Pakistan removes pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from Kartarpur corridor panel ahead of meet with India

With India and Pakistan set to meet at the Attari-Wagah border on Sunday to discuss issues related to the Kartarpur corridor, Pakistan's federal cabinet on Friday removed pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC).

The development came in the backdrop of India raising serious concerns over the inclusion of Chawla in the Kartarpur project.

"The Federal Government (Federal Cabinet) has been pleased to re-constitute the Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC)," Pakistan said in an official statement, excluding Chawla from the panel.

CNN-News18 quoted Chawla as saying, "I have given sacrifices for the Kartarpur project. I am thankful to Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan that he is serious about opening the corridor. I am happy with Pakistan government's decision. I have no regret on being removed from the committee."

The other four Khalistani activisits whose names were removed from the panel are — Tara Singh, Besant Singh, Manendar Singh and Kuljeet Singh.

 Pakistan removes pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla from Kartarpur corridor panel ahead of meet with India

File image of Gopal Singh Chawla. Image courtesy: Facebook/@GopalSinghChawla

On 1 July, Chawla had courted controversy by sharing Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s morphed image sporting green turban with a star and crescent, on his Facebook page, News18 reported.

Chawla had also sparked a row in November, 2018, after he shared a photo on Facebook of him standing next to Sidhu. The Congress leader was in Pakistan at the time to attend the foundation stone-laying ceremony in Kartarpur on Imran Khan's invite. However, the Punjab minister, who had already received criticism for attending the event, denied knowing the identity of the pro-Khalistani leader.

Delegates from India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet for a second time on Sunday to resolve the pending issues related to the Kartarpur corridor, including connectivity at the Zero Point and the number of pilgrims to be allowed.

"Issues pertaining to the modalities of the corridor, who can use the corridor and its facilities, how can the pilgrims move across with regards to documents required for the travel, how many pilgrims can travel will be on the agenda during the meeting," sources said.

They also added that a "hi-tech and robust security system" will be in place when the corridor become operational.

The sources said the work on a four-lane highway on the Indian side is in full swing.

The first round of talks related to the Kartarpur corridor was held on 14 March on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border, and the second round is scheduled for 14 July at the border on the Pakistani side.

The second round of talks was originally scheduled on 2 April, but India had raised objections to Chawla being part of the Kartarpur project.

The four-lane highway connecting the Zero Point of the Kartarpur corridor up to National Highway-354 is being constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Pakistan is constructing a two-lane highway. The work on the four-lane highway is expected to be completed by September.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 13, 2019 13:44:14 IST