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Sikhs of the world “won over” by Pakistan PM Imran Khan

In what many are a calling a “goodwill gesture,” Imran Khan announced earlier this month a special concession of waiving the passport requirement and fee charges for Sikh pilgrims to allow them to visit Kartarpur, making it much easier and cheaper to travel to the shrine from India. [1]

Kartarpur is a town located in the Punjab region of Pakistan. It is where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, spent the last years of his life, making it one of the holiest shrines for Indian Sikhs today. [2]

Sikhism is generally described as a monotheistic religion that worships the Creator alone. Due to their description of God being abstract and without attribute or image, some regard them as pantheist or monistic. They venerate gurus (teachers or guides) but are generally against worshipping them. After the death of the founder Guru Nanak, some Muslims and (what were to become known as) Sikhs famously disputed over his body, each claiming him as their saint.=

After tough negotiations, India and Pakistan signed a landmark agreement for the corridor connecting Darbar Sahib in Pakistan’s Kartarpur region across the Ravi river with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in the Gurdaspur district in Punjab, located four kilometres away. The agreement is an attempt to facilitate visa free movement for Indian pilgrims.

Up to 5,000 pilgrims can visit the shrine everyday through the daily operational corridor agreed on by the two countries. [3] Additional pilgrims will be allowed on special occasions, subject to capacity expansion of facilities by Pakistan.

Imran Khan tweeted:

The news has been met with praise from Indian nationals, with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh saying he was “happy and grateful,” but urged Prime Minister Khan to extend the waiver for all citizens of secular India, not only to Sikhs.

Singh also reiterated for the renunciation of the $20 service fee on all days of the year, instead of only two. [4]

“The Medina of the Sikh community”

The historic Kartarpur corridor was formally inaugurated on Saturday 9th November in the wake of the 550th birth anniversary of the religion’s first guru. [5]

Speaking to a crowd of over 12,000 devotees in his opening testimony on the day of the inauguration, Imran Khan said:

“We believe that the road to prosperity of region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace.”

“Today we are not only opening the border, but also our hearts for the Sikh community.”

Amongst the crowd were former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, serving from 2004 to 2014, as well as politician and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu. President Modi was at the Dera Baba Sahib in Gurdaspur in India on Saturday saying “It will be easy to pay obeisance at the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara after the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor.”

He added:

“I want to thank Pakistan Prime Minister Miya Imran Khan ji as he understood and honoured the feelings of Indians about the Kartarpur Corridor and worked towards its completion.” [6]

The move reinforces Khan’s commitment to regional peace, a step in the direction of hope and improvement on the strained ties between India and Pakistan, although his critics have accused him of political posturing. Khan said:

“This is the Medina of the Sikh community. I didn’t have any idea what place Kartarpur held in the hearts until a year ago. A leader always brings people together. He doesn’t spread hatred and gather votes.”

“I asked Modi why can’t we resolve this issue. What is happening in Kashmir is beyond territorial issue, it’s about human rights. Eighty lakh people are trapped by Army. This is about human rights. They are being treated like animals. Peace won’t prevail like this. Because of this all our relations have soured. If PM Modi is listening to me, then I’d say that peace prevails through justice. Give justice to the people of Kashmir.” 5

Despite a history plagued with hostility and trauma left by the British Empire, this rare display of cooperation between the neighbouring countries has been a welcome sight and a “lifetime wish” for many citizens, including Gurmukh Singha. Born in Punjab before it was split in the partition in 1947, Singha made his return on Saturday, along with 700 other pilgrims, with the opening of a road link between India and Pakistan. Singha commented:

“I did not think this was possible in my lifetime. I hope this will bring the two countries together.”









About Hamza Saleem

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