Pakistan regrets non-issuance of visas to devotees


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has on Saturday regretted the last minute postponement and non-issuance of visas by India, for the visit of the 192 Pakistani devotees to participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia (RA) in Delhi from 1-8 January 2018. The visit was to take place under the provisions of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and is a regular, annual feature.
As a result of this Indian decision, the Pakistani devotees would be deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Urs, which is of special significance.
“This is unfortunate and runs counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Protocol and objective of people-to-people contacts,” the Foreign Office spokesperson stated.
Earlier this year, despite Pakistan s offer to send a special train, Indian delays had resulted in Sikh yatrees (pilgrims) from India being unable to participate in the Martyrdom Anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Besides being violative of the bilateral Protocol, and the basic human right to religious freedom, such measures also undermine the efforts aimed at improving the environment, increasing people-to-people contacts and normalizing relations between the two countries.
“It is ironic that this was done on the occasion of Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya who was a symbol of bringing communities closer to each other,” the spokesperson added.
The news came a day after Pakistan handed over 145 Indian fishermen to Indian authorities at Wagha border crossing near the eastern city of Lahore while another group of Indian fishermen will be released next month as a good will gesture.
The country released 220 Indian fishermen in Dec 2016, a move reciprocated by India but with a smaller figure.
Relations between the neighbouring countries hit a new low after Indian media and the government officials created fuss and hurled unfounded allegations against Pakistan after Islamabad arranged Kulbhushan Jadhav’s meeting with his wife and mother at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday.
India Foreign Minister alleged that both women were mistreated in Islamabad, whereas, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has stated that both ladies were treated with respect and dignity.
Referring to the intense hue and cry in the Indian media questioning the modalities of the visit, and advancing farfetched conspiracy theories about the change of clothes of the visitors, the retention of the shoe of the wife and the language in which the meeting was conducted, the Foreign Minister underscored that Pakistan’s humanitarian gesture did not obviate the fact that this was not an ordinary meeting between a mother and wife with their son and husband.
The reality remains that Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav is a serving Indian Naval Officer and a convicted Indian terrorist and spy responsible for multiple deaths and destruction in Pakistan, he said.
He made it clear that the change of clothes and removal of jewelry etc. was purely for security reasons. The visitors changed into their own clothes after the meeting. All their belongings were returned to them before they left.
Earlier, India has declined to issue visas to Pakistani pilgrims intending to attend the Urs celebrations of revered Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya in the Indian capital.-NNI