Pakistan PM Raja Pervez Ashraf prays at Ajmer Sharif



Pakistan PM Raja Pervez Ashraf prays at Ajmer Sharif Ajmer/Jaipur: Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Saturday prayed at the Ajmer Sharif shrine for peace in his country during his short visit to Ajmer and Jaipur, where External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid hosted lunch for him but no bilateral issue including terrorism was discussed.

Ashraf, accompanied by a 40-member delegation, including 20 family members, was received at the Sanganer Airport in Jaipur by Rajasthan government officials and straight drove to the lunch venue, Rambagh Palace.

After their over one-hour long luncheon meeting, Khurshid said, "This was a private visit. It was a pilgrimage (for Ashraf). This was not the occasion nor did I have the authority to discuss such issues."

He was replying to a question by a newsman whether terrorism was discussed with his guest.

"We have taken up such issues. We will do it in future. Today it was a private visit. There was no official talk. We will do it at the appropriate time," Khurshid said.

Khurshid said the lunch for Ashraf was hosted as a matter of courtesy and in keeping with the post he holds.

"We agreed for his programme and everything was done in this backdrop," he said.

On opposition parties, including the BJP, questioning the need to welcome the Pakistan Prime Minister, Khurshid said, "They just have to look at their own history and they would know why".

The brief trip of 62-year-old Ashraf to the 13th century shrine hit a sour note following a boycott by the Dargah’s spiritual head in protest against the recent brutal killing and beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army.

Opposing the Pakistan premier's visit, local lawyers, some BJP activists and representatives of markets associations staged protests and shouted anti-Pakistan slogans.

"...I wish for peace in the world and for peace and prosperity in Pakistan," Ashraf wrote in Urdu in the visitors book after spending 30 minutes at the shrine.

Ashraf's visit comes at a time when there is a chill in bilateral ties over the ceasefire violations at the LoC. An Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistani troops while the mutilated body of another was found in January.

New Delhi had lodged a strong protest over the beheading of an Indian soldier and brutal killing of another.

According to official sources, Ashraf thanked Indian leadership for facilitating his "journey of faith" to the Ajmer Sharif.

The Pakistan Prime Minister and Khurshid discussed each other's personal interest and also shared their experiences and views about other shrines including Data Durbar in Lahore.

"There was usual lunch-time talks. No substantive talks on Indo-Pak issues were held," they said.

Ashraf's visit was unlike his President Asif Ali Zardari's trip who came on a day-long visit last April and made a three-hour stopover in New Delhi before flying to Ajmer.

Singh had hosted lunch for the visiting Pakistani President and two leaders also held comprehensive talks on bilateral issues.

Prime Minister Ashraf has a close relationship with Bilal Chishti, the 'Pir' of the shrine at Ajmer.

Chishti met Ashraf twice in Islamabad last year, in December and August. During the meeting in August, Chishti invited the premier to visit Ajmer.

Ashraf accepted the invitation and said he would visit Ajmer at "the first available opportunity".

The shrine in Ajmer is revered by many people in Pakistan, including top political leaders.

PTI