Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday, the second day of his three-day visit to Kolkata, and invited her to visit Pakistan. “Hopefully relations between West Bengal and Pakistan will flourish. We have also invited her (Mamata) to visit Pakistan and hopefully she will visit Pakistan in some time,” he said. “Mamata Didi is very popular and a household name in Pakistan… she is very down to earth and simple,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Basit said at an event that the relationship between India and Pakistan was that of a “saas-bahu”, but later apologised when reporters pointed out that he could be trivialising serious issues such as ceasefire violations. “The intention was not to trivialise anything. It is a very important relationship; we state things in a lighter way in a friendly environment. I thought there was no harm in saying difficult things in a light way. I apologise but the intention was not to trivialise anything. Our relationship gives so much stress that it is important to vent by saying these things,” he said.
Talking about the controversy around 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Basit said Lakhvi had not been released from jail. “There is a judicial process in Pakistan. It is a trial, a matter which is sub judice. The prosecution is doing its best… I will not like to jump the gun even if he has been granted bail. Why create hype? The trial has not stopped and one would like it to come to an end… there are countless examples in India as well where trials continue for years and don’t come to an end,” he said.
On inviting separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani to the reception on Pakistan Day, observed on March 23, he said, “There is nothing new about it. We always invite our Indian and Kashmiri friends to the reception. We do not find anything wrong so please take it in the same spirit.”
He also said he wished the Pakistan High Commission was based in Kolkata rather than in New Delhi.
“There is something in the air of the city and one can feel the warmth and friendliness which makes it the city of joy. I am sure this will not be my last visit,” he said.
He added that he had come to India as Pakistan High Commissioner at a historic time. “Our PM believes Pakistan can’t realise its potential unless it has good relations with all its neighbouring countries, especially India and Afghanistan. In India, there is a Prime Minister who strongly believes in development agenda,” he said.