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Pak PM prays for peace at Ajmer shrine, meets Khurshid over lunch

IANS [ Updated 09 Mar 2013, 23:16:55 ]
Pak PM prays for peace at Ajmer shrine, meets Khurshid over lunch
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Jaipur, Mar 9: Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, on a private visit to the Ajmer shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, Saturday met Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid over lunch here, but no official talks were held between the two sides.



Ashraf, along with his wife and other family members, later offered prayers in the shrine for peace and prosperity in the world and better relations between India and Pakistan, shrine sources told IANS.

Wearing a white Pathan suit, Ashraf also offered a 42 meter long green and blue chadar which he brought from Pakistan at the shrine, the sources said. He promised to return if his "wish" is fulfilled.

Khurshid hosted Ashraf, who arrived in the Rajasthan capital on a day-long visit, at the Rambag Palace Hotel here.

"It was a private visit. It was not an occasion for talks," Khurshid told reporters.

Asked if India's concerns on terrorism were conveyed to Ashraf, Khurshid said the occasion was not proper to discuss the matter.

"The occasion was not appropriate...Since it was a private visit, we don't discuss such topics.., he said.

Senior Rajasthan government officials received Ashraf at the Jaipur airport, as the prime minister, accompanied by his wife and other family members, arrived in a Pakistan Air Force aircraft at around 11.55 a.m. After the lunch, Ashraf left for Ajmer in a chopper.

Elaborate security arrangements were made in Ajmer in consultation with the Pakistani security team. At least 2,000 policemen were deputed in and around the shrine area - snipers on rooftops and also at the windows of houses lining the main road leading to the shrine, and policemen every 50 metres of the route.

Ashraf, along with his family and delegation, landed at the Gughra helipad in Ajmer, 140 km from here, in three helicopters at about 3.40 p.m., and was taken to the Dargah under heavy security through the city which was virtually turned into a fortress.

The route of convey was changed at the last minute as the lawyers came out on roads in front of the district and session court to protest. The convoy was then taken from the civil lines that connects to the Dargah road on Savitri crossroads.

Ashraf was welcomed by Mohammad Afzal, the acting Nazim and members of Anjuman committee, as the dargah's 'diwan' Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, who traditionally greets foreign heads of state, did not turn up as he had already announced his decision to boycott the visit.

Entering the shrine at about 4.10 p.m., Ashraf seemed to be in a cheerful mood. He sat on the floor and offered prayers inside as he offered the chadar and flowers.

"He wished for something in the dargah and said he will come again," said a khadim, who claim to be descendants of the saint and are authorized to carry out prayers at the shrine.

"He (Ashraf) said to the members of the Anjuman (a committee of khadims) that he is fortunate enough to be in this sacred place with his family. He said that he found a sense of peace at this place," added another.

"He was just like a common pilgrim coming to the Dargah," said Natiq Chishti, a khadim who was inside the Dargah.

Khadim Sayed Bilal Chishti performed the rituals and Ashraf's family members also offered prayers in the Dargah.

Ashraf also roamed inside the premises of the Dargah where the secretary of Anjuman committee Sayed Wahed Angra explained the history and teachings of Khwaja Garib Nawaz, as the saint is known.

Ashraf also gave a closed envelope to Bilal Chishty as a 'nazrana' (offering) and also offered Pakistani Rs.11,000 in the 'badi deg'.

"He wrote in the guest book of the Anjuman in Urdu: 'I and my family are fortunate enough to be here in such a sacred place. I wish peace in the world and especially in Pakistan'," said khadim Maulan Manovar.

The Pakistani delegations remained for about 40 minutes inside the dargah and went back to the helipad at 5.20 p.m. to return to Jaipur. They flew back to Pakistan at 6.35 p.m.

The Pakistani prime minister's visit comes two months after the cross-border ceasefire violations that led to heightened tensions between the two neighbours.



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