No passport required from Indian Kartarpur pilgrims

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–FO says $20 service fee will also be waived on inauguration day on Nov 9 and birthday of Guru Nanak on Nov 12

 

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday formally clarified that it has waived the passport requirement for Indian Sikh pilgrims scheduled to cross over into Pakistan on the eve of 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

“The government has waived [the requirement] for pilgrims to carry their passports for the 550th birth celebrations,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said during his weekly press briefing, adding that the $20 service fee will also be waived on the day of inauguration (Nov 9) and the birthday of Guru Nanak (Nov 12).

“The requirement to convey pilgrim information to the Pakistan government 10 days prior to entry through the Corridor has also been waived off.”

Dr Faisal said that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and the government have been informed of this.

Clouds of confusion started to loom over the earlier announcement made by Prime Minister Imran Khan to waive off the passport requirement for Indian pilgrims after Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said a day earlier that entry into Pakistan will be a “legal entry – a permit-based entry”.

On Nov 1, Prime Minister Imran announced that Indian yatrees 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 be waived.


During an interview on Wednesday, the chief military spokesperson had said that the Corridor was “one-way corridor” and Sikh pilgrims “would only be permitted to visit the gurdwara and won’t be allowed to leave its premises while international yatrees would not be allowed to cross the Indo-Pak border”.

However, Indian media took the statement out of context and accused Pakistan of taking a U-turn on the passport requirement.

NAVJOT SIDHU TO ATTEND INAUGURATION CEREMONY:

Dr Faisal confirmed that Indian cricket star and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu will attend the Kartarpur inauguration ceremony on Nov 9 and will be issued a visa in this regard.

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.

‘KARTARPUR SOLELY PAKISTAN’S INITIATIVE’:

The FO spokesperson further said that the Kartarpur Corridor was solely Pakistan’s initiative.

“Not to rub it in, but this was solely Pakistan’s initiative. This was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative which India then agreed to,” he said.

US REPORT ON ANTI-TERROR MEASURES:

Referring to a terrorism report issued by the US State Department, the spokesperson reiterated that Islamabad is ‘disappointed’ that the sacrifices and contributions made over the last two decades were overlooked.

“It completely overlooks factual information and contribution made by Pakistan over the last two decades. We hope Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices will be fully recognised,” he said.

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 the 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.