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Indian cleric quashes rumours about ‘disappearance’

Updated March 20, 2017

KARACHI: After the Indian external affairs minister made a statement on Sunday about “safety” of the two clerics who had gone missing after arriving in Pakistan last week, one of them told reporters here that he faced no problem during his stay in Pakistan and he would continue to visit the country in future.

Syed Asif Ali Nizami, the custodian of Delhi’s Nizamuddin Auliya shrine, and his nephew Nazim Ali Nizami, were reported “missing” this week. However, they returned to Karachi on Saturday and stayed at the house of their host in Lines Area.

On Sunday morning, Sushma Swaraj, the Indian external affairs minister, tweeted that she had spoken to Nazim Ali Nizami in Karachi and “he told me that they are safe and will be back in Delhi tomorrow”.

Later in the afternoon, the younger Nizami spoke to the media at a religious gathering held at his host’s house and squashed rumours about his and his uncle’s mysterious “disappearance”.

He said they had gone to “an area where [mobile phone] signals were not available”. Absence of communication made people worried and led to rumours that “we have been kidnapped”, Nazim Nizami added.

“We have visa for one month, but we are returning [home] tomorrow (Monday),” he said, adding: “This [religious] gathering has been organised at this Astana-i-Nizamia before our departure so that the people in our circle could attend it.”

He showed copies of their visas, said to be valid for Karachi, Sehwan, Multan, Lahore and Sialkot.

Asked whether he would come to Pakistan again, Nazim Nizami said he would visit here “a thousand times” since the shrines of great Sufi saints like Baba Farid Shakar Ganj were in Pakistan. “I have been visiting [Pakistan] every Muharram for the past 25 years and why I won’t come again as Baba Sahib invites me,” he said, referring to the saint’s Urs in Pakpattan.

The SHO of the Brigade police station visited the house to meet the Indian clerics.

While Ms Swaraj had said in her previous tweets that the duo arrived in Pakistan on March 8, the cleric said that both of them had reached here on March 6.

The Indian media had earlier reported that Asif Nizami and Nazim Nizami visited the shrine of Baba Farid Shakar Ganj in Pakpattan and went missing on March 14 from Lahore airport.

The Indian High Commission in Islamabad had sought the Foreign Office’s assistance in tracing the two clerics. The Indian external affairs minister also spoke to Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, and won assurance of his “full support”.

On Saturday, the two clerics surfaced in Karachi and informed the authorities concerned that they had gone to a place in the interior of Sindh where there was no mobile phone coverage.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017