ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Monday censured India for denying visas to pilgrims who planned to attend Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer Sharif from March 19-29.

A Foreign Office statement said: “Pakistan noted with deep disappointment the non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of the 503 Pakistani zaireen [pilgrims] to participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer Sharif, India from 19-29 March, 2018.”

The visit was to take place under 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 zaireen have been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Urs, which is of special significance, the Foreign Office said.

Earlier, 192 Pakistani zaireen could not participate in the Urs of Khawaja Nizamuddin Chishti in Delhi from January 1-8 January, due to the non-issuance of visas by India.

“During 2017, despite Pakistan’s offer to send a special train, Indian delays had resulted in Sikh pilgrims from India being unable to participate in the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” the statement said.

Similarly, in February 2018, the government of Pakistan had made all the arrangements for the visit of 173 Katas Raj Pilgrims, who “regrettably, were forced to withdraw their applications from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi due to non-issuance of necessary clearance by the Ministry of External Affairs of India.”

“Besides being violative of the bilateral protocol of 1974 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 normalising relations between the two countries,” the Foreign Office said.

It added: “It is again ironic that this was done on the occasion of Urs of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti who has for centuries been the symbol of bringing communities closer to each other.”

Last week, Pakistan recalled its High Commissioner to India Sohail Mehmood “for consultations” amid tension after harassment of Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi. The Foreign Office said Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner’s vehicle carrying his children was stopped for 40 minutes.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 - that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of held Kashmir - further heightened the tensions.

India also claimed it had carried out a “surgical strike” to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian claim. In January, Pakistan extended the MunaBao, India-Khokhrapar, Pakistan rail link agreement with India for another three years.

Pakistan agreed to extend the agreement for another three years from February 1, 2018 to January 31, 2021. The agreement was signed in 2006. The Munabao-Khokhrapar train service connects Pakistan’s Sindh and India’s Rajasthan provinces. 

Recently, Pakistan had organised a “family reunion” for convicted Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav – dubbed India’s “face of terror”. Jadhav’s mother and wife, – Avanti Jadhav and Chetenkul Jadhav –were allowed to sit across a glass barrier for 40 minutes and speak to each other.

India however, claimed Jadhav’s family was mistreated and the meeting could have been conducted in a more relaxed environment.  Pakistan said a convicted spy deserved no facilities adding the glass barrier was meant for security.

 

 

Pakistan censures India’s visa refusal to pilgrims