Bus service to Lahore from Amritsar soon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 25 (2003)
The much awaited bus service between Amritsar and Lahore is expected to start soon, with India and Pakistan agreeing to it.
Sources told The Tribune that the Centre had withheld the announcement of commencing such a service, lest it was construed as a move to woo Sikh and Punjabi voters in the poll-going states and attracted the attention of the Election Commission, which could see it as a violation of the model code of conduct.
This move is being seen as a confidence-building measure between the two nuclear neighbours and as yet another effort to increase people-to-people contacts between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Of the four states going to the polls on December 1, Rajasthan and Delhi have a sizeable section of Sikh and Punjabi voters, who can play a crucial role in deciding the fortunes of the candidates.
Following the commencement of the Delhi-Lahore bus service, there has been a growing demand to begin a similar service between Amritsar and Lahore as Sikh pilgrims are eager to visit Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
At present, they have to travel several kilometres backwards to Delhi to catch the bus to cross the Wagah border, even though the bus passes through Amritsar without a stoppage.
Asked about the proposed bus service, the honorary secretary of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, confirming the move, said “this service would fulfil the long-standing demand of the Sikh community.”
“We will urge the government to start the service at the earliest and demand a daily service between the two cities as a large number of Sikh pilgrims who visit the Golden Temple are eager to visit Nankana Sahib,” he said.
Asked whether there would be enough passengers to run the bus service on a daily basis, he said, “Hundreds of persons visit the Golden Temple each day. Since the distance between Amritsar and Lahore is quite less, one could complete the pilgrimage of visiting the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev in a single day itself. Further, this will be economical to the pilgrims as they need not have to travel to Delhi to catch the bus, as is the case at present.”
In another development, Mr Calcutta said a high-powered delegation nominated by SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra would soon visit Pakistan to discuss the issue of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
Mr Tohra had stated that the appointment of a Muslim as the head of PSGPC was a fraud and asked the Pakistan Government to nominate a baptised Sikh as Chairman of the PSGPC.
On the issue of providing a corridor to link Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib (Pakistan) with Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak (India), Mr Calcutta said Islamabad had already provided the way from Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib to the Zero Line.
“We are in touch with the Centre and pursuing the matter as this corridor will help the pilgrims avoid the long and strenuous bus journey to reach Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, which could be reached on foot by this corridor,” he said.