Strongly reacting to the “unprecedented level of harassment” meted out to the guests invited to the Indian High Commission’s Iftar party in Islamabad, High Commission Ajay Bisaria Sunday asked Pakistan to “urgently investigate these ugly events” and share the results.
On Saturday evening, the invitees to the Iftar party faced major problems due to enhanced security checks by the Pakistani officials who stopped them on one pretext or the other, the Indian High Commission said in a statement. The annual event was hosted by the Indian High Commissioner at Serena Hotel for which guests were invited from all over Pakistan.
Those attending the event said that additional security deployment was made around the luxury hotel. The guests who made to the venue from places as far as Lahore and Karachi were “intimidated and even physically stopped” from attending the party by Pakistani security forces, PTI reported.
“The guests faced unprecedented harassment and intimidation at the hands of security agencies. A concerted campaign was launched by Pakistan’s security agencies in the days preceding the iftar function to reach out to the invitees to actively dissuade them from attending the event,” the statement read.
Many guests from Pakistan’s diplomatic community were also subjected to harassment at the hands of the Pakistan security forces. The Commission said that over 300 Pakistani guests ranging from top Parliamentarians, media personnel, retired military officials were prevented from attending the event. “A large Pakistani security detachment, equipped with forked lifts, was detailed outside Serena hotel to aggressively turn away Pakistani citizens,” the Indian mission said.
Calling it a violation of diplomatic norms and protocols, Bisaria said that it “was against all norms of civilized behaviour…and entirely counter-productive for our bilateral relationship”.
A journalist said that he saw more than usual security presence but those having invitation cards and identity documents were allowed to attend. “My invitation card was checked and I was asked questions about profession and residence and allowed to go in,” he said. Another journalist, on condition of anonymity, told PTI that he did not attend as he feared about questioning and security checks. He also said that there were reports that some invitees were called by anonymous callers and told not to attend the event.
“Unprecedented level of harassment at @serena_hotels Islamabad. #India embassy iftar happening & police & anti-terrorism force misbehaving with anyone trying into getting in the hotel. Got screamed at, my driver abused. Sorry, not being an entitled prick. This was genuine harassment,” tweeted noted journalist Mehreen Zahra-Malik.
The sudden development from Islamabad comes just days after a new government with a new Foreign Minister takes charge in New Delhi.