In 1504 CE, the founder of the Sikh Faith, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founded the city of Kartarpur. The city is a most scared place in the Sikh religion. It is also the place where Guru Nanak lived the latter part of his life until his heavenly departure and where the holy shrine of Gurdwara Darabar Sahib is located. The Sikhs feel that it is their birth right to be able to visit their holy shrines which was sadly restricted since the Partition of 1947.
Discussions to open the Kartarpur Corridor go back many years to 1999 when the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Nawaz Sharif, and Prime Minister of India, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, proposed this. However, progress was not made and it has taken nearly 20 years for history to be made.
The very significant step to open the Corridor was recently rekindled when the Punjab Tourism Minister Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu attended Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inaugural ceremony in August 2018. During his visit he met Pakistan’s Army Chief, Gen.Qamar Bajwa who made the offer that the Government of Pakistan would open the Kartarpur Corridor from Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in November 2019 as a gesture to the global Sikh community. The corridor will allow pilgrims visa free access.
The willingness and intent of both countries was enshrined with the historic foundations being laid for the Kartarpur Corridor in November 2018 by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu.
In furthering the development to build a permanent and sustainable Corridor, a delegation from Pakistan, this week visited the UK to meet leaders from the British Sikh Community. The Pakistani delegation included Ambassador Hameed Kidwai, Mr Murtaza Haswani, Deputy Chairman of the Hashoo Group and Mr Steven Henderson, Hashoo Group’s Chief Commercial & Strategy Officer.
The Pakistani delegation met with Dr Rami Ranger CBE, Chairman of Sun Mark Ltd and Chairman of the British Sikh Association, along with British Sikh Association President Mr Amarjit Dassan, Vice Chairman Dr Ravi Gidar and Vice Presidents Mr Jasbir Johal and Mr Surjit Pandher. The Sikh Gurdwaras were represented by Mr Gurmail Singh Malhi, the President of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Southall, London.
On Tuesday 15th January, a meeting was organised for the Pakistani delegation and the British Sikh Association by Yasmin Qureshi MP in Parliament. The meeting was an opportunity for the Chair, Yasmin Qureshi MP, and nine other MPs to hear of the Kartarpur Corridor plans. The Parliamentary meeting culminated with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the British Sikh Association and Hashoo Group, signed by Dr Rami Ranger CBE on behalf of the British Sikh Association and Mr Murtaza Haswani on behalf of the Hashoo Group. The MOU confirmed the commitment of Pakistan’s leading business and the British Sikhs to work together in the development of the infrastructure for the Kartarpur Corridor and other sites of religious importance in Pakistan for Sikh pilgrims.
Dr Rami Ranger stated “This is a historic opportunity and one that I did not expect to see in my lifetime. We are proud of the steps taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan and supported by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi for the development and opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, it will be great benefit to both countries and is a blessing for the Sikh Community”.
Ambassador Kidwai said “I am very happy to have been greeted with such warmth and support from the Sikh Community in Britain and I am confident that this great initiative of Prime Minister Imran Khan will be appreciated by Sikhs throughout the world, as well as providing an opportunity for greater relations between Pakistan and India.
“The holding of the meeting at which the MOU was signed in the British House of Commons will be seen as an endorsement of the British Pakistani and British Indian MPs that attended the special meeting.
“The Kartarpur Corridor was the brainchild of Dr Rami Ranger, supported by Mr Mia Tariq Javid , Mr Saleem Sheikh and endorsed by Prime Minister Imran Khan”.
Mr Murtaza Haswani Deputy Chairman of the Hashoo Group stated “The Hashoo Group is committed to making this historic project a success and as one of the leading businesses in Pakistan, the Hashoo Group, looks forward to supporting the British Sikh Association for the benefit of Sikhs globally”.