Pakistan inciting Sikh pilgrims, says India

Lifestyle       by Aleena Raheel | Published

In a statement on Tuesday, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said that by spreading such falsehoods, India has chosen to deliberately stoke further controversy around the visit of Sikh pilgrims, now attending the Baisakhi and Khalsa Janamdin ceremonies in Pakistan. "However, the concerned officials of the Indian High Commission chose not to return, even though they were duly notified that the requisite clearance has been granted", he said. A jatha (batch) of 1,800 Indian Sikh pilgrims is now visiting Pakistan.

A group of around 1,800 Indian pilgrims reached Pakistan to visit the shrines on the occasion of Baisakhi, which marks the 320th birth anniversary of the Khalsa.

The Indian Foreign Ministry urged Pakistan to put an immediate end to those actions that seek to undermine sovereignty, territorial integrity and to cause disruption in India.

"A standard practice has been that the Indian High Commission's consular/protocol team is attached with visiting pilgrims, to perform consular and protocol duties, like helping out in medical or family emergencies", the statement said.

Earlier on April 12, the officials were also stopped from meeting the Sikh pilgrims when they reached Wagah the first station when a train crosses over to Pakistan. The Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria was also prevented from meeting them and wishing them on Baisakhi.

"Earlier, journalists were attacked, abducted or killed - now channels like Geo News, and even news articles are going missing", said Siddiqui, who was the Islamabad bureau chief of a New Delhi-based TV network. Similarly, it was denied entry into Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14, for a scheduled meeting with pilgrims there.

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Last month, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told the media here that the Indian High Commission in Pakistan was facing "a litany of issues" which have not been resolved for several months.

According to Pakistan Foreign Ministry, there was huge "resentment" regarding the release of a film on Guru Nanak and people had "gathered there from different parts of the world, protesting the release in India of some film on Baba Guru Nanak Devji".

Foreign Office has categorically rejected Indian allegations that Pakistan is attempting to incite Indian pilgrims on the issue of Khalistan. Considering an emotionally charged environment and the possibility of any untoward situation, the ETPB authorities contacted the Indian High Commission officials and suggested cancellation of the visit.

On Sunday, the officials of Indian High Commission visited Gurdwara Punja Sahib, he claimed.

The statement notes that the actions that occurred during the visit by the Indian pilgrims are contrary to the 1974 bilateral Protocol, which serves as a guideline for the exchange of these kinds of visits between the two countries.

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