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Missing Indian clerics return home

Pair blame Pakistan paper for publishing a ‘misleading article’ that led to their detention

Gulf News

New Delhi: Two Indian clerics who had gone missing in Pakistan last week — one of whom is the head of the Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah (shrine) — returned home safely on Monday and blamed a Pakistani daily for publishing a “misleading article” that had led to their detention.

Syed Asif Ali Nizami, 80, and his nephew Nazim Ali Nizami, 66, both clerics of Nizamuddin Dargah, arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the morning where they were welcomed by their family and followers.

Officials of the Union Home Ministry also met the duo on arrival at the airport.

“A Pakistani newspaper called ‘Ummat’ which is published by Jamat-e-Islami carried a misleading report about us doubting our credentials. It said we worked for the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). This led to our detention,” Asif Nizami told Gulf News.

“We had gone to meet my aunt who is over 90-year-old and lives in Karachi. My uncle met his sister after 26 long years. There is a newspaper in Pakistan which printed false pictures and made wild allegations against us,” Nazim Nizami told media.

Both Sufi clerics belonged to the family of hereditary administrators (Sajjada Nashin) of the Nazamuddin shrine.

They had gone on a pilgrimage to Pakistan on March 8 and were reported missing on March 16 after their families were unable to contact them.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday spoke to Pakistani Prime Minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz for the release of the clerics.

Hours later, Islamabad conveyed to New Delhi that the duo was traced in Karachi.

“I just spoke to Syed Nazim Ali Nizami in Karachi. He told me that they are safe and will be back in Delhi soon,” Swaraj tweeted on Sunday.

The clerics thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Swaraj and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the efforts they made for their release.

“Irrespective of our different religions, we all live here peacefully and in harmony. But there are some elements who don’t like this. We thank the Indian government for our safe return,” Asif Nizami said.

Amir Nizami, son of Asif Nizami, also thanked the government for its intervention in the matter.

“Both are fine. We are thankful to the Indian Government for all the support in securing their return,” Amir told media.

Last week, reports in Pakistan media said the two clerics were not detained by the Pakistani authorities but had actually lost their way in interior Sindh where there was no communication network. Thus they could not inform their family about their whereabouts.

Some Pakistani newspapers, however, suggested that the clerics were in the custody of Pakistan’s intelligence agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for their alleged links with the hardline Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

The reports said they were bound for Karachi but offloaded from Shaheen Airlines on March 14 at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore.