ISLAMABAD: In another serious blow to Pakistan-India relations, New Delhi has refused to grant visas to more than 500 Pakistani pilgrims to attend an annual religious congregation marking the death anniversary of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer Sharif.
Theintending pilgrims from across the country kept on waiting till the eleventh hour to get a positive response from India, but their hopes were shattered when till Sunday – the day when they were supposed to leave for India – they did not get a response.
And on Monday, Pakistan expressed disappointment over the non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of 503 Pakistani pilgrims to participate in 10-day celebrations (from March 19 to 29) on the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer Sharif.
The Pakistan Foreign Office in a statement said that India had deprived Pakistani pilgrims of an opportunity to participate in the Urs which is of special significance.
Pakistan has termed it as a sheer violation of human rights and a breach of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines.
“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. It is again ironic that this was done on the occasion of the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti who has for centuries been the symbol of bringing communities closer to each other,” reads the statement.
Earlier, 192 Pakistani pilgrims could not participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi from January 1 to 8, due to the non-issuance of visas by India.
During 2017, despite Pakistan’s offer to send a special train, India’s delay had resulted in Sikh pilgrims from India missing the opportunity to participate in the death anniversaries of Guru Arjan Dev and Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Similarly,in February 2018, the Government of Pakistan had made all 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 the non-issuance of necessary clearance by the Ministry of External Affairs of India.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an official privy to this development said that last year in December, India refused to grant visas to Pakistani pilgrims, just a few days after New Delhi accused Islamabad of harassing the wife and mother of Indian-spy Kulbushan Jadhav who came to Pakistan to meet him on December 25.
“At that time it was considered that India did this in a reaction and things would be improved with the passage of time, but now it seems that New Delhi will continue this practice in the future as well which obviously is not a good omen,” said the official.
He said such attitude of the Indian government had caused serious disappointment among the people of Pakistan in general and the intending pilgrims in particular.The official said the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti is one of the major religious congregations taking place every year in India.
“Out of 3,000 applications, only 503 were selected after a tough competition and all the selected pilgrims were really excited to attend the congregation,” he said.