ISLAMABAD – Foreign Office has rejected as baseless Indian allegation that its High Commissioner in Islamabad was prevented from meeting the visiting Sikh pilgrims.
Responding to a question regarding the Press Release issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs <link>, Foreign Office, in a statement, said it is deeply regrettable that facts in this matter have been completely distorted and misrepresented.
It said the factual position is that the secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) had extended an invitation to the High Commissioner of India to attend the main function of Baisakhi at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib on Saturday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly processed the matter on Friday and granted the travel permission.
However, in the run-up to the main function, the ETPB authorities noticed strong resentment among segments of Sikh Yatrees, gathered there from different parts of the world, protesting the release in India of some film on Baba Guru Nanak Devji.
The Foreign Office statement said 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.
The Indian High Commission officials, after due deliberation, agreed to call off the visit in view of such a situation.
In another rebuttal, Foreign Office said the facts regarding visits of Protocol team on 12 and 14th of this month have also been twisted.
The statement said the matter relating to the Protocol team’s access on the arrival of the Jatha at Wagha was expeditiously resolved through the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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.
On 14th of this month, there was no scheduled meeting with pilgrims.
On Sunday, the officials of Indian High Commission have duly visited Gurdwara Punja Sahib.
The Foreign Office said we deeply regret this Indian attempt to generate controversy around the visits of Sikh pilgrims and to vitiate the environment of bilateral relations.
For decades, Pakistan has made excellent arrangements to facilitate visits of Sikh Yatrees from across the world, including India.
It is ironic for the government of India to accuse Pakistan of violating the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, whereas it is India that has, in clear violation of the Protocol, twice within this year denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims on occasions of Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (RA) and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri (RA) and scuttled at least three visits of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims to Religious Shrines in Pakistan since June 2017.