Three days after two Indian clerics went missing from Karachi, the Pakistan government on Saturday conveyed to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad that they have been “traced and have reached Karachi”. The development came within hours of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speaking to Pakistan PM’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz and seeking his help in tracing the two.
Government sources said Pakistan Foreign Office has “confirmed that the two Indian clerics have been traced and reached Karachi”. The two missing Indian clerics — Syed Asif Nizami, head priest (Sajjadanashin) of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah in Delhi, and his nephew Syed Nazim Nizami — reached Karachi this evening, according to Pakistan officials. Speaking to The Sunday Express from Karachi on Saturday evening, Syed Wazir Nizami, their host in that city, said, “The authorities informed us about two hours ago that they had gone to visit their followers in interior Sindh, but due to no cellular service, they were unable to get in touch with us. They are yet to reach home.”
Syed Asif is Syed Wazir’s maternal uncle, and Syed Nazim is his cousin. In Delhi, Asif Ali Nizam’s son Amir said they had received a call from the Home Ministry, informing them that the duo had been traced and released.
“We haven’t yet been able to speak to our father but we received a phone call from the Home Ministry, informing us that our father would reach Karachi by 10.15 pm,” Amir said. “They are supposed to return to India on Monday. As of now, we haven’t been informed where they were kept and why.” According to PTI, a senior Pakistani police official said the two clerics were being questioned on their exact whereabouts since March 15, when they went missing.
“The two have shown up today in Nazimabad and have informed the police about their presence in Karachi,” Tariq Jameel, a senior police officer, was quoted by the news agency. Another police official confirmed that the police had studied the CCTV footage at the Karachi airport to confirm if the two clerics came from Lahore or elsewhere. “They apparently came to Karachi by road,” the official said.
PTI had earlier reported that Pakistani sources had said the two clerics were in the custody of Pakistan’s intelligence agency over their alleged links with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). They were offloaded from Karachi-bound Shaheen Airlines on March 14 at Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, Pakistani sources said. The family of the clerics expressed surprise that the duo had been detained for their alleged links with MQM. Amir Ali Nizami said that he had “never heard of any such party or movement”.
Asif Nizami had gone to Karachi on March 6 to meet his ailing 90-year old sister, and was accompanied by Nazim. On March 13, they had travelled to Lahore to pay tributes at Daata Darbar shrine, according to their family. “That was the last I spoke with him over the phone,” Sajid Ali Nizami, Asif’s elder son, said. “He was very excited about his visit to the shrine… We kept in touch on WhatsApp even after March 13.”