Kartarpur Corridor to open for pilgrims today amid last-minute hiccups
HISTORIC DAY PM Modi, Imran Khan to inaugurate the passage on two sides of the border; Pak says won’t charge $20 fee on Nov 9, 12
NEWDELHI/ISLAMABAD: A day before its opening, confusion and controversy swirled around the Kartarpur Corridor on Friday, with Indian officials blaming this on actions by Pakistani authorities, including the withdrawal and reinstatement of the waiver of a service fee for pilgrims.
The two countries will inaugurate separate sections of the corridor linking Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur to Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan’s Kartarpur on Saturday. Indian authorities acknowledge the corridor offers a faint hope for improving the atmosphere, but continue to be apprehensive about the project being leveraged by Pakistani elements to fan separatism in Punjab.
On Friday, the corridor was embroiled in a fresh controversy as reports emerged of an exhibit at the shrine featuring an Indian bomb purportedly dropped on the gurdwara — where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent the last 18 years of his life — during the 1971 war.
There was also confusion as Pakistan’s foreign office first said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to waive the $20 service fee for Indian pilgrims on November 9 and 12 had been withdrawn, and then announced the waiver would be implemented on the two days. “PM Imran Khan had also announced waiver of service charges of US$20 on 9 and 12 November 2019. Abiding by the PM’S commitment, Pakistan will not receive any service charge from pilgrims on these two dates,” foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi ended the confusion later and said that Pakistan will not charge the service fee from pilgrims visiting on November 9 and 12.
Faisal also sought to blame India for “creating confusion” and tweeted that New Delhi had refused “concessions” offered by Islamabad, but people familiar with the developments said it was Pakistan that had created uncertainty by trying to unilaterally abrogate the bilateral agreement on the corridor signed on October 24.
A security man checking the area near the passenger terminal at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur on Friday.