By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday clarified that the passport waiver for Kartarpur pilgrims would extend up to one year as a special gesture on the 550th birth anniversary of Sikh spiritual leader Baba Guru Nanak.
FO Spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal was responding to a question on a statement by Director General ISPR where he termed passport a must requisite for Indian pilgrims using Kartarpur Corridor.
“This is the formal position of Foreign Office and the ISPR statement is also in line with it,” he said.
The spokesman mentioned that $20 service fee per pilgrim would not be charged for first two days after inauguration of Corridor, i.e. November 9 and 10. He said the package of goodwill gestures also included abolishing the requirement of 10-day
advance intimation.He confirmed that Pakistan had issued visa to Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu for his visit to holy shrine of Baba Guru Nanak.
Dr Faisal said Pakistan was expecting a massive inflow of Sikhs from all over the world to visit their revered site, adding that the incumbent government had in particular interest in promotion of religious tourism.
He said promotion of Hindu and Buddhist sacred situated inside Pakistan was also under consideration as the country was a cradle of ancient civilizations for centuries.
The spokesman rejected the propaganda linking Pakistan’s efforts on Kartarpur Corridor to encouraging Khalistan movement, saying, “There is no such negativity in our policy.”
He said Kartarpur Corridor was solely the initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which was subsequently followed by India after much hesitation.
Asked if Pakistan would like to open similar Corridors with Kargil and Laddakh to facilitate meeting of families living across the border, he said Pakistan had no objection on opening of more passages, however India’s hesitation in holding discussions on several matters was a major hurdle.
On upcoming visit of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said it would take place soon for which the dates were being finalized.
On a recent map issued by the government of India identifying Azad Kashmir as well as certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan as its territory, the spokesman said, “Pakistan’s position is in line with UN Security Council resolutions which states that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory.”
He said the final resolution of J&K territory only rested with holding of a free and fair plebiscite in the Valley.
To a question on the U.S. State Department’s ‘Country Report on Terrorism 2018’, the spokesman said he “completely rejected the presence of any terror groups inside Pakistan.”