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Swiss duo on peace mission stuck at Attari

After globe-trotting across 17 countries,Swiss couple Matthias and Celina are stuck at the Attari checkpoint along the Indo-Pak border,as customs officials refuse to permit their two ponies entry into the country.

Written by Dharmendra Rataul | Amritsar |
January 31, 2009 12:38:03 am

Ponies denied entry by Customs; waiting for permission to travel to Nepal,Bangladesh

After globe-trotting across 17 countries,Swiss couple Matthias and Celina are stuck at the Attari checkpoint along the Indo-Pak border,as customs officials refuse to permit their two ponies entry into the country.

The Customs department allowed Matthias and Celina to enter India on Tuesday,but said they could not bring their luggage-bearing ponies along with them,as per customs’ restrictions against the import of animals. Rules state that the couple must secure special permission and import licences allowing for the animals’ admittance into India.

The couple were not aware of the rules and regulations and claimed that other countries,including Pakistan,cleared their ponies’ entry without a fuss.“We are on a mission to spread awareness about peaceful co-existence of people and to promote a violence-free world,but because we are struck here,the tour programme is in jeopardy. We are talking to Customs officials and will not move until our ponies are allowed to move ahead with us,’’ said Celina. She said the ponies were part of their tour programme and complained about having to spend cold nights on the border.

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Matthias said the animals had been with them through Middle East and Central Asia and it was imperative that they accompany the couple ahead to Nepal,Bangladesh and other countries. “We are on our way to the Himalayas and need the ponies to travel through the hills. We cannot continue without the ponies. Though the department has assured us help,it is taking a long time,’’ he added.

Additional Commissioner (Customs) M L Malgotra said his officers are simply following the law. “We are aware of their problem and want to help them. We have taken up the matter with higher authorities in Delhi and they will be allowed to take the ponies as soon as permission is granted,” he said.

The ponies,meanwhile,are tied up along the border post and are regularly fed by both the couple and

Indian authorities till their clearance is granted. As the globetrotting duo continue to face administrative hold-ups and headaches,it is worth recalling that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and former CM Captain Amarinder Singh brought back lambs and a horse gifted to them by Pakistan after their visits to the neighbouring country.

Customs officials said the bureaucrats had already received special permission for bringing the animals into India and though the admittance of Amarinder Singh’s horse was delayed by a day due to import regulations,there were no other major hassles.

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