Indian cricket star and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu will attend the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9 and will be issued a visa in this regard, Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said on Thursday.
It emerged last week that the government had sent an invitation to Sidhu — who also attended the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan last year as well as the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor — to attend Saturday's inauguration.
A spokesperson for PTI had said that Sidhu accepted the invitation. According to India Today, Sidhu can cross over at Wagah Border with a visa. However, as an elected representative of an Indian state legislature, he requires political clearance to attend any ceremony held by the Pakistan government.
Addressing the weekly press briefing today, the FO spokesperson said that on the occasion of Baba Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary, Pakistan has:
- waived [the requirement] for pilgrims to carry their passports for the 550th birth celebrations
- waived the requirement to convey pilgrim information to the Pakistani government 10 days prior to entry through Kartarpur Sahib Corridor
- waived the $20 service charge per pilgrim per visit on Nov 9 and Nov 12
Dr Faisal said that the Indian High Commission and government have been informed of this.
On Nov 1, Prime Minister Imran announced that Sikh pilgrims who arrive from India to visit Kartarpur will no longer need a passport to cross over into Pakistan as long as they have a valid identity.
In a tweet, the premier had also announced that he had directed that the condition for pilgrims to register 10 days before their arrival to the Kartarpur shrine be waived.
The prime minister had further announced that 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.
After tough negotiations between Islamabad and New Delhi, Pakistan and India finally signed an agreement last month, paving the way for the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.
The four-kilometre-long corridor, which will be inaugurated on Saturday, 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.
Pakistan diplomats' harassment in Kabul
The FO spokesperson said that the Pakistan embassy in Kabul will be processing visa applications for medical emergency patients during the closure of consular services.
The war of words between Islamabad and Kabul over the alleged harassment of diplomats began on Sunday when the Pakistani government said that officers and staff of Pakistan embassy in Kabul were "obstructed on the road and the embassy vehicles were also hit by motorcycles while going towards the embassy". The consular section of Pakistan embassy later suspended its services.
"The officers and staff of the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul had been arrested continuously," said Dr Faisal today, adding that they have urged the Afghan government to ensure safety and security of [consular] personnel.