New Delhi: Pakistan will be charging $20 service fee from pilgrims visiting Kartarpur gurdwara even on November 9, going back on the promise made by its Prime Minister Imran Khan that it will be waived for the first two days of the launch of the Corridor.
Official sources here said Pakistan has conveyed this to India.
The decision goes against the announcement made by Khan on October 31.
“For Sikhs coming for pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived off 2 requirements: i) they won’t 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,” the Pakistan Prime Minister had tweeted.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal reiterated yesterday that his country was waiving the $20 service fee from pilgrims on November 9 and 10.
Pakistan’s decision to levy the service fee on every pilgrim has been an issue of discord, with India insisting that the pilgrimage was supposed to be free as per the initial understanding.
India has shared its deep disappointment with Pakistan for its refusal to waive the fee, even as the bilateral agreement was signed on October 24 to operationalise the corridor to coincide with the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.
The corridor to the gurdwara, located about 4.5 km from the Indian border in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab, will be operational throughout the year, with 5,000 pilgrims allowed each day.
Ahead of the opening of Kartarpur corridor, Khan has also been overruled by the country’s army on the issue of the requirement of passport by the Indian pilgrims.
While the Pakistan Prime Minister had said the pilgrims “won’t need a passport — just a valid ID”, Pakistan military spokesman Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor said yesterday that passport would be required because of security reasons.
Commenting on the contradictory voices emerging from Pakistan, Spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry Raveesh Kumar said yesterday at a media briefing that “a sense of confusion continues” in Pakistan.
Kumar said the Indian government would go by the bilateral MoU inked between the two sides on the Kartarpur corridor, under which passport will be required.
“As of today, there is a bilateral document which has been signed between the two sides, which very clearly specifies the documents needed to undertake the visit,” he said.
He asserted that the MoU could not be changed unilaterally.
According to the MoU, the travel will be visa free and the pilgrims will have a choice to visit individually or in groups, and also to travel on foot.
Under the agreement, Indian government will inform Pakistan authorities about the list of the pilgrims 10 days in advance and pilgrims will be notified through message of mail four days ahead of the travel.
The corridor will be open from dawn to dusk and the pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day.
The corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance. The Pakistan side has assured India to make sufficient provision for ‘Langar’ and distribution of ‘Prasad’.