India rejects Pakistani pilgrims’ visas

By Staff Reporter
Tuesday – March 20, 2018
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan noted with deep disappointment on Monday the non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of at least 503 Pakistani pilgrims to participate in the anniversary of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (RA) at Ajmer Sharif in India from March 19-29, 2018.

According to an official statement, the visit was to take place under 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 pilgrims have been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the anniversary, which is of special significance.

Earlier, 192 Pakistani pilgrims could not participate in the anniversary of Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia (RA) in Delhi from January 1-8, 2018, due to the non-issuance of visas by India.

During 2017, despite Pakistan’s offer to send a special train, Indian delays had resulted in Sikh pilgrims from India being unable to participate in the martyrdom anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and the death anniversary of maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Similarly, in February 2018, the government of Pakistan had made all the 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 non-issuance of necessary clearance by the ministry of external affairs of India.

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 anniversary of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (RA) who has for centuries been the symbol of bringing communities closer to each other.