ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has waived the condition of carrying passports for Sikh pilgrims coming to Pakistan from India through Kartarpur Corridor to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartar­pur on the occasion of 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, which is to be observed on Nov 9.

Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Friday that not only the restriction of passport but also the condition of registration of pilgrims 10 days prior to their arrival in Pakistan had also been lifted.

Now Sikh pilgrims have no need to carry their passports with them while entering Pakistan through the newly-built Kartarpur Corridor between Pakistan and India. They would, however, be required to have valid identity documents with them.

The prime minister also announced that no visa and other fees would be charged from Sikh pilgrims.

Registration condition for pilgrims also lifted

“For Sikhs coming for pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived two requirements: I) they won’t need a passport, just a valid ID; II) they no longer have to register 10 days in advance. Also, no fee will be charged on the day of the inauguration and on Guru Ji’s 550th birthday,” the prime minister said in a tweet.

After long negotiations, Pakistan and India signed an agreement last month paving the way for the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor this month ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

The four-kilometre-long corridor, which will be inaugurated on Nov 9, will provide pilgrims a visa-free link between Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur and the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Indian Punjab.

Up to 5,000 Indian Sikhs have been allowed access daily, with plans to eventually double the capacity in future.

Prime Minister Khan will inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor project on Nov 9. He has invited former cricket star and Indian Sikh leader Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the ceremony.

Mr Sidhu has accepted the invitation of Mr Khan and has held out an assurance that he will attend the function.

Media reports said that India had shared with Pakistan a list of 575 people who would be part of the first Sikh delegation to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib through the Kartarpur corridor.

The group is likely to be led by former prime minister Manmohan Singh while Amrinder Singh, Union minister Hardeep Puri, Harsimrat Kaur Badal and MPs and MLAs from Punjab will also be part of the group.

Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is located 4.5 kilometres from international border in Narowal district of Pakistan. It is one of the holiest places for Sikhs where Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji settled and preached for last 18 years of his life and it is his last resting place also.

Gurdwara Baba Guru Nanak comprises 42 acres of land. The project that was to be completed in three and a half years, has been completed in just 10 months.

Initially, 76 immigration counters have been set up to cater to 5000 Sikh pilgrims who will come from India and later 152 counters will be built to serve 10,000 pilgrims.

The border terminal has been built 350 meters away from Zero-point and the pilgrims will be transported to the Gurdwara through buses where they will be given airport-like facilities, a media report said.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2019