ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Foreign Office on Tuesday underscored that Pakistan had made all the arrangements for the visit of the Katas Raj pilgrims, who, regrettably, were forced to withdraw their applications from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi due to non – issuance of no-objection certificate (NOC) by the Ministry of External Affairs of India.
Responding to a query regarding the unfounded Indian allegations about “Pakistan refusing visas to 173 Katas Raj pilgrims”, the Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said that these were completely baseless.
On February 11, the Indian media reported that the Kendriya Sanatan Dharam Sabha (Northern India) had decided to cancel the Katas Raj pilgrimage after the Pakistan High Commission did not grant visa to 173 pilgrims.
The Kendriya Sanatan Dharam Sabha President Shiv Pratap Bajaj said the yatra was to begin on February 11 and conclude on February 17. The Sabha had submitted passports, fees and other relevant documents of 173 pilgrims to the Pakistan High Commission on time but it did not grant visa.
“We were waiting for the grant of visa, but we didn’t get it. We have now decided to cancel the pilgrimage this year,” Shiv Pratap Bajaj said.
Dr Faisal said that recently, India has also denied the visits of Sikh pilgrims, followed by that of Zaireens from Pakistan, and now Katas Raj Pilgrims, the opportunity to participate in their religious festivals.
“Indian actions run counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and an obstruction for the people to people contacts,” he said.
The Spokesperson said that such steps violate the basic human right to religious freedoms and are indicative of the escalatory ladder on which the Government of India has embarked.
“These are against the spirit of peace and tranquility that Pakistan has been trying to promote,” he added.