'Pak won't charge $20 fee from Kartarpur pilgrims'

Pakistan will not charge the service fee of $20 from Indian pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on November 9 and 12, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday, ending the confusion over the facilitation charges on the two days.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. (PTI photo)

Pakistan will not charge the service fee of $20 from Indian pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara on November 9 and 12, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Friday, ending the confusion over the facilitation charges on the two days.

The Kartarpur corridor linking Dera Baba Sahib in Gurdaspur in India and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan will be thrown open on Saturday, in a historic people-to-people initiative sparking a glimmer of hope for improvement in ties between the two countries.

Kartarpur corridor is a "corridor of love" and there is no sinister design in it, he said on allegations that the corridor could be used to promote separatism in Punjab.

Separate events have been organised on both the sides of the border to launch the much-awaited corridor ahead of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak's 550th birth anniversary on November 12.

The inauguration of the corridor comes in the midst of frayed ties between India and Pakistan following New Delhi's decision in August to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.

In an interaction with a group of Indian journalists, Qureshi termed as "historic" the opening of the corridor but made it clear that the initiative was not an indication of Pakistan's willingness to engage in dialogue with India.

Calling India's move to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status under article 370 as "unilateral and unacceptable", he slammed India for the decision.

Pilgrims will not be charged service fee to visit Kartarpur Shahib shrine on November 9 and 12, Qureshi said, hours after sources in New Delhi said Pakistan has conveyed to India that it will charge the $20 facilitation fee from each pilgrim using the corridor to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib on Saturday.

When asked whether passports will be required to use the corridor, he said "we will go by the provisions of the Kartarpur agreement signed between Pakistan and India".

However, governor of Punjab province Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said pilgrims from India will not require passports on Saturday.

According to the bilateral agreement, the pilgrims will require passports to visit the shrine using the corridor.

On the issue of resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue, he said, "We don't want dialogue with India for the sake of it".

Notwithstanding a chill in bilateral ties over Kashmir, India and Pakistan after tough negotiations signed an agreement last month, paving the way for the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor on November 9.

The agreement will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims daily to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib where Guru Nanak spent last 18 years of his life.

On overall ties with India, Qureshi said Pakistan hoped that things will improve after Lok Sabha elections in India but unfortunately "jingoism" continued.

Asked why India's decision on Kashmir should be considered differently from Pakistan effecting Constitutional changes in the administrative structure of Gilgit Baltistan, the Pakistan Foreign Minister said the main issue is aspirations of Kashmiris and that they are vociferously questioning the changing status of the region. 

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