New Delhi: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday clarified in Parliament that he went to Pakistan not to have lunch, but to deliver a firm message on terrorism at the seventh SAARC meeting of Home Ministers.
He also said, “I did not see whether my speech was covered live or not. The media personnel from DD, ANI and PTI reporters who had come from India were not allowed to enter. I will not comment whether Pakistan was right or wrong in not allowing coverage of my speech at the SAARC summit. About the ‘blackout’, I will need to ask the Ministry of External Affairs about protocol of past occasions. I have no knowledge of the protocol of past occasions.”
On why Pakistan’s Interior Minister Choudhary Nisar Ali Khan left the lunch organised by him for SAARC ministers, Singh said, “I don’t want to comment on how they treated me. The Home Minister did invite everyone at lunch, but went away after that. I also left then. I have no grudges as I wasn’t there to have lunch. I did not go there to have lunch. I did not register any protest there.”
Singh appreciated the unity of the House on the government’s stand on terrorism.
“It reflects the country’s determination to fight terrorism. Every prime minister of this country has always tried to eradicate terrorism from its root. Our neighbour (Pakistan) is such that it never learns,” he said.
Earlier, he told the Rajya Sabha about the statement he made at the SAARC conference, saying, “I gave suggestions during the SAARC meeting that ban on terror outfits by the United Nations must be respected. There is no good or bad terrorism. I said there’s not only need to act against terrorism, but also against those who shelter terrorists. Terrorism should neither be encouraged nor should be patronised. Terrorists of a country should not be seen as a ‘martyr’ by other countries. There should be action against all those state and non-state actors which support terrorism.”
Opposition parties rallied behind the government and condemned Pakistan for “the way the home minister was treated”; Mr Singh’s speech was not broadcast by Pakistani media, but India’s foreign ministry has denied that it was a blackout.
“I strongly condemn how Pakistan didn’t maintain protocol and treated our Home Minister,” Former Janata Dal United president Sharad Yadav.
“But there seems to be some discrepancy in what foreign ministry is saying about protocol issues regarding visit. I strongly condemn how Pakistan didn’t maintain protocol and treated our Home Minister, the entire nation stands united,” he added.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O Brien said, “We are completely on board and welcome the statement. I want the Home Minister to issue clarification on two stories that are there-one the Doordarshan and ANI, who went there, they were not given an opportunity, so actually your speech was deliberately blacked out. They were not allowed. Was that the case?”
“Or there are some people who are trying to say some other rumours saying that this was actually the precedence. If it was the first, it is a matter of serious concern,” he added.
“If the Home Minister did not receive respect and honour due to him in Pakistan during his visit as per protocol, we condemn it. If last night’s blackout actually happened, then it’s a clear indication of dictatorship and not democracy,” said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati also urged the BJP-led Centre to reconsider its policy on India-Pakistan relations.
“In wake of recent media reports on behaviour of Pakistan, I would urge the Home Minister to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider strategy on Indo-Pak relations,” she said on the floor of the house.
National Communist Party (NCP) leader Majeed Memon and Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja also condemned the protests which were held across Pakistan during his recent visit.
Singh arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday amid protests by supporters of the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Harkat ul Mujahideen. The protests were held at a distance of about 10 kilometers from the National Assembly. Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin was also present during the protests.
At the summit, the Home Minister used his address to further India’s complaint of Pakistan inciting the recent unrest in Kashmir which has left at least 50 people dead in clashes that began with last month’s shooting of 22-year-old terrorist Burhan Wani by security forces.