The Indian High Commission issued a statement on Sunday after several guests who visited its Iftar party in Islamabad on Saturday evening complained of harassment. The guests faced “unprecedented harassment and intimidation” by security agencies, the embassy said.
Guests were invited from all over Pakistan to the Iftar party at Serena Hotel. The High Commission said guests were “intimidated and even physically stopped” from attending the party. “A concerted campaign was launched by Pakistan’s security agencies in the days preceding the iftar function to reach out to the invitees to actively dissuade them from attending the event,” the statement said.
“Some officials were jostled, pushed, abused and aggressively threatened with bodily harm,” the statement said. “In some cases, mobile phone belonging to the officials were snatched away.”
Over 300 guests, including parliamentarians, government officials, mediapersons, businessmen and retired diplomats, were prevented from attending the function, the statement said.
“The disappointing chain of events of 1 June not only violate basic norms of diplomatic conduct but are against all notions of civilised behaviour,” the statement added. “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 for our bilateral relationship.”
The High Commission asked the Pakistani government to “urgently investigate these ugly events”.
The guests had complained that the venue had enhanced security checks by Pakistani officials. High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, in his address to the audience at the event, apologised that some guests were unable to attend the party, ThePrint reported.
One of those who came, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Farhatullah Babar, tweeted that the hotel seemed barricaded and he was told that the party was cancelled. When he insisted, he was told to enter from the other gate. “Other gate also closed and told to go back to front gate again,” he tweeted. “What’s going on, something fishy.”
Journalist Mehreen Zahra-Malik said there was “unprecedented level of harassment” at Serena Hotel. She tweeted that police and the anti-terrorism force were “misbehaving” with anyone trying to get in. “Got screamed at, my driver abused,” she said. “Sorry, not being an entitled prick. This was genuine harassment.”
At the party, Bisaria apologised for “the difficulty people faced while entering” and said “many of them could not even come”. He also thanked guests who had come from Lahore and Karachi to attend the party.
He later told ANI that “such intimidatory tactics are deeply disappointing”.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah criticised both the sides and called it “stupid tit for tat diplomacy”. “Now that it’s 1-1 perhaps it’s time to move on & stop this nonsense,” Abdullah tweeted.
Relations between India and Pakistan nosedived after militants belonging to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit killed 40 security personnel in Pulwama on February 14. India retaliated by targeting a Jaish camp in Balakot with airstrikes.
On March 22, several people who were invited to the National Day celebrations at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi complained that the Delhi Police stopped them to ask for personal details before letting them in. Some claimed that they were advised against attending the event as the Indian government had boycotted it.