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Burney’s visit was 'blocked'

There have been reports that Ansar Burney was sent back because of a 16-year-old look-out notice against him, reports Zia Haq.
Hindustan Times | By Zia Haq, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 02, 2008 01:44 AM IST

Ansar Burney was almost granted entry into India but for a last-minute intervention by an "unidentified official", the former Pakistani human rights minister told the

Hindustan Times

on Sunday.

"It could not have been a goof-up because they had almost cleared me for passage," he said.

The official home ministry explanation — that Burney was deported due to "inadequate documentation" late on Friday night — is not borne out by his account of what happened at the immigration counter. There have been reports that Burney was sent back because of a 16-year-old look-out notice against him, which too doesn’t jell with neither the official explanation nor Burney's own account.

Burney said immigration staff instantly recognised him and greeted him on arrival. Soon, two officials started processing his travel papers without “hesitation” after checking his credentials.

One of the officials not only provided him with the entry form applicable for people with SAARC visas, like the one Burney was carrying, but also offered to fill in the details. An unidentified official then halted the process.

HT has learned that foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon called up home secretary Madhukar Gupta on Saturday morning at the behest of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to sort things out. The deportation took the external affairs ministry by surprise, a source, requesting anonymity, said.

Burney said he would have raised the issue of the deaths of four Pakistani nationals lodged in Indian prisons, a prickly issue that may have prompted Indian officials to send him back.

He also suspected Pakistan government could have played a role in it. His brother Sarim said from Karachi that Burney was under a lot of pressure in his country for securing Indian convict Kashmir Singh’s release from a Pakistani prison.

It is possible that both Indian and Pakistan governments do not want the issue of prisoners in each other's custody to blow up beyond a point as this could affect bilateral ties.

Senior officials at the UK offices of the Ansar Burney Trust, a human rights group, said the former federal minister was planning to meet top Indian officials to discuss the issue of securing the release of at least 100 prisoners, something Indian officials were not comfortable discussing at an unofficial level.

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