A day after a Railways delegation led by Divisional Railway Manager, Ferozepur, Anuj Prakash was not allowed to cross over to Pakistani side from zero line at Attari Joint Check Post to hold a meeting with Pakistani Railways officials at Wagah on Thursday—none of the delegation members had any passport or visa for Pakistan—the DRM fumed at authorities at Attari Integrated Check Post, saying the delegation should have been allowed to cross over to Pakistan.
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“Were we going to commit theft that we were not allowed to cross over? It has created embarrassment for the government. We are not illiterate. It is not that we were not aware that a passport and a visa were required to cross over to Pakistan, but we were repeatedly assured by the Border Security Force that they would take us to the other side of the border for the meeting without any visa. Only then we came for the meeting without passports and visas.
In 2011, when the last meeting was held between Railway officials of India and Pakistan at Attari (on Indian side), the Pakistani delegation had come without any passport or visa. So, such practice was there in the past,” Prakash told The Indian Express on Friday, adding that he had taken up the matter with Railways headquarters at Delhi.
Prakash said that even the Railway Ministry’s stand was that no passport or immigration clearance was required (for the meeting). He added that the development had also come as a “surprise” for the Railway Ministry.
Prakash also alleged that the authorities at Attari ICP told them about the requirement of passport and visa “only a day ahead of the scheduled visit”.
“Even if we assume there was a communication gap, let us look at practicality. Why this big Attari ICP has been set up? Is it to solve the problems or create impediments?” Prakash asked, reiterating that the delegation should have been allowed to cross over for the meeting. The meeting was for fostering trade ties between the two nations, he added. “We had come all the way from Ferozepur for the meeting,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner (Customs) at Attari ICP, Amanjit Singh, however, said that he received a letter about the visit in writing on Wednesday (May 27) from the railway authorities and replied to them same day in writing that the delegation would not be allowed to cross over to Pakistani side without passport or visa. “There have been verbal communication with me in that regard also and for nearly five days I had been telling the same thing,” Amanjit said.
“Moreover, it is the immigration that decides who can cross over to Pakistan and who not. Customs’ duty is only to check the goods,” Amanjit said.
BSF DIG M F Farooqui said, “We had only told the Railways delegation that we would facilitate them to go to Pakistani side. We did not know that they were not carrying documents required by the authorities concerned. We are border guarding force. We are not the immigration,” said Farooqui.
Both Amanjit and Farooqui said they did not have information about whether Pakistani Railway delegation came for the 2011 meeting without passports or visas, as the Attari ICP was set up in April 2012.