India signals readiness to accept Pakistan pilgrims

Published: June 23, 2018
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PHOTO : REUTERS

PHOTO : REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has submitted passports of pilgrims willing to attend the Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusro, which is going to be held from June 28 to July 5 in New Delhi after receiving a nod from the Indian High Commission.

An official confirmed to The Express Tribune that after the positive response from the Indian side, the ministry had submitted the passports at the high commission.

“This year for the first time the embassy has asked the ministry to submit the passports of the intending pilgrims who want to travel to India to participate in the annual Urs,” he said.

However, since January this year, the ministry did not get any official request from the Indian High Commission related to the passports of pilgrims who wanted to attend several annual Urs such as that of revered South Asian sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti,” he said.

Pakistan awaits India’s response over pilgrims visas

Therefore, the ministry did not submit the passports to the commission even once this year.

The standstill started soon after the wife and mother of an Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, who came to Pakistan to meet him last year on December 25, left for India and accused Pakistan of harassing them. However, since January this year intending pilgrims did not get a chance to travel to India but Pakistan continued to comply with a bilateral protocol signed between the two countries for promoting people-to-people contact through religious tourism.

He further said that the official response from the High Commission for the recent development “is no doubt a positive sign”.

“This has given us a new hope and we are waiting to grant visas to the intending pilgrims,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi on Friday issued visas to over 300 Sikh pilgrims from India to observe the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh at Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore from 21-30 June 2018.

According to the handout issued by the Pakistani High Commission, within the framework of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, a large number of Sikh pilgrims from India visit Pakistan to observe various religious festivals/occasions every year.

The visas issued by the High Commission in New Delhi are in addition to the visas issued to Sikh pilgrims participating in the event from other countries.

A special train arranged by the Pakistan Railways carried the pilgrims from Attari to Pakistan on June 21, 2018.

Meanwhile, another Sikh Jatha from India had returned from Pakistan after observing the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev Ji from 8-17 June 20l8.

Earlier, in April 2018, the Pakistani High Commission issued visas to over 2,000 Sikh pilgrims from India for the Baisakhi Festival in Pakistan.
The official said, the issuance of pilgrimage visas is in line with the government of Pakistan’s efforts for promoting visits to religious shrines and people-to-people interactions.

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