New Delhi: With no response from India to re-open the Kartarpur Corridor due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Pakistan has decided to convert the Sikh’s one of the most revered religious place Kartarpur Sahib into a tourist place. The Pakistan government has announced to begin private guided tours to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in luxury vehicles and construct shopping plaza’s at Kartarpur Sahib for the entertainment of tourists.
The brainchild of Pakistan’s Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), the luxury guided tours to the holy shrines has reportedly got the go-ahead from the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter Faith Harmony.
While confirming the same, the ETPB Chairman Aamer Ahamad informed the media that the project has been discussed with all the stakeholders and possibilities are being explored to develop the Kartapur Sahib as a recreational tourism destination.
“But all such activities would be outside the precincts of Kartarpur Corridor,” Ahmad said.
It is to be noted that Pakistan incurs huge expenses on the maintenance and upkeep of the Kartapur Corridor, but ever since India has suspended the day-long pilgrimage, it has become extremely difficult to fund crunched Pak government to maintain the shrine.
Following the coronavirus outbreak, India and Pakistan had temporarily suspended the Kartapur pilgrimage on March 16, 2020.
Subsequently, taking a unilateral decision, the Pakistan government on October 2, 2020, announced to open the Kartapur Corridor but India refused to reciprocate the gesture. New Delhi made it amply clear that the decision to re-open the Kartarpur corridor would be taken in accordance with COVID-19 safety protocols.
Pakistan’s aim to make the unilateral announcement of re-opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was to earn the US $20 service fee which it had levied on Indian pilgrims visiting the Gurdwara via Kartarpur Corridor.
The Pakistan ministry then formed a Project Management Unit (PMU) Kartarpur Corridor for the maintenance of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, a move to impress the foreign-based Sikhs.
Aamer Ahamad informed the media that under the proposal, a group of people willing to visit Kartarpur Sahib would be provided with a luxury vehicle by a private tour operator from any of their destination. They would be taken to Kartapur Sahib where recreational infrastructure would be erected for the visiting tourists and would return back in the luxury vehicles.
The second phase of the project will witness the opening of shopping malls etc.
In the recent past, Sikh businessmen from various countries had visited the Kartarpur Sahib and expressed their desire to invest in creating recreational infrastructure. But there are Sikh intellectuals, religious personalities, and Sikh organizations who are against converting a religious place into a tourist place having recreational activities.