Pak call Indian dy envoy for denying visa to pilgrims

Pak call Indian dy envoy for denying visa to pilgrims

This year, Pakistani pilgrims could not attend the annual Urs of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty at Ajmer Sharif as New Delhi decided not to issue visas due to the ongoing parliamentary elections.

Islamabad, however, lodged a strong protest against New Delhi’s decision and summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan, Gopal Bagley, to the foreign office and conveyed its “deep disappointment and concern”.

Over 500 “Zaireens” were about to visit the annual ritual that commenced at the shrine of the Sufi saint in Rajasthan on Thursday. Though the Indian Government had made arrangements for the visit, New Delhi finally decided not to grant them visas.

The government apparently decided not to issue visas after Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticised BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s comment on underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

Khan’s criticism triggered sharp protests from both the BJP and the Congress. 

“It is true that this was a last moment decision, all government agencies, including the Railways, had made full arrangement to transport over 500 Zaireens from Attari railway station in Pakistan to Ajmer and back,” said spokesperson to the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin.

He said the decision to deny visas was “a measure of abundant precaution, aimed at ensuring safety and welfare of the pilgrims.”

“India is in the midst of the general elections. A visit of such large group of Zaireens from Pakistan would have required much more elaborate arrangements than what are usually done for such events,” said Akbaruddin.  

Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Pakistan government, however, noted that the visits to religious shrines in the neighbouring countries by each other’s citizens were governed by a protocol inked in 1974.

“This is the fourth time that visas have been denied to Pakistani pilgrims in the last one year. This is not only against the bilateral agreement, but also runs contrary to the efforts towards normalising ties between the two countries and the spirit of people-to-people contacts,” a press release issued by Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry noted. 

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