LAHORE - At least 222 Hindu pilgrims, who were earlier barred at the Wagah Border from crossing into India, were allowed to travel.
The pilgrims were stopped by authorities at the border because, according to officials, they had not secured requisite permission from the interior ministry, though they did have visas issued by the Indian High Commission.
Families of two doctors who had NOCs were allowed to travel but the rest of the pilgrims were stopped from crossing the border amid reports that a number of Sindh Hindu families facing alleged persecution were migrating to India.
An immigration officer said that they had no plan to stop these people but they could not be allowed to cross the border because they do not have security clearance. He said that Indian High Commission has issued visas in bulk and the interior ministry was going to lodge a protest with the High Commission on the issue.
The Hindu pilgrims staged a protest against the authorities, who assured them that their cases would be cleared within 48 hours. Later, the border officials allowed them to enter India, saying that documentation process of all the pilgrims has been completed.
“We were given the go-ahead from the interior minister to allow about 250 Hindus to travel to India. They all have valid travel documents,” a senior official of the Federal Investigation Agency in Lahore said.
Earlier, the media had reported that around 60 Hindu families had migrated to India due to insecurity. Reports said that migration of Hindus, mostly from Jacobabad and Ghotki districts of Sindh, had started around six to eight months ago.
The kidnapping of a teenage Hindu girl, Manisha Kumari, from Jacobabad on August 7 had intensified the concerns in the minority community facing alleged forced conversions and abductions.
On Thursday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik termed the migration of families belonging to Hindu community from Jacobabad as a conspiracy against Pakistan. The minister, while replying to a question said the government had been determined to provide complete security to the minorities.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday also took notice of the purported migration of Hindu families and formed a committee under Excise Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla, directing him to visit Jacobabad and probe the matter and submit a report within three days.
The pilgrims while talking to media said they were going on a pilgrimage and that they were not migrating.
All the Hindus barred by the authorities at the border were possessing 33-day visas for different Indian cities. The FIA stopped them on the instruction of the interior ministry only because of the reports of migration.