Khurshid hosts lunch for Pakistan PM in Jaipur

Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Saturday paid obeisance at the historic dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer in a tense atmosphere marked by protests over skirmishes between soldiers on the Line of Control that soured bilateral relations.

Mr. Ashraf met External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in Jaipur, where the latter hosted a lunch for him, but there were no official talks between the two sides. The Premier’s journey from Islamabad to Ajmer along with his wife Nusrat Pervez and a 40-member delegation was described as his “private visit.”

Mr. Ashraf and his entourage arrived at Sanganer airport here by a Pakistan Air Force aircraft and left for Ajmer, situated 130 km from the Rajasthan capital, in three choppers of the Indian Air Force. He went straight from the Ghooghra helipad outside Ajmer to the 13th Century shrine in the heart of the city and offered supplications at the tomb of the Sufi mystic.

Lawyers’ groups, Bharatiya Janata Party activists and representatives of market associations staged protests and raised anti-Pakistan slogans when Mr. Ashraf was inside the dargah. Demonstrations were also staged by Karni Sena activists when he was having lunch with Mr. Khurshid at the Rambagh Palace Hotel.

Mr. Ashraf offered a 42-metre multicoloured velvet ‘chadar’ and floral tributes at the Sufi saint’s mausoleum. Khadim Syed Bilal Chishti performed ‘ziarat’ for the visitors. Tight security was provided around the dargah and the cavalcade was taken on a different route to avoid the protesters. Police also used mild force to disperse the activists agitating en route.

Expresses gratitude

In his impressions written in the visitors’ book, 62-year-old Mr. Ashraf prayed for peace in the world and peace and prosperity in Pakistan. “I and my family members are fortunate to get an opportunity to visit the dargah. I express gratitude to Gharib Nawaz for this,” he wrote in Urdu.

Though Mr. Ashraf was welcomed in the dargah with the beating of drums and the representatives of Dargah Committee and Anjum Khuddam Syedzadgan received him at the entrance gate, ‘Sajjadanashin’ (spiritual head) of the shrine Syed Zainul Abedin boycotted his visit, saying Pakistan had not taken action against its Army personnel who beheaded an Indian soldier and mutilated the body of another after crossing the LoC.

Mr. Khurshid told journalists after the Premier left for Ajmer that this was an occasion of pilgrimage for Mr. Ashraf and the issue of terrorism was not discussed with him.