Pak may introduce two categories for Sikh pilgrims seeking visas to visit Kartarpur: Media report

Islamabad: Pakistan has decided to categorise Sikh pilgrims, seeking to visit Darbar Sahib gurdwara in Kartarpur, into devotees from India and from the rest of the world, a media report said on Friday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to add a religious tourism category to the online visa system for the Sikh pilgrims, applying to visit Kartarpur, the Dawn newspaper reported.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided that two separate categories of visa applications will be entertained by the ministry; one would be for Sikh pilgrims of Indian origin living elsewhere in the world, while the other would be for Sikh pilgrims based in India,” the report said.

An amendment in the policy to make room for the proposed steps will be sought by the foreign ministry from the Cabinet, it said.

However, all religious tourism visa requests for the Kartarpur pilgrimage will be processed within seven to 10 working days, the report said.

India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed on visa-free travel by Indian pilgrims to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib using the proposed Kartarpur Corridor but stopped short of finalising an agreement on the cross-border route.

Earlier, the two sides had agreed that Pakistan will allow 5,000 Indian pilgrims to visit the gurdwara every day using the planned corridor, and the numbers could be more on special occasions.

But the two neighbours on Wednesday could not finalise the draft agreement on the corridor, with Pakistan insisting on charging a service fee from Indian pilgrims and not allowing protocol officials to accompany them.

Pakistan has suggested a fee of USD 20 per pilgrim for visiting the gurdwara. India said the amount was not an issue, but on auspicious occasions, no fee is charged for visiting any gurdwara in the world.

The proposed corridor will connect Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November.