New tunnel to lead straight to Nankana Sahib

Proposed passageway to be ready before 550th birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib


Imran Adnan January 13, 2019
PHOTO: ONLINE

LAHORE: To facilitate Sikh pilgrims, a tunnel will be constructed from the railway track to the Gurdawara Kartarpur in Nankana Sahib.

Lahore Division Commissioner Dr Mujtaba Piracha said that in order to ensure the hassle-free entry of Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdawara of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib, a tunnel will be constructed. It will not only provide direct entry of Sikh pilgrims, but will also ensure their security and that of locals.

Presiding over a meeting on Saturday, Piracha said the proposed tunnel would be 205 metres long and 15 to 16 metres wide. He added a large number of Sikh pilgrims were being expected to attend the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib in 2019.

He highlighted that Pakistan Railways officials would soon visit the site and make a detailed feasibility. A no objection certificate (NOC) would also be issued soon by the Evacuee Property Trust Board, Pakistan Railways and Punjab Education Department. The Divisional Intelligence Committee (DIC) had already allowed construction of the tunnel from a security point of view, he disclosed. The division commissioner underlined that the design of the tunnel should be multipurpose and of the best standards.

Nankana Sahib deputy commissioner, district police officers, representatives of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) and senior officials of the relevant government departments attended the meeting.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, PSGPC General Secretary and Punjabi Sikh Sangat (PSS) Chairman Bhopal Singh Chawla said it had been a longstanding demand of the Sikh community. He said the security of visitors was a major concern during religious events.

“Security agencies have to close down the entire area, including markets and bazaars, during these days,” he said. “At a time, if there are 400 Sikh visitors, over 1,600 police officials are deployed to provide security cover. Annually, four major three-day long religious events of the Sikh community are held in Nankana Sahib.

Earlier, this proposal had been discussed on various occasions, but this time, the government was willing to make it a reality before the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib,” the official added.

Chawla highlighted that besides the Pakistan government, the PSGPC, PSS and Kar Sevak Committee would contribute towards the construction of this tunnel as the cost of the project would be in the millions. “Right now, planning is underway. However, we are aiming to complete this tunnel during the next six months. A small railways station will also be constructed as part of the project.”

He said visitors and pilgrims would arrive at the proposed station and will reach Gurdawara Sahib directly through the tunnel. Several mosques are also situated along this route, he said. “For security purposes, local authorities have to close the entire area, including mosques, during days of the event. I believe this tunnel will also strengthen interfaith harmony among the local community as all security related concerns will be addressed,” he concluded.

Ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib, both the Pakistan and India governments committed to develop the Kartarpur corridor. Prime Minister Imran Khan did the groundbreaking ceremony of the corridor on November 28 to facilitate pilgrims and fulfill the longstanding demand of Sikh communities residing on both sides of the border.

Every year, around 3,000 to 4,000 Sikh devotees from around the visit Nankana Sahib to participate in annual rituals of their spiritual leader Guru Nanak at Gurdawara Kartarpur Sahib. They cross the Wagah Border on foot and travel around 120 kilometers from Lahore to Katarpur aboard buses. However, after the development of infrastructure on both sides, travel time for Sikh devotees would reduce dramatically. Both the Pakistan and Indian governments agreed to build requisite facilities before the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November 2019.

Kartarpur is located in Shakargarh tehsil of district Narowal and considered one of the most sacred places in the Sikh religion. It is a common belief among the Sikh community that Baba Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life in Katarpur. According to some Sikh literature, Guru Nanak built the first ever Gurdawara in Kartarpur in 1522.

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