ISLAMABAD: The Indian government has decided to lift an unannounced ban on Pakistani pilgrims as its High Commission in Islamabad on Thursday gave a go-ahead to 165 Pakistani pilgrims intending to visit New Delhi.
The pilgrims will attend the annual Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusru which started on June 28 and will continue till July 5.
Talking to The Express Tribune an official of Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony privy to this development confirmed that India has issued visas to 165 pilgrims out of 176.
He said that 11 Pakistani pilgrims along with one ministry official did not get clearance from the New Delhi; therefore they were denied visas by the Indian High Commission.
“Mostly it happens that India refuses issuing visas to all the applicants,” he said.
All the intending pilgrims from across the country will gather at Haji Camp in Lahore on Sunday and will leave for India on Monday morning from the Samjotha Express.
“Their plan has been rescheduled now and now they will stay there for a week and return to Pakistan on July 9,” he said.
Earlier they were supposed to leave for India on June 28 to attend the week-long Urs in New Delhi.
However, they could not travel since the Indian High Commission did not issue them visas well on time.
Now three officials from Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony will accompany them instead of four, he said.
“These officials are responsible to look after pilgrims in India and resolve their issues if there will be any,” he said.
The official further said that the ministry is responsible for providing them accommodation in India, however, the rest of the expenses such as food and transportation will be incurred by the pilgrims themselves.
The official said it is a positive sign and hope that in future India will continue obeying 1974 bilateral agreement signed between both the neighboring countries for promoting people-to-people contact and religious tourism.
India has not issued visas to Pakistani pilgrims since December last year. Visa refusals began soon after the wife and mother of Indian Spy Kulbushan Jadav, who came to meet him on December 25, returned to India and accused Pakistan of harassing them.