Pakistan eases requirements for Sikh pilgrims’ crossing

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan 

Pakistan on Friday eased requirements for Indian Sikhs seeking to cross the border to visit a sacred temple.

The passport and prior registration requirements for Sikh pilgrims wanting to visit the temple in the Kartarpur border area is waived, they announce.

Pilgrims visiting on the 550th birthday of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, will also be exempt from a $20 service fee.

“For Sikhs coming for pilgrimage to Kartarpur from India, I have waived off 2 requirements: i) they won’t need a passport – just a valid ID; ii) they no longer have to register 10 days in advance. Also, no fee will be charged on day of inauguration & on Guruji’s 550th birthday,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter.

Khan will formally inaugurate the Kartarpur border crossing on Nov. 9, ahead of the 550th birthday.

Last year Pakistan and India agreed to open the crossing, which connects the northeastern Pakistani city of Narowal to eastern Gurdaspur in India.

Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara situated in Narowal — some 115 kilometers (71 miles) from the provincial capital Lahore — is one of the most revered temple for the Sikh community, as Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life there.

The distance between the temple and Gurdaspur is just 3 km (2 mi) but without a crossing, Sikh pilgrims from India must travel hundreds of kilometers, via Amritsar and Lahore, to reach it.

Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province is home to some of the most important pilgrimage sites for Sikhs. They include the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469 in the Nankana Sahib district, and Gurdwara (monastery) Punja Sahib in the town of Hasan Abdal, where the handprint of Guru Nanak is believed to be imprinted on a boulder.
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