Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service
Amritsar, November 29 Syed Asif Hashmi, Chairman of Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), which is responsible for the upkeep of gurdwaras in the neighbouring country, today said it is yet to receive any official proposal from India regarding the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.
Interacting with the mediapersons after paying obeisance at the Golden Temple here, Hashmi said, “We are ready to cooperate with India on the issue, but it is for the Indian government to first take up the matter with Pakistan officially. As far as we are concerned, we have done our bit by constructing the road up to the point of our jurisdiction.” Sikhs have long been demanding the establishment of a passport and visa-free passage between Dera Baba Nanak on the Indian side and Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, located about 3 km from the border in Pakistan’s Narowal district. According to Sikh history, Guru Nanak Dev spent 17 years at the site where Gurdwara Kartarpur is situated.
Replying to a media query, Hashmi agreed that there was a need to take a fresh look at the number of visas being issued to the pilgrims as per the Nehru-Liaquat Pact.
He said they have already doubled the number of events on which Sikh pilgrims are granted visas for pilgrimage in Pakistan from four to eight. As per the Nehru-Liaquat pact, pilgrims were given visas for Guru Nanak Dev birth anniversary (3,000 visas), Baisakhi (3,000), Guru Arjan Dev martyrdom day (500) and Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary (500). Hashmi asked the SGPC to take up the matter with the Indian government.
He refuted allegations regarding any gurdwara’s property being leased or illegally encroached upon in Pakistan. Hashmi said they have constructed 400 rooms for pilgrims and a three-storey langar hall, besides setting up a solar energy plant. Modern huts have been constructed at Kartarpur Sahib and Gurdwara Emnabad for pilgrims, while the langar hall has been extended to Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore.
On Sikhs’ demand to open Gurdwara Ber Sahib at Sialkot for “darshan”, he said they have invited tenders and they will soon begin its maintenance work. An orphanage, a hospital and a school for mentally challenged children, all named after Guru Nanak Dev, besides a Sikh museum in Pakistan were on the anvil.
Hashmi rejected the SGPC’s offer of Rs 1 crore for the construction of an inn at Gurdwara Dehra Sahib, Lahore, contending that they will do it on their own. He suggested that the SGPC donate this amount for the proposed hospital to be named after Guru Nanak Dev.