In response to economic challenges, Pakistan has introduced new fees for pilgrims visiting Kartarpur Gurudwara Sahib, raising fingers against the Pakistan government and concerns within the Sikh community. Foreign pilgrims travelling to Kartarpur are now required to purchase a ticket after paying a fee of five dollars or PKR 1,500 to visit Kartarpur Gurdwara.
The decision has elicited sharp reactions particularly because Pakistan had already been charging Indian pilgrims a fee of $20 for those visiting Gurudwara Kartarpur via the corridor. While the move is being seen as an attempt to address economic pressures in Pakistan, questions have arisen about the impact on the country’s commitment to providing free access to the Gurdwaras located within its borders.
Rajinder Singh Mehta, the General Secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), expressed his concerns about the imposition of fees on religious sentiments. He stated, “It is not appropriate to impose any form of tax on someone’s religious sentiments. Any fee imposed on the Kartarpur Corridor by Pakistan is inherently wrong. Adding another $5 fee to the ticket is also an unjust action. While it is true that Pakistan built the Kartarpur Corridor, imposing service taxes for religious pilgrimage, including visits to Gurdwara, goes against Sikh traditions and beliefs.”
The SGPC, as the largest body representing Sikhs, oversees the affairs of the Sikh community and its religious affairs.
The Kartarpur Corridor, inaugurated in 2019, was celebrated as a historic step towards fostering goodwill between India and Pakistan. The corridor allows Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the revered Kartarpur Gurudwara Sahib in Pakistan without requiring a visa. However, India and various Sikh organizations have repeatedly urged Pakistan to withdraw the service charges of $20 at the corridor.
The decision to charge a fee of five dollars for Sikh pilgrims who have obtained a visa to Pakistan and arrived through routes other than the Kartarpur Corridor has raised eyebrows against the Pakistan government. Harpreet Singh, a US citizen, expressed his frustration over Pakistan’s decision to impose a $5 ticket fee to visit Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. He said, “It’s strange that on one hand, the Pakistan government has been propagating its promises for religious tourism, and on the other hand, they have been imposing tickets to visit religious places of the Sikhs. It is not acceptable.”
In contrast, sources suggest that supporters of the fees argue that Pakistan’s economic challenges necessitate alternative revenue sources. They believe that the fees could contribute to the maintenance and development of the Kartarpur Corridor and its associated facilities.
Reports indicate that Pakistani citizens travelling to Kartarpur for the project are also subject to fees. According to sources, individuals from Pakistan are required to pay 400 Pakistani rupees per person when visiting Kartarpur.
It is significant to note that even after the completion of four years of opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, the number of pilgrims utilizing the corridor is around 200 daily, which falls short of the expected 5,000 pilgrims.