Pakistan bars Indian envoy from meeting pilgrims at Gurudwara in Islamabad; MEA lodges protest

Over 300 Sikh pilgrims from India have been granted visas and are visiting Pakistan to observe the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore.

Pakistan bars Indian envoy from meeting pilgrims at Gurudwara in Islamabad; MEA lodges protest
Pic courtesy: ANI

New Delhi: Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria and consular officials were on Saturday barred by Pakistan to visit Gurudwara Panja Sahib in Pakistan's Punjab province and meet the Indian pilgrims. Summoning Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah in New Delhi, India lodged a strong protest. It was conveyed to the Pakistan side that preventing the Indian High Commission officials from discharging their consular responsibilities was in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the 1974 bilateral Protocol on visit to religious shrines.

The MEA said, "The Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan was summoned today and a strong protest was lodged at the denial of access to the Indian High Commissioner and consular officials of the Indian High Commission to visit Gurudwara Panja Sahib and meet the Indian pilgrims despite a travel permission having been granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan. A strong protest was also registered by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad at the incident. This is the second consecutive time, Pakistan has denied access to Indian High Commissioner to meet the visiting pilgrims who are Indian nationals. Indian organisers, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), when contacted, have expressed grave concern and dismay at the incident despite the visiting pilgrims from India having asked Pakistan organisers to facilitate a meeting with Indian High Commissioner and High Commission officials. It has been conveyed to Pakistan side that preventing the Indian High Commission officials from discharging their consular responsibilities is in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the 1974 bilateral Protocol on a visit to religious shrines."

Over 300 Sikh pilgrims from India have been granted visas and are visiting Pakistan to observe the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore. "A special train arranged by the Pakistan Railways carried the pilgrims from Attari to Pakistan on June 21," the Pakistan High Commission had said in a statement on Friday. The visas issued by the High Commission are in addition to the ones issued to Sikh pilgrims participating in the event from other countries, it had added.

"Within the framework of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, a large number of Sikh yatris from India visit Pakistan to observe various religious festivals and occasions every year. Accordingly, the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi has issued visas to over 300 Sikh pilgrims from India to observe the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Gurudwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, from June 21-30," the High Commission had said. Another batch of Sikh pilgrims from India returned from Pakistan after observing the martyrdom day of Guru Arjun Dev Ji from June 8-17, it had further said.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a Sikh leader of a kingdom, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century. He died in Lahore on June 27, 1839. His memorial, designed combining Hindu, Islamic and Sikh motifs, is located adjacent the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, as well the Gurudwara Dera Sahib. Every year pilgrims flock to his memorial to pay respect.

(With PTI inputs)

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