By, Asghar Ali Mubarak, March, 19, 2018
Pakistan notes with deep disappointment the non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of the 503 Pakistani Zaireen to participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (RA) at Ajmer Sharif, India from 19-29 March 2018. 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 Zaireen have been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Urs, which is of special significance.
Earlier, 192 Pakistani Zaireen could not participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja NizamuddinAulia (RA) in Delhi from 1-8 January 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 yatrees (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 normalizing relations between the two countries. It is again ironic that this was done on the occasion of Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (RA) who has for centuries beenthe symbol of bringing communities closer to each other.