By Dawn | PAKISTAN |
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday performed the groundbreaking of the long-awaited corridor connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur area of Narowal district to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district today (28 Nov 2018).
A large number of Sikh yatris ─ both local and Indian ─ along with Indian Minister for Food Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Minister for Housing Hardeep S. Puri, Indian Punjab Minister of Local Government, Tourism, Cultural Affairs, and Museums Navjot Singh Sidhu, and Indian journalists and foreign diplomats are attending the ceremony.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed, and Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi are also in attendance.
Facilities to be introduced for Sikh pilgrims
The event began with a video briefing on the steps that will be undertaken to facilitate Sikh pilgrims seeking to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.
The Pakistan government is aiming to open the four-kilometre-long visa-free corridor on Baba Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary next year.
In the first phase of the project set to be completed before the Nov 2019 target, a boarding terminal will be set up near the border. Transportation will be arranged to shuttle pilgrims possessing a special permit to the gurdwara. An 800-metre-long bridge will also be built for this purpose across the River Ravi. Accommodation for 10,000 pilgrims will be prepared in this phase.
In the second phase, hotels and other accommodation will be constructed to house pilgrims arriving with visas. A 300-metre track starting from the border will be built for pilgrims carrying special permits, after which a 4.5km road will also be constructed from the border terminal to the gurdwara. From there, pilgrims will be able to travel by foot or in cars.
The border terminal will have immigration, parking and medical facilities, a tuc shop, a souvenir shop and other amenities.
After receiving their permits, special transport will take the pilgrims to a parking area near the gurdwara. Security posts will be set up to ensure the safety of pilgrims. When the pilgrims reach the parking, biometric verification of their identities will be conducted, and then they will be able to enter the gurdwara premises and worship freely within the specified time.
The facilities available will include a place to worship, food arrangements, a library, a souvenir shop and a flower shop.
Pilgrims who have been issued visas and are travelling from India via the Wagah border or from other countries to the Lahore and Sialkot airports will reach the gurdwara through predetermined routes. A separate parking area will be created for those pilgrims.
Pakistani Sikh yatris will need to carry travel documents and identification in order to enter the gurdwara premises.
All arrangements will be made for the safe and timely return of pilgrims, who will exit after showing their permits and going through biometric verification. They will then be transported to the border terminal via special transportation and, after returning their permits, will be able to return to the Indian side either by foot or their own transport.
International peace bridge connecting Kartarpur in Pakistan and Dera Baba Nanak in India (Asia Samachar, 21 Sept 2018)