431 Pak Hindus granted long-term visas; can get Aadhaar, buy property

431 Pak Hindus granted long-term visas; can get Aadhaar, buy property

As many as 431 Pakistani nationals, mostly Hindus, have been granted long-term visas by the government, thus making them eligible for PAN and Aadhaar cards as well as allowing them to buy property, a home ministry official said.

The move, amid the strained India-Pakistan relations, is in line with the Narendra Modi government's policy to help minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who come to India after facing "persecution in their home country".

"The Ministry of Home Affairs granted long-term visas to 431 Pakistani nationals last month. They are from minority communities of that country," the official said.

Under the latest policy of the Centre, those belonging to minority communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - staying in India on long-term visas, are allowed to purchase a small dwelling unit sufficient to serve the needs of a family for self-use and suitable accommodation for carrying out self-employment.

However, they are barred from buying immovable property in and around restricted or protected areas, including cantonment regions.

Such communities are also allowed to obtain PAN, Aadhaar card and driving licenses, take up self-employment or do business, and are allowed free movement within the state of their stay and transfer of long-term visa papers from one state to another.

The 431 Pakistani nationals with long-term visas will now also be able to open bank accounts without the prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India.

The home ministry had also recently given security clearance to 1,800 Pakistani nationals of the Ahmadiyya community to attend the 123rd 'Jalsa Salana' at Qadian in Gurdaspur district of Punjab from December 29 to December 31.

'Jalsa Salana' is an annual gathering of the Ahmadiyya community.

No Pakistani national was given visa to attend the congregation last year, while 5,000 Pakistani nationals had attended the event in 2015.

The grant of long-term visas to a large number of Pakistanis and security clearance to Ahmadiyya community members of Pakistan was the highest in a single month in nearly two years, even as India-Pakistan relations nosedived after January 2, 2016, terror attack on Pathankot army base.

The home ministry had also approved over 4,000 visa applications of people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and a few select countries in September.

A total of 6,025 visa applications were received in September, out of which 4,057 were cleared, another home ministry official said.

Prior approval is required from the home ministry for issuing visas to nationals of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and a few other countries.

The Pakistani nationals, whose visa applications were approved, would be given the travel document mostly under the medical visa category.

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