By: Radhakrishna NS
PAKISTAN has set up 80 immigration counters at the Kartarpur Corridor to speed up the clearance process of the large number of pilgrims who are expected to visit the holy shrine.
India and Pakistan last week signed the agreement on the Kartarpur Corridor that will allow Indian pilgrims to undertake visa-free visit to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the shrine of the Sikh religion’s founder Guru Nanak Dev in Pakistan, notwithstanding a chill in bilateral ties over Kashmir.
The agreement will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib where Guru Nanak spent last 18 years of his life.
Pakistan’s interior ministry has built three entry gates to facilitate the pilgrims from India, The Express Tribune reported.
Pilgrims returning to India will be routed through a designated gate.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will send a clearance list of the pilgrims to the Indian border force 10 days before their arrival.
They will have their passports scanned on their arrival before they are taken to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in special buses under the protection of Pakistan Rangers, the report said.
Pilgrims from both Pakistan and India will undergo biometric screening before being permitted to enter Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. They will be able to exit from the same gate which they used for entry while undergoing the verification, it said.
Any pilgrim whose passport is in the blacklist will not be permitted, it said.
To facilitate operations at the corridor, the interior ministry has appointed two assistant directors and a deputy director in addition to 169 inspectors and sub-inspectors, constables and female constables, according to the report.
Pakistan Rangers officials will collect $20 from each pilgrim at Zero-Point, it said.
Apart from the 80 immigration counters to speed up the clearance process and facilitate the large number of pilgrims, an immigration hall has been built at Zero-Point, four kilometres away from Darbar Sahib, to facilitate the pilgrims, the report said.
The pilgrims would be required to leave on the same day at 5pm. No pilgrim will be permitted to stay at Darbar Sahib. However, pilgrims will not be subjected to any restrictions for re-entry after they have passed through the clearance process, it said.
The immigration staff of the FIA will mark the passports of the pilgrims with entry and exit stamps.
A designated gate has also been built for Pakistani Sikhs arriving at Darbar Sahib and they will also undergo biometric verification as part of the security protocol, the report said.
The six km long corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Punjab with Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, just four kilometres from the International Border, located at Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
India and Pakistan signed the agreement after three rounds of tough negotiations despite bilateral relationship witnessing a chill recent years.
The ties touched a new low when India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August following which Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy.
Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor and the travel will be visa-free.
Each visitor would be required to pay $20 as fee, though India has requested Pakistan not to charge the Indian pilgrims.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to formally inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor on November 9, ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak on November 12.