Pakistan rejects India's 'mischievous spin' to blogger's photos at Kartarpur gurdwara

Published December 2, 2021
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad addresses a press conference in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan

Pakistan on Thursday summoned an Indian diplomat at the Foreign Office to reject the "mischievous spin" being given by New Delhi to a recent incident involving photos taken at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

Earlier this week, Punjab police had launched an investigation after a female blogger's photos taken at the gurdwara sparked criticism on social media. The probe was initiated after an Indian Sikh independent journalist, Ravinder Singh Robin, criticised the model's "bareheaded" photos at a religious site.

On Tuesday, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that Pakistan's charge d’affaires Aftab Hasan Khan was summoned to convey "deep concern at the incident of desecration of the sanctity" of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, the Pakistani official was told that the "reprehensible act deeply hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community in India and worldwide".

“Such continued incidents of desecration and disrespect of places of religious worship of the minority communities in Pakistan highlight the lack of respect for the faith of these communities,” the report quoted Bagchi as saying.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said that a senior diplomat from the Indian High Commission was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and conveyed "Pakistan's categorical rejection of the mischievous spin given by India to an isolated incident involving an individual at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib".

It was conveyed to the Indian diplomat that the incident was swiftly addressed and clarified, the FO statement said.

"The government of Pakistan accords [the] highest primacy to the rights of the minorities. Sanctity of religious places and revered sites of every community is ensured in Pakistan," he said.

"The Indian diplomat was instead told to urge the government of India to investigate the incidents of gross and systematic persecution of minorities in India which continue with impunity and state complicity. Given its systematic marginalisation and brutalisation of minorities, India has no locus standi to even feign concern for minorities elsewhere," he stated.

"Indian authorities must focus on ensuring effective protection of their own minorities and places of worship from repeated instances of desecration, hate crimes and mob lynching," he said.

Blogger, clothing brand apologise

The blogger's photos were shared on the Instagram page of a clothing brand named Mannat Clothing, but were removed after the criticism.

In an Instagram post, Mannat clarified that "the pictures posted on our accounts are NOT part of any [photo]shoot done by Mannat Clothing. These pictures were provided to us by a third party (blogger) in which they were wearing our dress."

"However, we accept our mistake that we should not have posted this content and we apologise to every single person who was offended by this," it added.

The blogger, Sauleha Imtiaz, herself apologised for the pictures, saying they were not part of a formal photoshoot.

"I just went to Kartarpur to learn about the history and know about the Sikh community. It wasn't done to hurt anyone['s] sentiments or anything for that matter. However, if I have hurt anyone or they think that I don't respect their culture, I am Sorry," she wrote on Instagram.

"I respect the Sikh culture very much and I am sorry to all the Sikh community," she said.

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