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1974 protocol: Envoy urges India to allow religious tourism

1974 protocol: Envoy urges India to allow religious tourism

PHOTO: FILE PHOTO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood has stressed upon the Indian government to fully implement the bilateral 1974 Protocol between India and Pakistan on Visits to Religious Shrines. The Pakistani Government has made assiduous efforts to preserve religious sites and facilitate visits of people of all faiths, he told an Indian daily.

Referring to the recent visit of Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan, Mahmood said it was consistent with the government’s commitment and in accordance with provisions of the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines.

Over 20,000 Sikh pilgrims from across the globe attended the Baisakhi festival with the main celebrations held in Gurdawara Panja Sahib in Hassanabdal. The high commissioner emphasizing upon the faithful application of the bilateral protocol, said people from different faiths usually wait and prepare for their religious journeys throughout the year and must be allowed to observe these auspicious events.

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In the meanwhile, the Foreign Office in a press statement rejected Indian Ministry of External Affairs allegations by calling them an attempt to generate controversy around the Sikh pilgrims visit to Pakistan.

“It is ironic for the Government of India to accuse Pakistan of violating the 1974 Protocol whereas they, in clear violation of the Protocol, have twice denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims on occasions of Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (RA) and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri (RA) this year, and scuttled at least three visits of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims to religious monuments in Pakistan since June 2017,” it added.

The press statement also said that  Pakistan has made excellent arrangements to facilitate the visits of Sikhs from across the world, including India, and extended protocol, reception, security, medical and other facilities which was consistent with its religious ethos and traditions of hospitality.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2018.

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