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India declines visas to Pakistani pilgrims.

Byline: Zahid Chaudhary

Islamabad -- India again demonstrated its extremist face by not issuing visas to 192 Pakistani pilgrims who wanted to attend the annual Urs of Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia, which is to take place in Delhi from January 1-8, 2018.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal in a statement on Saturday regretted the Indian decision saying it deprived devotees from attending the death anniversary of the 13th century mystic, who is revered by millions on both sides of the border.

As a result of this Indian decision, Pakistani Zaireen would be deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Urs, which is of special significance to them. 'This is unfortunate and runs counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Protocol and objective of people-to-people contacts,' the spokesperson added.

The Indian decision comes just two days after Pakistan freed 145 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture amidst a war of words between New Delhi and Islamabad over the circumstances of the meeting between convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and his family. Pakistan had allowed Jadhav's wife and mother to meet him on humanitarian grounds.

In June this year, several Sikh pilgrims travelling to Pakistan for the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev as well as Maharaja Ranjit Singh were stopped by the Indian government despite issuance of visas by the Pakistani High Commission in India.

Only 16 pilgrims were able to arrive in Pakistan to attend the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev in the second week of June, while India kept more than 200 Sikh pilgrims from visiting Pakistan. The handful of pilgrims that managed to arrive came aboard the Samjhota Express instead of the special train arranged for Yatrees

Later in the same month, India stopped over 300 Sikh pilgrims, who wished to attend the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore. The Foreign Office spokesman said, '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 through increasing people-to-people contacts and normalizing relations between the two countries.

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Publication:Pakistan Observer (Islamabad, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 31, 2017
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