India refuses to issue visas to Pakistanis to attend Urs of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer Sharif
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri on Monday said India has refused to issue visas to Pakistanis wishing to attend the Urs of Sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti ─ also known as ‘Gharib Nawaz', or patron of the poor ─ at Dargah Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan.
According to Qadri, 500 Pakistanis were to leave for India on March 7.
The announcement from the religious affairs minister comes amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack and subsequent airstrikes by both countries.
"India's extremist face has come forward," Qadri said adding, "India is held hostage by religious extremists."
The religious affairs minister said Pakistanis had been deprived attendance to the Urs for two years.
In March 2018, the Foreign Office (FO) had expressed its disappointment at India's failure to issue visas to 503 Pakistani pilgrims wanting to participate in the annual Urs.
The shrine of Chishti ─ considered to be among the holiest Muslim shrines in India ─ holds great significance for the followers of the 12th century saint residing in Pakistan.
Every year, around 500 Pakistani devotees used to attend the Urs of the saint, who introduced the Afghan-origin Chishti Order, which preaches love and tolerance, to Punjab and Rajasthan.
As per Qadri, the Indian embassy, in a phone call, had informed them of the cancellation of the visa applications for the visitors, after which the ministry had informed them via SMS. He added that the Indian embassy had not yet returned the passports of the visa applicants.
He noted that in 2018, during the Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, only 190 of 400 visa requests had been approved.
On the other hand, in one year, Pakistan had issued visas for 5,600 Sikh yatris as well 312 Hindu yatris, the minister said.
Qadri's spokesperson added that just yesterday, 98 Sikh yatris had reached Pakistan for religious pilgrimages.