A British Sikh property tycoon is leading plans for a new trust for gurdwaras in Pakistan to facilitate religious tourism and preservation projects through the Kartarpur Corridor, planned on either side of the India-Pakistan border. Peter Virdee, the founder of London-based B&S Property, said including the as-yet-undisclosed pledge of his own Virdee Foundation and business people from around the world as much as 500 million pounds would be available for the trust, which will be named after Guru Nanak.
"I feel humbled and blessed to have a chance for this sewa. The plans are in motion and a delegation will be meeting the Indian and Pakistani governments in the coming weeks and months to take this plan forward," Virdee said. Asked if the India-Pakistan political tensions could prove a hurdle, he said: "This is a purely religious initiative and nothing to do with politics. It is crucial that we do not mix religion and politics. Many of the Sikh holy shrines are located in Pakistan and it is important that we get together and preserve them."
The plans for the new trust, which will be registered and monitored in the UK, were formalised during a meeting of the Central Gurdwara Khalsa Jatha in London earlier this week. Virdee and other British Sikhs held talks with Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari, Chairman of the Pakistan Tourism Board and Special Assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, on issues of importance to the Sikh community-based in the UK.
"Many of the Sikhs that spoke congratulated the Pakistan government for the stand taken regarding not only the establishment of the Kartarpur Corridor but also other measures being taken for the 550th Gurpurb of Guru Nanak Dev Ji," said a statement issued by Sikh Federation UK. Earlier this week, the Pakistan government announced Rs 100 crore in the federal budget for 2019-20 for the development of the corridor, which will connect Darbar Sahib in the Pakistani region of Kartarpur with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India's Gurdaspur district.
The foundation stone for the project was laid down on either side of the border in November last year, with the project expected to be completed by the end of this year. Bukhari also made some commitments regarding visas sought by British Sikhs for religious reasons, including the possibility of visas online and visas on arrival.
He also acknowledged plans to establish tourism desks at embassies, where dedicated staff can facilitate visas for those planning religious yatras to Pakistan. During the meeting in London which was attended by All Party Parliamentary Group on British Sikhs Chair Preet Kaur Gill among other leading politicians and British Sikh representatives, Bukhari confirmed that he would look into addressing connectivity issues by offering a free bus service that could connect all the main gurdwaras in Pakistan.
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