'Punj ministers denied Nankana Sahib visit unfortunate'

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh (PTI Photo)

Hitting out at the SAD for "politicising" the 550th birth anniversary celebrations Guru Nanak, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday accused it of obstructing joint celebration of the historic event planned by his government.

The chief minister termed as "extremely unfortunate" the denial of permission/visa to Punjab ministers, MPs and MLAs to visit Sri Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.

Talking to media persons while reviewing the arrangements for the commemorative events, the chief minister said the occasion was one of pride which his government wanted to celebrate collectively, rising above petty political considerations.

However, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) scuttled all attempts of the state government to ensure joint celebrations, he said, terming it sheer pettiness on the part of the Akalis, particularly Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Pointing out that his government had spent Rs 550 crore to ensure a befitting celebration of the historic event, Singh said the entire occasion had been transformed into a political drama by the Akalis, backed by their allies, the BJP.

On Wednesday, Punjab minister Charanjit Singh Channi said a majority of names in the state government delegation, which was proposed to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan, were not approved by the Centre.

Politics should have been kept aside on this religious occasion, he added, while reiterating his protest against Islamabad's refusal to withdraw the USD 20 fee on pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Gurdwara via the corridor.

He urged the Imran Khan-led government to be large-hearted, keeping in view Sikh sentiment and tradition.

Asked if the state government was ready to pay the said amount on behalf of the pilgrims, Singh said he was, in principle, against giving anything to Pakistan on this count.

On Pakistan's invitation to Navjot Singh Sidhu to attend the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration, the chief minister asked media persons to ask his former cabinet colleague about it.

In response to a question, Singh rejected the SAD's claims on the central government funding the majority of the development projects to commemorate the 550th Prakash Purb.

The Centre gave money for only two projects, and one of them was only partially funded by them, he said, adding that the state government had already spent Rs 550 crore and would be spending more on infrastructure development and various events.

The chief minister said it was a matter of pride for Punjab and the Sikh community that the vice-president of India would be going to Kartarpur Sahib on November 9, when the first Jatha passes through the Kartarpur Corridor.

The chief minister, who reviewed the progress of work of the Kartarpur Corridor, which will be opening for devotees on November 9, 2019 at Zero Line (India-Pakistan International Border, Dera Baba Nanak), said all work undertaken by the state government was complete.

Only the work on the Integrated Check Post of the Land Port Authority was still continuing under the central government's supervision, he said, but was hopeful it would also be completed by November 9.

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