With just hours to go for the Kartarpur Corridor inauguration, Pakistan's flip-flop on the $20 entry fee from Sikh pilgrims continued today.
After reportedly informing India earlier in the day that it will levy such a "service charge" on all days starting tomorrow, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson tweeted this afternoon to say that they will abide by Prime Minister Imran Khan's announcement that no fee will be sought on the inaugural day of the Kartarpur Corridor tomorrow.
"PM Imran Khan had announced waiver of service charges of US$ 20 on 9 and 12 November 2019. Abiding by the PM's commitment, Pakistan will not receive any service charge from pilgrims on these two dates," Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal tweeted.
While the inauguration of the corridor will take place on November 1, which is tomorrow, November 12 happens to be the 550th birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak.
Mr Faisal also claimed in another tweet that India had "declined" Pakistan's offer to do away with the need for pilgrims to carry passports or undergo advance registration on November 12. "We recall that as special gesture on auspicious occasion of 550th anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, PM Imran Khan had announced waiver of requirements of passport and registration of pilgrims 10 days in advance. Unfortunately, Indian side has declined these facilitative measures," he said.
India had earlier objected to the $20 service charge that Pakistan said it would impose on Sikh pilgrims. Disagreement over the issue even led to a delay in launching online registration for pilgrims intending to visit the shrine.
The Kartarpur corridor will connect the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab with Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, just 4 km from the International Border, located at Narowal district of Pakistan's Punjab province.
It is the place where the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, is believed to have spent the last 18 years of his life.
The first group of Sikh pilgrims includes former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, actor-politician Sunny Deol, and Union Ministers Hardeep Puri and Harsimrat Kaur Badal. Congress MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu was also given political clearance to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib by the foreign ministry on Thursday.
India had sent a list of the 550-member jatha or delegation attending Saturday's event in Kartarpur, and presumes it stands confirmed by Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Dera Baba Nanak is likely to receive some 30,000 pilgrims daily for four days between Friday and Monday. The pilgrims will be accommodated in 544 European-style tents, 100 Swiss cottages and 20 darbar-style tents on a 30-acre plot.