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

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - Front Page - Rezaul H Laskar and Im­tiaz Ah­mad

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.

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