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Sidhu writes second letter to MEA, seeks permission to visit Pak for Kartarpur ceremony

Former Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Wednesday sought permission from the External Affairs Ministry for the second time to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan on November 9.

In a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Sidhu said he had been invited by the Pakistan government for the opening ceremony of the corridor, which will connect Darbar Sahib in Pakistan's Kartarpur with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in Punjab.

"Given that the invite has come, copy of which is already submitted, the programme is crystal clear. I humbly submit for the permission to crossover from the corridor in the morning before 9.30 am on November 9 to be in time for the inauguration slated at 11.00 am.

"I would first like to meditate at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur) for the Shukrana (thanksgiving) on Babaji's glory and grace, have 'langar' with Sangat as a humble Sikh, attend the inauguration ceremony and come back by evening through the corridor," Sidhu wrote.

He further wrote, "However, if it is not possible then I would go to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib (Kartarpur Sahib) through the Wagah Border one day before i.e on Nov 8, stay overnight at Gurdwara Sahib, attend the ceremony and come back next day on Nov 9 through the corridor."

Sidhu mentioned that "at present I don't have a visa for Pakistan".

He concluded the letter, saying "your (ministry's) early response would determine my future course of action".

Sidhu had on Saturday also sought permission from the External Affairs Ministry to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan.

The cricketer-turned-politician had earlier written a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who had forwarded it to the chief secretary for necessary action.

In his first letter to Jaishankar, Sidhu, Congress MLA from Amritsar East, had said, "As a humble Sikh, it shall be a great honour to pay obeisance to our great Guru Baba Nanak on this historic occasion and connect to our roots."

"Therefore, I may be permitted to visit Pakistan for this auspicious occasion," the former minister had said.

The corridor will facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib, located in Pakistan's Narowal district across the Ravi river.

Sidhu had come under fire from the opposition after he hugged Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August last year.

Sidhu had then claimed that Gen Bajwa had told him about "making efforts to open the Kartarpur Corridor".

On November 4, he had received an invitation letter from Khan bearing the serial number '0001' on the invitation card for the inauguration ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor.