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JAIPUR: The spiritual head of a revered Muslim shrine which Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was set to visit today said yesterday that he objected to the politician’s pilgrimage.
Ashraf and his family were due to begin a day-long private trip today to the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer Sharif, some 400 kilometres west of New Delhi.
The visit is Ashraf’s first trip to India as prime minister and comes at a time of strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad after tit-for-tat killings of soldiers at the tense border between the neighbours.
“I have decided to boycott the visit (to protest against) the brutal killing of our Indian solders by the Pakistani army,” the shrine’s spiritual head, Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, said.
“The incident has hurt Indians,” Khan said in a statement.
Ties between the neighbours came under strain in January when six soldiers on both sides were killed along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border in Kashmir, a region claimed by both countries.
One of the Indian soldiers was allegedly beheaded by Pakistanis.
Khan said he was also protesting against Ashraf’s trip because of alleged ill-treatment of Hindus in Pakistan.
“There are incidents of atrocities on minorities in Pakistan and we have seen people from the Hindu community migrating to India on account of religious, financial and social persecution in Pakistan,” he said.
“I am against that, and to express my feelings, I decided to boycott the visit,” Khan said.
Ajmer Bar Association President Rajesh Tandon described the visit as “intolerable”, and warned that lawyers would symbolically cleanse the road the Pakistani leader will travel to register their protest.
“This is intolerable to an Indian because of the beheading of our soldier at the LoC,” Tandon said.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament that despite greater contacts between the neighbours, ties could improve only if Pakistan shunned its alleged support to cross-border militancy.
“People-to-people contacts have gone up, trade relations have shown improvement,” Singh said in parliament.
“But there cannot be normalisation of relations between our two countries unless and until the terror machine which is still active in Pakistan is brought under control,” he added.