After the confusion, Qureshi clarifies that there is no fee for the inaugural pilgrims of Kartarpur
LAHORE: Despite the general atmosphere of positivity on both sides of the border one day before the opening of the Corridor, India and Pakistan continued to spar over the nitty-gritty of the inauguration. After India said Pakistan never officially communicated its decision to waive off the requirement for pilgrims to carry passport, Pakistan accused India of not agreeing to its "facilitative measures".
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a visiting indian media delegation that in keeping with the announcement made earlier by Pakistan PM Imran Khan , the pilgrims will not charge any fees on November 9 and 12. On the issue of the passport, he said that, after November 9, the 2 countries will go through the memorandum of understanding that states that pilgrims must carry their passports.
"That's how the Indian side wants it," said Qureshi. Indian government sources maintained though that Pakistan had never officially conveyed to India that it wanted to amend the MoU to facilitate Khan's passport waiver announcement.
On the fee issue, official sources said India had again told Pakistan that if it is really sincere towards the pilgrims, they should do away altogether with the US 20 dollar fee, which is acting as deterrent for many pilgrims, especially from lower economic strata.
According to Pakistan , pilgrims can travel to Pakistan without fee and passport on November 9. India though has advised pilgrims travelling to Kartarpur on Saturday to carry the fee just in case, as a source said, Pakistan changed its mind.
The corridor will be opened by Khan at a ceremony in Kartarpur Sahib that is expected to last more than 3 hours. It was not clear until late whether Indian dignitaries, including the former prime minister Manmohan Singh , will participate in that ceremony. Government sources said some are expected to return immediately after paying tribute to the gurudwara.
The fare goes against the spirit of Khule Darshan Didar of Nanak, a source said.
India, in fact, accused Pakistan of creating confusion by trying to unilaterally abrogate the bilateral agreement. "They never made a proposal but announced unilaterally, through a tweet. Then their ISPR said something different. India has taken a consistent position that let the provisions of the Agreement prevail till these are amended through mutual consent to avoid confusion to the pilgrims," said a source.
After the approval of the composition for the first jatha was delayed, India now also
informed Pakistan that if it doesn't get final approved lists from Pakistan 4 days in advance, it will consider all pilgrims, whose names have been shared, as approved and inform them accordingly. "This decision is taken in view of paucity of times and interest of the pilgrims, so that they can plan their travel," said the source.