Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Saturday paid obeisance at the historic dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer on Saturday 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 Pakistan 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 the 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 Indian Air Force. He went straight from 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.
Opposing the Pakistan Prime Minister’s visit, lawyers’ groups, the 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 Rambagh Palace Hotel.
Mr. Ashraf offered a 42-metre multicoloured velvet ‘Chadar’ and floral tributes at the Sufi saint’s mausoleum. His family ‘Khadim’ Syed Bilal Chishti performed ‘Ziarat’ for the visitors. Tight security was provided around the dargah and the cavalcade was taken from a different route to avoid the protesters. Police also used mild force to disperse the activists agitating en route.
For peace & prosperity
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 talking to journalists here after the Pakistan Premier left for Ajmer that this was an occasion of pilgrimage for Mr. Ashraf and he did not discuss the issue of terrorism with him: “This was not the occasion nor did I have the authority to discuss such issues.”
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir and Advisor on Human Rights Mustafa Khokhar were among the members of the delegation that accompanied Mr. Ashraf.