Resolution of Kashmir conflict imperative for regional prosperity: Pakistan PM

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan delivers his address during the inauguration ceremony of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan, on Nov. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
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Updated 09 November 2019

Resolution of Kashmir conflict imperative for regional prosperity: Pakistan PM

  • Says India and Pakistan can co-exist in peace, just like Germany and France
  • He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor

KARTARPUR, Pakistan / NEW DELHI: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday linked the prosperity of the South Asian region to resolving the Kashmir conflict, insisting that both Pakistan and India could coexist in peace, like Germany and France, if they succeeded in ending the 72-year-old border issue.

He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor at the Katarpur Sahib Gurdawar, nearly 4 km from the Indian border point that divides the two countries.

“I welcome you all and first of all congratulate the Sikh community all over the world on the 550th birthday of their Guru Nanak. Pakistan has completed an uphill task of completing the project in a mere 10 months. I never knew that we can do this in such short time. It means that we could do more work,” he said, adding that the message of Guru Nanak was to propagate love instead of hate, urging Sikhs to continue with the cause.

He added that the only way for Pakistan and India to be good neighbors, make progress and uplift the lives of their countrymen was by resolving the Kashmir issue.

“I attended a conference in India headed by Manmohan Singh, then prime minister, where he said that ‘all of South Asia can rise if we solve Kashmir.’ And that is what I told Modi. 

This is the biggest and happiest day for the Sikh community.

Manmohan Singh, Former prime minister of India

“Unfortunately, Kashmir has gone beyond a territorial issue. This is an issue of humanity, not a territorial dispute and I am sad about it.

“When this problem is solved and Kashmiris get their rights, the subcontinent will see prosperity and our entire region will rise in the world, and I pray that day is not far,” he said, ending his speech with a question: “If France and Germany can live together, do business and open borders after many wars, why don’t we?”

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks after inaugurating the ceremony at the Shrine of Baba Guru Nanak Dev at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, near the Indian border, on November 9, 2019. (AFP / AAMIR QURESHI)

On the other side of the border, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked Khan for facilitating the Kartarpur project.

“I thank Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. He understood India’s feelings on the Kartarpur Corridor issue, gave respect and, keeping in view those feelings, worked accordingly,” Modi said at the opening of the Kartarpur project at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of India’s Panjab.

He flagged off the first group of 550 pilgrims visiting Kartarpur at the inauguration of the corridor.

The Kartarpur Corridor connects Dera Baba Nanak (the birth place of Sikh’s first saint Guru Nanak) in India’s Panjab with Darbar Sahib gurdwara (Nanak’s resting place) in Kartarpur, Pakistan. The Sikh Guru spent his last 18 years in Kartarpur.


Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

Muslims attend Friday Prayers at the Great Mosque of Al Azhar in Jakarta, Indonesia, as government eases restrictions amid a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, June 5, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 June 2020

Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

  • Mosque capacity reduced to half, with health protocols in place
  • Jakarta remains center of the pandemic in Indonesia

JAKARTA: Mosques in Jakarta welcomed congregations for Friday prayers for the first time after an 11-week shutdown due to coronavirus curbs as the Indonesian capital began to ease control measures.

“I am grateful I can perform Friday prayers again after almost three months,” Ilham Roni, a worshipper at Cut Meutia Mosque in Central Jakarta, told Arab News.

“As a Jakarta resident, I have been complying with city regulations. Now that we can pray again, I follow the health protocols by maintaining social distance, wearing a facial mask and washing my hands (before entering the mosque).”

Mosques are opened by a caretaker 30 minutes before prayer starts and are closed 30 minutes after the conclusion of the congregational prayer.

Caretakers at Al I’thisom Mosque in South Jakarta have been preparing since Tuesday, even before Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announced on Thursday that the city is extending its COVID-19 restrictions for the third time since measures came into force on April 10.

The capital is easing lockdown curbs in phases, starting with the reopening of places of worship on Friday, although capacity has been halved and strict health protocols put in place.

“We did not know if we would be allowed to reopen the mosque, but we kept preparing to put out markings just in case, and on Thursday we got the confirmation,” one of the mosque caretakers Sumidi, who goes only by one name, told Arab News.

He said the mosque now can only accommodate 400 worshippers out of its normal 1,000 capacity.

Caretakers have put up markings to keep a 1.2-meter distance between worshippers inside the mosque, while in its parking lot, the distance is maintained at 97 cm. Hand-washing facilities have been installed at the entrance.

The governor did not set a fixed date for the extension to end, although the most likely time frame is until the end of June as the city is in a transition mode throughout the month.

Workplaces and businesses with standalone locations can open from June 8, to be followed by non-food retailers in malls and shopping centers from June 15. Recreational parks will be allowed to reopen on June 21.

“Essentially, all activities are allowed to accommodate 50 percent of their normal capacity and by strictly maintaining social distancing measures. The movement of people has to be engineered to meet this criteria,” Baswedan said during a live press conference. “This is the golden rule during the transition phase.”

"If we see a spike in new cases during this phase, the city administration will have to enforce its authority to halt these eased restrictions. It is our ‘emergency brake’ policy,” Baswedan said.

Jakarta remains the center of the pandemic in Indonesia, although infections in the city no longer account for half or more of the national tally, as has been the case since the outbreak was confirmed in Indonesia in early March.

As of June 5, Jakarta accounts for 7,766 cases of infections out of the 29,521 in the national total, with 524 deaths out of 1,770 who have died in the country.

Baswedan said since the introduction of restrictions in mid-March, the city has seen a significant drop in infections and deaths following a peak in mid-April.

But the transition phase depends on the residents’ continued strict compliance with virus-control measures, he said.

“We will evaluate by the end of June. If all indicators are good, we can begin the second phase,” Baswedan said.

“We don’t want to go back to the way it was in the previous month.”