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LAHORE:

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 Muslim population in Pakistan is no stranger to the Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government violating the Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, signed between India and Pakistan in September of 1974.

According to the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, India is bound to issue visas to Pakistani Muslim pilgrims every year to participate in the Urs of Hazrat Mujaddid Alif Sani; Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Alauddin Ali Ahmad Sabir; Urs of Hazrat Hafiz Abdullah Shah; Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Auliya; Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, and the Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusro.Mian Fayyaz, a leader of a group of devotees of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, commenting on the matter, told the Express Tribune that in February of last year that 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. With the 811th Urs of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti set to be held soon, Fayyaz demanded that the federal government take up the matter with the Ministry of External Affairs of India. Apart from the Urs of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, Muslim pilgrims from the country were also not issued visas for the Urs of Hazrat Mujaddid Alif Sani held in September of 2022 – even when India was open for tourists from the rest of the world. In contrast, annually, Pakistan issues 3,000 visas for Vaisakhi Mela; 1,000 visas for Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s Martyrdom Day; 500 for Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s birth anniversary; and 3,000 visas for Baba Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birthday.

To illustrate India’s aversion against Pakistani Muslim pilgrims further: in November of last year, more than 2,500 Indian pilgrims visited Pakistan to commemorate the 553rd anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak’s birth ; whereas, only 147 Pakistanis were allowed to visit India Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s 719th annual Urs celebrations in the Indian capital, New Delhi. According to the officials of Evacuee Trust Property Board, Pakistan has always been open to allowing Indian pilgrims, which is evidenced by the efforts that Pakistan put behind the building of the Kartarpur Corridor.

“On the other hand India has always had an aversion to pilgrims from our side, which effectively deprives them of their right to perform their religious rituals,” an official of the Evacuee Trust Property Board told the Express Tribune.



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