ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office (FO) formally clarified on Thursday that it has turned down the passport requirement for Indian Sikh pilgrims that are scheduled to enter into Pakistan due to the eve of 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
During the weekly press briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said “The government has waived [the requirement] for pilgrims to carry their passports for the 550th birth celebrations,” adding that the service fee of $20 will also be turned down on the day of inauguration (Nov 9) and the birthday of Guru Nanak (Nov 12).
Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said “The requirement to convey pilgrim information to the Pakistan government 10 days prior to entry through the Corridor has also been waived off.
Weekly briefing by the Spokesperson can be accessed on the following link:https://t.co/tc1yc8yfmC
— Dr Mohammad Faisal (@ForeignOfficePk) November 7, 2019
Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal added that the government along with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad has been informed of this.
Due to the earlier announcement made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan in order to waive off the passport requirement for Indian pilgrims, clouds of confusion started to loom over after Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor stated a day earlier that entry into Pakistan will be a “legal entry – a permit-based entry”.
On Nov 1, it was announced by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan that Indian yatrees will no longer need a passport in order to cross over into Pakistan as long as they have a valid identity. In a tweet, the Prime Minister Imran Khan had also announced that he had directed that the condition for pilgrims to register 10 days before their arrival be waived.
For Sikhs coming for pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived off 2 requirements: i) they wont need a passport – just a valid ID; ii) they no longer have to register 10 days in advance. Also, no fee will be charged on day of inauguration & on Guruji's 550th birthday
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) November 1, 2019
During an interview, the chief military spokesperson had said on Wednesday 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, the statement was taken out of context by the Indian media and it accused Pakistan of taking a U-turnon the passport requirement.
NAVJOT SIDHU TO ATTEND INAUGURATION CEREMONY:
It was confirmed by Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal that the Kartarpur inauguration ceremony will be attended by the Indian cricket star and former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Nov 9 and will be issued a visa in this regard.
It emerged last week that an invitation was sent by the government to Navjot Singh 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 the invitation was accepted by Navjot Singh Sidhu.
According to India Today, Navjot Singh Sidhu can cross over at Wagah Border with a visa. However, as an elected representative of an Indian state legislature, political clearance would be required in order to attend any ceremony held by the Pakistan government.
‘KARTARPUR SOLELY PAKISTAN’S INITIATIVE’:
The FO spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal further said that the Kartarpur Corridor was solely the initiative of Pakistan.
He said that “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.”
US REPORT ON ANTI-TERROR MEASURES:
The FO spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal further referred to a terrorism report issued by the US State Department and reiterated that Islamabad is ‘disappointed’ that the sacrifices and contributions made over the last two decades were overlooked.
He said that “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 recognized.”
PAKISTAN DIPLOMATS’ HARASSMENT IN KABUL
The FO spokesperson added that the visa applications would be processed by the Pakistan embassy in Kabul for medical emergency patients during the closure of consular services.
The war of words between Islamabad and Kabul began due to the alleged harassment of diplomats on Sunday when the Pakistani government said that staff and officers 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 FO spokesperson Dr Faisal said today, “The officers and staff of the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul had been arrested continuously,” adding that they have urged the Afghan government to ensure safety and security of [consular] personnel.