Indian home minister's arrival in Pak for SAARC meet met with flurry of protests

Militant group Hizbul Mujahideen staged a sit-in on the road leading from Islamabad airport to the capital city, blocking the road for several hours. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan Aug 04, 2016, 04.43 AM (IST)
India's home minister Rajnath Singh arrived in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Wednesday (August 03) to a flurry of protests across the country.

Singh is in Islamabad to attend the one-day meeting of home ministers from countries belonging to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

The SAARC group includes India, Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Early in the day, Syed Salahuddin, supreme commander of the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, staged a sit-in on the road leading from Islamabad airport to the capital city, blocking the road for several hours.

Mishal Malik, wife of Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik staged a token hunger strike in front of the press club in Islamabad.

"This is a 12-hours' token hunger strike. We have been protesting here since the morning," Mishal told Reuters TV.

"The basic reason for the strike is that Kashmiris are being subjected to a bloodbath for the past 27/28 days. At the same time, their home minister Rajnath Singh has been instigating the Indian forces to kill more and more Kashmiri people. According to the reports we are getting, the death toll has crossed 78, approximately, and more that 5,000 people are severely injured. More than 200 people have been blinded. Our message is that the Pakistani government should lodge a strong protest that Rajnath and the Indian government should stop their atrocities, give up the occupation of Kashmir as soon as possible, and give Kashmiri people their birth right."

In the port city of Karachi, activists belonging to Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), an Islamist charity linked to outlawed militant group Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) rallied on the streets chanting anti-India slogans.

"The visit of the Indian home minister is not justifiable in any way, especially at a time when a massacre is taking place in Kashmir on the orders of this man. There is a continuous curfew there. Life has been made hell for children, women and the elderly. At this time, this man's coming to Pakistan will not only give a negative message to the Kashmiri nation, but also shake the confidence of the Pakistani nation. This visit will, in fact, encourage terrorism, lawlessness and extremism," Muzzamil Iqbal Hashmi, Chief of JuD Karachi told reporters.

In Lahore, Jud chief Hafiz Saeed, lambasted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for hurting the feelings of the Kashmiri nation by allowing Singh to come to Pakistan.

"Today the Kashmiris are standing at a crossroad, and in Islamabad he (Indian home minister) is being welcomed. I want to clearly announce that after this there will not be any agreement with India, God willing. And no agreement with India will be allowed, God willing," Saeed said.

Singh is the first high-level official to come to Pakistan since December 2015, when Narendra Modi landed in Lahore to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

However, Rajnath Singh along with his SAARC counterparts will call on Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif. 

Accompanied by a delegation comprising officials from his ministry and external affairs, Singh, will be underlining the need for meaningful cooperation among the South Asian countries. 

Apart from terrorism, other key issues to be discussed include liberalisation of visa, illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and small arms and how to make coordinated and concerted efforts to combat such menace.