India forces Katas Raj pilgrims to withdraw visa applications: FO

Pakistan calls for independent int'l inquiry to assess situation in IoK

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Foreign Office has rejected Indian allegations regarding refusal of visas to Hindu pilgrims, saying that the Indian foreign ministry did not issue NOC to pilgrims.
Spokesman for Foreign Office Dr Mohammad Faisal said in a statement, that Pakistan did not refused visas to 173 Katas Raj pilgrims. He termed the Indian charges as completely baseless. He underscored that Pakistan had made all the arrangements for the visit of the pilgrims, who, regrettably, were forced to withdraw their applications from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi due to non – issuance of NOC by the Ministry of External Affairs of India. 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.
He said that 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. “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.
Meanwhile, responding the Indian defence minister comments, the spokesperson stated that the now familiar Indian tendency of apportioning blame to Pakistan, without a shred of evidence, is regrettable. The Indian allegations are premature and inopportune, especially as India itself admits that the operation still continued and investigations had just started, when these comments were made. “We have repeatedly seen India arrogating to itself the role of judge, jury and executioner. The reflex assignment of blame and smear campaigns, based on unfounded allegations, carry no credibility.”
He said, “more deplorable is the threatening tone of the Indian comments that achieves nothing, but further vitiates the already tense environment marked by unprecedented ceasefire violations by India on the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary.”
The spokesman added that Pakistan was fully committed and capable of defending itself against any act of aggression. “We expect the international community to take cognizance of the belligerent and repeated Indian statements against Pakistan, which are not only against international law but also threatens regional peace and stability.”


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