M A I N   N E W S

Pak Acting CJ, kin finally cross border
Officials not intimated about visit
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Wagah, April 1
Stung by the humiliation meted out to them by the immigration authorities here on March 29, Mr Justice Bhagwandas, the first Hindu Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, and seven of his family members who reached Wagah today, went to Delhi without informing any official of the district administration or judicial officer. They are on their way to Lucknow to attend a satsang.

The local administration had made frantic calls to Islamabad and the office of Mr Justice Bhagwandas to know about his visit to India but he reportedly did not entertain any calls.

Mr Gurwaryam Singh, SDM, said Mr Justice Bhagwandas could not be given a proper reception at Wagah since he had not informed anybody about his visit this time.

Mr Justice Bhagwandas and his family had come here by the Lahore-Amritsar bus on March 29 on their the way to Lucknow. They did not have visa for Amritsar but wanted to board a train from there for Lucknow the same day. Despite the judge giving an undertaking, the immigration authorities did not relent and they had to return. The incident had caused concern in Pakistan, apart from causing anger in legal circles of India.

Mr Justice Bhagwandass, however, is not the only VVIP who was been "humiliated" at Wagah. On October 17, 2004, a former Prime Minister, Mr I. K. Gujral, accompanied by journalist Kuldip Nayyar, faced a harsher experience while returning from Pakistan where they were on a two-day visit to Lahore for a meeting of the South Asia for Human Rights. The incident had eclipsed the delegation's visit.

They had lodged a protest with the immigration authorities in this regard. Mr Gujral had felt slighted by the "odd behaviour" of officials who asked him to fill a form, stand in a queue and wait for his turn for the formalities to be completed. Peeved at such behaviour, he remarked that if the immigration staff "could do this to a former Prime Minister, I wonder what would be the fate of a common man."

Kuldip Nayyar had stated: "It was an unfortunate episode which demonstrated that Indian officials were not friendly at the international border and lacked courtesy."

In yet another shocking incident, the body of Surinder Singh Chawla, a former president of the District Akali Jatha who had died at Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, in 2004, was not allowed to enter his own country by road on the plea that he had gone to Pakistan by train and the body could be brought back through the same mode of transport.

While the Pakistan authorities had allowed to send the body via Wagah, Indian officials insisted on honouring the word of law, missing its spirit. His family was told to bring the body through Attari (by train).

Two more bodies were denied entry by road and these had to be brought from Pakistan in a train, delaying the cremation for three days.


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