India, Pak Trade Barbs On Iftar Chaos

India on Sunday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over the “gross intimidation on an unprecedented scale” of Pakistani guests who were invited to an Iftar event organised by the Indian High Commission a day earlier.

In a statement, the high commission here emphasised to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the “disappointing chain of events of June 1 at the Serena hotel not only violate basic norms of diplomatic conduct but are against all notions of civilised behaviour”.

“Stopping diplomats and officials of the High Commission of India in Pakistan from discharging their diplomatic functions by intimidation and coercion is entirely counter-productive of our bilateral relationship,” it said.

Earlier on Sunday, Indian High Commission Ajay Bisaria had told ANI, “We apologise to all our guests who were aggressively turned away from our Iftar party last evening.”

The statement said that “a concerted campaign” was launched by Pakistan’s security agencies in the days preceding the Iftar function to reach out to invitees to “actively dissuade them” from attending the event.

“The Pakistani guests who did reach the function venue, in some cases from places as far as Lahore and Karachi, were intimidated and physically stopped from attending the Iftar function by Pakistani security forces, who had virtually laid the Serena hotel under siege. Further, many guests from the diplomatic community based in Islamabad were also subjected to harassment,” it noted.

The high commission said, “In complete violation of diplomatic norms, a large Pakistani security detachment, equipped with forklifts, was detailed outside Serena hotel to aggressively turned away Pakistani citizens.”

In some cases, cars used by invites were “lifted and removed using forklifts”.

“The more than three hundred esteemed Pakistani guests who were turned away, included parliamentarians, government officials, media representatives, retired military officials, businessmen, and retired diplomats, in addition to citizens from all walks of life,” according to the statement.

The Pakistani security forces stationed on the main road outside the hotel “rudely rebuffed and intimidated” officers and diplomatic staff of the mission who tried to ascertain from the security personnel the reasons for the harassment of the Pakistani guests.

Some officials were “jostled, pushed, abused and aggressively threatened with bodily harm. In some cases, mobile phones belonging to officials were snatched away”, the high commission said.

“We have requested the government of Pakistan to urgently investigate these ugly events and share the results of the exercise with the High Commission of India. Further, we have emphasised to the government of Pakistan the need to ensure that diplomats and officials of the High Commission of India are allowed to discharge their diplomatic functions without fear of coercion or harassment,” it added.

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