor project on Nov 9.

Mr Sidhu accepted the invitation and assured the government that he would definitely attend the function, said spokesman of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. “Mr Sidhu expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Imran Khan for inviting him to the event.”

According to the PTI central secretariat, the government sent an invitation to Mr Sidhu, who had attended the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan last year and had come under immense criticism in India, especially by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for hugging Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa who had told him about the peace initiative.

Navjot Singh Sidhu accepts Imran’s invitation to Kartarpur corridor inauguration

India has reportedly shared with Pakistan a list of 575 people who will be part of the first batch using the newly constructed Kartarpur corridor to cross border and visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. The group is expected to be led by former prime minister of India Manmohan Singh, while Amarinder Singh, Hardeep Puri, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and MPs and MLAs from Punjab will also be part of the group.

Mr Sidhu, too, would attend the function, according to the PTI spokesman.

Mr Sidhu said millions of Sikhs were eager to visit Kartarpur and were thankful to the government of Pakistan for completing the corridor project that provided easy access to them to pay homage to their religious leader.

In a statement, PTI Senator Faisal Javed said the Kartarpur project was a gift of Prime Minister Khan for the Sikh community. He said the PM along with the people of Pakistan would welcome their Sikh guests on Nov 9.

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur spread over 42 acres of land, is located 4.5 kilometres from the international border in district Narowal. It is one of the world’s holiest places for Sikhs where Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji settled and preached for the last 18 years of his life.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2019