ISLAMABAD: A day before their scheduled departure, the Indian government has yet to take decision whether to grant visas to Pakistani pilgrims for the annual Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusro starting in New Delhi today (Thursday).
The Indian High Commission kept the foreign office and Ministry of Religious Affairs waiting for the whole day on Wednesday regarding the status of 176 Pakistani pilgrims who submitted their passports for visas.
“The high commission neither said yes or no,” said an official of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is coordinating the visit.
A source in the foreign office requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune that Indian High Commission informed the government that decision regarding the issuance of visas or otherwise would be taken on Thursday.
It is, however, not clear whether the Pakistani pilgrims would be able to travel to New Delhi if the visas are issued the same day when the Urs is set to begin, he added.
“We are making efforts and in touch with the high commission on this,” the official said.
According to diplomatic sources, the Indian high commission was waiting for the final decision from the capital. Till filing of this report, the high commission was not given any direction.
However, given the fact that passports are still with the high commission, there are still chances that pilgrims may get the nod from New Delhi.
Intending pilgrims have already gathered in Lahore in the hope of getting their passports stamped with Indian visas. They are scheduled to embark on a religious sojourn via Samjhota Express on Thursday.
The Indian high commission has advised the intending pilgrims [through SMS] not to travel to Lahore until they get ‘OK’ from them, said the official.
Earlier, the Indian High Commission had requested the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony to submit passports of the intending pilgrims for initiating visa process.
This year it happened for the first time that the embassy had asked ministry for submitting passports of the intending pilgrim as earlier they did not.
This goodwill gesture gave hope to the Pakistani government as well as the pilgrims they might get visas for travelling to India.
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.
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.