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Pakistan rejects Indian allegation of not letting Indian high commissioner meet Sikh pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Sunday rejected Indian allegation that the High Commissioner of India was “prevented” from meeting the visiting Sikh pilgrims.

“Indian allegations regarding prevention of meeting of the Indian High Commissioner with Sikh Yatrees are reprehensible attempts to try to mutate the truth. Indian HC agreed to cancel the visit due to Sikh protests against India for screening of controversial movie in India,” he said responding to a question regarding the press release issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

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He said it was deeply regrettable that facts in this matter had been completely distorted and misrepresented.

The factual position was 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 and Khalsa Janamdin at the Gurdwara Panja Sahib on April 14, 2018, Faisal said.

He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly processed the matter on April 13 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, he added.

“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, conveyed back to ETPB their agreement to call off the visit in view of such a situation. The ETPB acted with sincerity and in good faith, and the cancellation took place with mutual understanding,” he said.

He said the facts regarding visits of consular/protocol teams on April 12 and 14 had also been twisted. 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, he said.

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However, the FO spokesman said, the concerned officials of the Indian High Commission chose not to return, even though they were duly notified that the requisite clearance had been granted.

“On 14 April, there was no scheduled meeting with pilgrims. Today, i.e. 15 April, the officials of Indian High Commission have duly visited Gurdwara Punja Sahib,” he 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 the visits of Sikh Yatrees from across the world, including India, and extended protocol, reception, security, medical and other facilities. This is consistent with our religious ethos and traditions of hospitality,” said the spokesperson.



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