By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD: Former Indian prime minister and Congress Party leader Manmohan Singh rejected Pakistan’s invitation to attend the inauguration ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor on November 9.
In a rare goodwill gesture, Pakistan has invited former Indian prime ministerManmohan Singh for the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor to pray at Kartarpur Sahib at the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, instead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The military leadership has also been consulted and taken on board before the announcement was made. It was COAS General Bajwa, who a year ago even before the formation of the Imran Khan government, announced this project.
Foreign Minister Shah MehmoodQureshi on Monday announced that Pakistan has decided to extend an invitation to former Indian prime ministerManmohan Singh for the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor, which is scheduled to be opened in November.
“Kartarpur corridor is an important project, the primeminister has a personal interest in it,” said Qureshi in a video message. One reason to invite Manmohan Singh is also because he observes the Sikh faith.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has already announced that he will lead an all-party delegation across the border to the historic GurdwaraDarbar Sahib — final resting place of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev, on the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9. Entry into Pakistan for Indian Sikhs is visa free.
The delegation that will accompany the chief minister to the historic Gurdwara in Pakistan would comprise all 117 Punjab MLAs, state LokSabha and RajyaSabha MPs, SGPC members, members of the SantSamaj and representatives of each recognised political party in the state, an official statement said.
“After consultations, Pakistan has decided to invite Manmohan Singh to the inauguration, who we hold in high regard. He will represent the Sikh community.” “On behalf of the government, as the foreign minister of Pakistan, I invite him to attend the inauguration of the Kartarpur Corridor,” said Qureshi, adding that the government also intends to send Singh a formal written invitation.
The foreign minister also invited Sikh yatrees in his message, saying: “We also await the Sikh yatrees to come and take part in the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak.” Pakistan has also agreed to allow 5,000 Sikh pilgrims from India to visit on a daily basis the GurdwaraDarbar Sahib in Narowalthrough the Kartarpur Corridor.
Despite a war-like situation after the Balakot Indian strikes and the recent tensions created by Modi’s decision to amend Article 370 in the Indian Constitution, the one thing that has remained untouched by both sides is commitment to the Kartarpur Corridor.
Kartarpur Corridor connects Pakistan’s Narowal city to India’s Gurdaspur district. Kartarpur Sahib Temple is one of the most revered temples for the Sikh community where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.
Meanwhile at the Foreign Office level two issues remain unresolved. India has demanded that the visa fees should be done away with and that Indian diplomats should be given access to the Gurdwara at all times.
Pakistan has asked India to be more flexible to ensure that a draft agreement can be finalised. Pilgrims will be provided Langar and Prasad and the visa fee collected would go into the maintenance of the Corridor.
“India needs to show some flexibility as we have taken an unprecedented initiative to reflect our commitment to the minorities”, Foreign Office spokesman had said. “We have agreed on at least 5,000 pilgrims from India but we are open to more.
There will be local pilgrims as well as international. We will allow entry to as many as we can under the capacity,” added the spokesman.