Sidhu says Pak has decided to allow access to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara
Chandigarh, Sep 7: Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu claimed Friday that Pakistan has decided to allow Sikh pilgrims direct access to the historic Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara just across the border.
Sidhu's claim, based on a media report, came on a day when television channels showed Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa hailing militancy in kashmir and vowing to avenge the deaths of his country's soldiers.
Sidhu flatly refused to comment on Bajwa's remarks made during a Pakistan Day address, and pushed for talks with Islamabad.
The minister had faced flak after he returned home last month from the swearing-in ceremony of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad, where he was seen hugging Bajwa.
"A decision to open the Kartarpur corridor has been taken by Pakistan PM Imran Khan after consultations with various stakeholders,” Sidhu has now asserted.
"They are prepared to open the Kartarpur corridor on the occasion of Guru Nank Dev's 550th birth anniversary," he said.
He claimed Sikh pilgrims may not require a visa to undertake the pilgrimage.
"A formal announcement to this effect will be made by Pakistan very soon," he said.
He was apparently referring to comments attributed to Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who also urged resumption of the dialogue between the two countries.
Sidhu added that Pakistan was awaiting a positive reply from India for dates for the talks.
"I thank my friend Imran Khan for this noble goodwill gesture. He has not walked two steps but miles and opened the doors for infinite possibilities. I am indebted forever," he said.
Referring to the purported move by the Pakistan, he said this was a signal from the neighbouring nation, and appealed to the Centre to reciprocate.
"Pakistan has sent a message of friendship,” he said.
"Following the path of peace is the only way to resolve issues. Talks can bring prosperity to the region," he said.
"India should see this as a goodwill gesture. The desperation for a dialogue is visible from the Pakistan side," he said.
Defending his hug with Bajwa, Sidhu had said last month that he was overwhelmed when told that Pakistan was making efforts to allow access to Kartarpur Sahib.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had expressed unhappiness over his minister hugging the Pakistan Army chief, but backed his push for opening the Kartarpur Sahib corridor.
Pak to open Kartarpur border crossing with India for Sikh pilgrims: Minister
Islamabad, Sep 7: Pakistan will soon open the Kartarpur border crossing with India for Sikh pilgrims to visit a historic gurdwara there without visas, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said, according to a media report on Friday.
Chaudhry said a system was being developed for Sikhs to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur and "soon some forward movement is expected".
"Pakistan will soon open the border at Kartarpur for Sikh pilgrims and the pilgrims will be able to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur without visas," he said in an interview with BBC Urdu.
The first indication of opening the crossing was given by Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa when he met Congress politician Navjot Singh Sidhu in Islamabad during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The Kartarpur gurdwara is located in Narowal district of Punjab province near the Indian border and is revered by Sikhs due to the belief that the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak died there.
The Pakistan Army and the government were on the same page on the issue of peace talks with India but so far the Indian government has not given any positive signals on the issue, Chaudhry said.
He said Prime Minister Khan sent positive signals to India after winning the election, including inviting former Indian cricketers for his swearing-in ceremony and offer for talks in his first speech.
To a question about the difference between policies of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and previous governments towards India, he said the main difference is that all institutions are on the same page and have the same thinking.
"It is not Imran Khan's foreign policy like Nawaz Sharif's foreign policy, it is Pakistan's foreign policy," he said.