Mystery over their disappearance deepens
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Syed Asif Nizami, the head priest of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah, and his nephew Nazim Ali Nizami, in New Delhi on Monday. PTI
Two clerics of Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi returned from Pakistan on Monday, even as the mystery deepened over their disappearance in the neighbouring country early last week.
Syed Asif Ali Nizami and Nazim Ali Nizami told journalists in New Delhi that a Pakistani security agency had detained them after a local newspaper wrongly reported that they were agents of an Indian external espionage organisation.
New Delhi had prodded Islamabad to help find the missing clerics. But it was only after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to her counterpart in Pakistan government, Sartaj Aziz, and sought his intervention that Islamabad conveyed that the two men had been traced.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs conveyed to the High Commission of India in Islamabad on Saturday that the missing clerics had been traced.
Some Pakistani newspapers quoted sources to report that the clerics had gone to a far-flung place in Sindh and could not contact their relatives in India due to poor phone network availability.
The clerics, who met Swaraj at the Ministry of External Affairs headquarters on Monday, however, told journalists that the visas granted by Pakistan government did not permit them to visit interior areas of Sindh.
The two clerics went missing while on a visit to Pakistan. They reached Lahore airport together on March 14 to catch a flight to Karachi. Nazim Ali Nizami was asked to deboard the plane while Asif Ali Nizami was allowed to fly to Karachi, sources in New Delhi said. Asif Ali called up his family in Delhi from Karachi to inform that Nazim Ali had been offloaded from the plane in Lahore.
Neither of them could be traced after Asif Ali’s last call from Karachi. “I was taken to a place quite far from Karachi, with my face covered,” said Asif Ali. “We were not troubled, and were kept in VIP rooms. My details were asked, Dargah's details too. I was offered food, they prepared tea for me and biscuits,” he added.
“Yes, they had been detained in Pakistan after some media reports,” said Asif Ali Nizami’s son Sajid Nizami.
“There is a newspaper Ummat (Pakistan) which has printed false statements (of the clerics being RAW spies) and photos,” said Nazim Ali.
The Nizamuddin Dargah of Delhi has a strong spiritual link with Data Darbar in Lahore.
DH News Service