India, Pakistan said to sign Kartarpur agreement on Wednesday

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In this picture taken on September 16, 2019 a Pakistani policeman walk past stacks of marble on the construction site at the Sikh religious site Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, in the Pakistani town of Kartarpur near the Indian border. (AFP)
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Laborers work at the sites of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, which will be open this year for Indian Sikh pilgrims, in Kartarpur, Pakistan, Sept. 16, 2019. (REUTERS/File)
Updated 22 October 2019

India, Pakistan said to sign Kartarpur agreement on Wednesday

  • The project is a rare recent example of diplomatic cooperation between the two South Asian rivals
  • New Delhi says “disappointed” by Pakistan’s decision of “levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit”

LAHORE: India has decided to sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement on October 23, said an official statement issued by New Delhi’s External Affairs Ministry on Monday, even though it expressed its disappointment over Pakistan’s decision to levy $20 service fee per pilgrims and asked Islamabad to reconsider it.

“In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalization of the corridor in time before the Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary on November 12, the government on Monday conveyed [to Pakistan] that India would be ready to sign the agreement on the corridor on Wednesday,” the statement said.

Pakistan is all set to open the world’s largest Sikh temple to pilgrims and the public on Nov. 9, as construction work on the Kartarpur corridor enters its final stages, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on his official Facebook page on Sunday.

The visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur in Pakistan will be inaugurated just ahead of one of Sikhism’s most sacred festivals, and the 550th birthday of the religion’s founder, Guru Nanak on Nov. 12.

“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on the Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to the public on 9th November 2019,” the Prime Minister said on Facebook.

He added: “World’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world.”

However, India’s official statement on Monday said it was “a matter of disappointment” that Pakistan continued “to insist on levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit.”

The Kartarpur project is a rare recent example of diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals, who came to the brink of war in February this year. In August, relations were further inflamed when India flooded its portion of the disputed Kashmir valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and revoked the special legal status of the territory.

Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been virtually non-existent, with Pakistan recalling its envoy from India and banning bilateral trade.

But for the Sikh minority population in India’s northern state of Punjab and elsewhere, the diplomatic overture from Pakistan will come as a relief. The community has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just 4 km over the border in Pakistan, and which otherwise requires a lengthy visa and travel process.

Instead of visas, Sikh and other pilgrims will now be given special permits to access the shrine, with online registration from the Indian interior ministry live on Sunday.

Indian Punjab’s Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has invited the leaders of all Indian political parties to join him to cross the border to the Gurdwara for the opening ceremony.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor but it is yet unclear whether he will cross into Pakistan following the event.

Indian pilgrims will pay Pakistan $20 to use the corridor, which includes roadways, a bridge over the Ravi River and an immigration office, with up to 5,000 Indians to be allowed access daily.


Pakistan’s KP province to sterilize stray dogs, say officials

Updated 15 November 2019

Pakistan’s KP province to sterilize stray dogs, say officials

  • The provincial administration previously killed these animals, but the practice was banned by a court that called it inhumane
  • The overall project to deal with stray dogs may cost about Rs50 million

PESHAWAR: Following a volley of citizen complaints, the Water and Sanitation Services Peshawar (WSSP) in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has decided to start sterilizing thousands of stray dogs to cease their reproduction soon after the completion of the first-ever census of these animals by next week, an official said on Friday.
“Backed by thousands of staff, a comprehensive survey of stray dogs in Peshawar will be completed by coming Monday which will then set the sterilization process of these canines in motion,” Hassan Ai, media manager at the WSSP, told Arab News.
He added the provincial government previously killed stray dogs but a court verdict banned the practice, calling it inhumane.
After a series of meetings and deliberations, the WSSP, in coordination with other departments, reached a sterilization mechanism which would prevent dogs from breeding further and reduce the danger of them biting the general public.
Dr. Syed Masoom Ali, district director of the Livestock Department, told Arab News his team would carry out the sterilization and vaccination process for stray dogs.
“The male dogs will be surgically neutered while the female dogs will undergo spaying surgeries. The dogs will be tagged with microchips and a ribbon will also be tied to their collars to identify them after vaccination and sterilization,” he added.
Dr. Ali said a spacious location had been identified outside the city where these stray dogs would be kept for four days after necessary medical formalities.
The WSSP surged to action after it received an overwhelming number of citizen complaints through an app, Safa Pekhawar (Clean Peshawar), regarding stray dogs in the city.
Depending on the success of the drive, the provincial government could think about extending the program to other big cities of the province as well, said the WSSP media manager.
The vaccination of one dog, he said, would cost Rs2500. The vaccinated animals, he continued, would be kept in a solitary place for 15 days, adding that a rough estimate suggested that the project would cost Rs50 million.
“It is premature to say about the number of stray dogs in Peshawar city, but a ballpark estimate suggests it has surged to 15000,” Hassan Ali said.