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Burney rejects apology from India

The home ministry says Burney had been "denied entry, and not deported", by the immigration official on duty, reports Zia Haq.
Hindustan Times | By Zia Haq, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 01, 2008 12:50 AM IST

An upset Ansar Burney, former Pakistani human rights minister, on Saturday demanded that India come out with the real story of the circumstances in which he was sent back soon after landing in Delhi on an Emirates flight from London late on Friday evening.

Burney, who has fought the Pakistani establishment for clemency for Indian death row prisoners Kashmir Singh and Sarabjit Singh, was scheduled to speak at an anti-terrorism conference in Delhi on Sunday.

As the organisers and Sarabjit’s family waited for him at the airport, Burney was packed off to London on the return flight. The story was reported in some of the later editions of Hindustan Times.

In a statement on Saturday, the home ministry said Burney had been "denied entry, and not deported", by the immigration official on duty "on account of inadequate documentation".

The statement added: "The inconvenience to Mr Burney is unfortunate and regrettable, and he is always welcome to visit India. This has also been conveyed to him..."

Burney said the statement was in bad taste.

"My travel documents were not inadequate. I visited India last month on the basis of the same documents," he told HT.

"At least they should tell me what my crime is. If my travel documents were inadequate, why is the Indian government then apologising to me?" he argued.

The former minister said he had a SAARC visa sticker on his passport, which he had used to visit India in April. "I was not a minister then, I am not a minister now," he said, adding that the SAARC sticker was not for ministers and parliamentarians alone.

He insisted he had been "deported", and made to sign papers to that effect at the airport before being put back on the plane. Through the day, as the incident snowballed into an embarrassment for the government, cagey officials sought to argue that the SAARC sticker had caused the "confusion".

Home secretary Madhukar Gupta said no "specific instruction" had been issued to deport Burney, and that overzealous immigration officials had acted on their own.

Pakistani deputy high commissioner Afrasiab said his mission had sent a note verbale -- an unsigned diplomatic note -- to the MEA, requesting a factual account of the incident.

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