Most Indians who have visited Lahore know how closely it resembles Delhi’s old quarters. When Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif set his gaze on Matia Mahal, an old Delhi section, from the high edge of Jama Masjid’s courtyard on Tuesday morning, the opposite had to be true: “Feels so much like Lahore,” Sharif exclaimed.
Sharif had planned to visit Jama Masjid and Red Fort as soon as he had decided on the historic two-day trip to New Delhi at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of his aides told HT.
Sharif specifically wanted a vantage point to get a bird’s eye view of Matia Mahal and also sought to know about Hotel Karim, an Old Delhi eatery known for its great Mughlai food. Matia Mahal was once home to some of his family’s acquaintances.
Around 8.30 am, Sharif took a brisk flight of alabaster steps to reach the main courtyard, along with his team and son, Hussain Nawaz Sharif. Jama Masjid imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari and his brother Tariq Bukhari took him on a quick tour, before settling for tea and snacks.
“I have come with an open heart for peace,” Sharif told Bukhari. He also said he would work towards a freer visa regime so more people could visit Pakistan. Sharif said he was amazed to know that gate no. 3 of the 17th Century mosque opened to a Hindu locality (from where he entered) and gate no 1 opened to a Muslim locality and both communities co-existed peacefully. Sharif also said Jama Masjid had a twin mosque and near-replica in Lahore, the Badshahi Masjid, which was much better maintained.