NEW DELHI: Two Indian clerics, who went missing in Pakistan, returned on Monday, though confusion remained over what really happened to them there, with some reports claiming that they had been picked up by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Syed Asif Nizami (80), the ‘sajjadanashin’ (head cleric) of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, returned after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj sought the intervention of Foreign Affairs advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister, Sartaj Aziz, to secure their safe return. The two had gone missing after visiting the famous Data Durbar shrine in Lahore. They flew back by a Pakistan International Airlines flight and met External Sushma Swaraj here.
Though the two clerics did not divulge much about what transpired in Pakistan, Asif Nizami said he was blindfolded and taken to an undisclosed place.
“I was sitting at the Lahore Airport with my boarding pass when suddenly some people came and told me there were details lacking in my passport. When the flight was about to depart, I was asked to accompany them. I felt helpless. Soon 8-10 people surrounded me and I was taken out through another gate,” Asif Nizami said.
He added that they “put a cloth over my head and took us somewhere”. He, however, said his stay was “comfortable: and the room he was kept in had a bed, pillows and an air conditioner.
However, Sajid Nizami, son of Asif Nizami, alleged that the duo was “taken away” after a report appeared in a Pakistani Urdu daily which claimed the duo had links with Indian external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).
On whether they were detained by Pakistani authorities, Sajid said, “Yes”.
When asked if the powerful ISI was involved in their disappearance and whether they were harassed, Sajid said “no force or coercion was used” against them.
After meeting Swaraj, Nazim Ali Nizami thanked the Indian government, particularly the minister, for their safe return and said they had gone to the neighbouring country with a message of peace and love.
“Whatever we faced during this time should not mean that India and Pakistan should have another reason to feel bitter about each other. The efforts to build peace and amity must continue even more,” Ali Nizami was quoted as saying.