India refuses 200 Pakistani pilgrims visas
Only 249 of the 488 applicants who requested visas to travel to Ajmer Sharif, the shrine of famed Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Rajasthan, have received them from India.
According to a spokesperson of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, over 200 Pakistani pilgrims had been deprived of paying homage to the Sufi saint, Radio Pakistan reported on Sunday.
He claimed that six employees sent to look after the pilgrims while they were in India had their requests for visas turned down by the Indian government. But according to him, only one of the six officials received clearance to travel with the Zaireen (pilgrims).
The official stated that all Zaireen have received SMS instructions to travel to Lahore, where they will board their flight to India on Tuesday.
He said that the Indian authorities have also declined visas to six officials deputed to take care of the pilgrims during their stay in India. He, however, said that only one of the six officials was granted permission to go with the Zaireen (pilgrims).
The spokesperson said all the Zaireen have been conveyed through SMS to reach Lahore from where they will embark on their journey to India on Tuesday.
Even when it could not use the coronavirus as an excuse anymore, India spent much of last year denying Muslim tourists from Pakistan the right to perform their religious rituals in its territory.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has a history of breaking the Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, which India and Pakistan agreed in September 1974.
The Urs of Hazrat Mujaddid Alif Sani, Hazrat Khawaja Alauddin Ali Ahmad Sabir, Hazrat Hafiz Abdullah Shah, Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya, Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, and Hazrat Amir Khusro all require pilgrims from Pakistan to obtain visas each year, according to the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
Mian Fayyaz, a leader of a group of devotees of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, told that in February last year the Indian government denied their visas just two days before the Urs.
“We had waited all year to be able to go. All our planning had been completed but, all of it went to waste when India abruptly denied us visas,” Fayyaz lamented.