Pakistan says India denies visas to devotees

ISLAMABAD (NNI): Pakistan on Saturday said that Indian government has denied visas to pilgrims who were scheduled to travel to India to attend the anniversary of Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliyaa.

Hundreds of Pakistani pilgrims visit the shrine in the Indian capital of New Delhi t pay homage to the revered Sufi saint.

“Pakistan regrets the last minute postponement and non-issuance of visas by India, for the visit of the 192 Pakistani Zaireen (devotees) to participate in the Urs (annual gathering) of Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia (RA) in Delhi from 1-8 January 2018,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Pakistan and India have an agreement which allow citizens of both countries visit religious sites.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the visit was to take place under the provisions of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and is a regular, annual feature.

“As a result of this Indian decision, the Pakistani Zaireen (devotees) would be deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Urs, which is of special significance. This is unfortunate and runs counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Protocol and objective of people-to-people contacts,” the statement said.

The decision comes amid new controversy over the recent visit to Islamabad by the wife and mother of an Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been awarded death sentence by a Pakistan military court over “espionage and terrorism.”

Indian officials alleged that the family of Jadhav was “mistreated” during the visit, the charge denied by Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif.

The foreign ministry said earlier this year, despite Pakistan’s offer to send a special train, “Indian delays had resulted” in Sikh yatrees (pilgrims) from India being unable to participate in the Martyrdom Anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

“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, increasing people-to-people contacts and normalizing relations between the two countries,” the statement further said.

The foreign ministry said the Indian gov’t took the decision on the occasion of Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya who was a symbol of bringing communities closer to each other.