India ready to grant Pakistani Hindus long-term visa

With growing concern over the plight of several hundred Pakistani Hindus coming to India, the government Thursday said it was willing to grant long-term visas to those who want to stay back in the country.

Around 250 Pakistani Hindus recently moved to India after promising Pakistani authorities there that they will return after their pilgrimage. Many of them have complained of ill-treatment and persecution in Pakistan, a charge denied by Islamabad.

“We can grant them long-term visas if they apply under rules of the India-Pakistan visas,” government sources said here Thursday.

Most Pakistani Hindus have come on a month-long visa here for pilgrimage, but many of them have voiced their desire not to go back to Pakistan.

The Indian government has, however, rejected Pakistan’s charges of a “conspiracy” about giving so many visas to Pakistani Hindus, saying due process and diligence was exercised in accordance with the India-Pakistan visa pact which regulates travel between the two countries.

“Pakistan has an exit control policy which empowers them to detain any traveller if the visas were not issued in proper categories and following the prescribed system,” said the sources.

The treatment of Hindus in Pakistan has evoked concerns across the political spectrum in India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded the government rehabilitate the Hindus who have arrived in India from Pakistan.

Parliamentarians and politicians across the political divide Monday expressed concern over the plight of the minority Hindus in Pakistan and urged the government to spell out what action it has taken in the matter.

In some sections in Pakistan, the issue has revived the debate about the place of minorities in the country.

An editorial in the News International, a Pakistani daily, Thursday said that “minorities, and particularly Hindus, have faced persecution over the past few decades” in Pakistan.