Burney not deported, welcome to India, says home ministry (Lead)

May 31st, 2008 - 9:35 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) A day after leading Pakistani human rights advocate and former minister Ansar Burney was denied entry into India, the government Saturday said he was not deported but sent back due to “inadequate travel documents” and that he was “welcome” to here. “The home ministry has clarified that Mr. Burney was denied entry but not deported by immigration officials at the Indira Gandhi International airport on account of inadequate documentation,” the home ministry said in a statement.

He did not face any such difficulties when he arrived here in April after playing a leading role in the release of Indian prisoner Kashmir Singh, jailed on charges of spying, the ministry pointed out.

“The inconvenience caused to Burney is regrettable and unfortunate. He is always welcome to India,” the ministry said.

A senior official from the ministry also spoke to Burney and conveyed the government’s stand.

Earlier, sources in the ministry had said that Burney was refused entry into India at the airport Friday night and sent back to Dubai as he was on was on a “look-out notice” in Indian airports, a list that had not been updated. He had come here to attend a conference.

“We are trying to find out why the look-out list had not been updated in the airports’ computers,” sources in the home ministry told IANS.

The government is also trying to find out why Burney’s name figured in the “look-out notice” which is normally meant for undesirable elements, suspect terrorists, people wanted in court cases and those guilty of financial fraud.

A person figuring in the look-out notice is barred entry into the country. The notice applies to Indians as well as foreigners and is based on information provided by various agencies of the government, including external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

“We don’t know the reasons right now. We are trying to find out which agency of the government provided information for placing Burney on this list,” sources said.

Burney, Pakistan’s former minister of human rights who has generated a lot of goodwill in India for his spirited advocacy of clemency for Sarabajit Singh, an Indian death row prisoner in Pakistan, has expressed “shock” at the treatment meted out to him by airport authorities in India.

“I am shocked at the behaviour of the Indian government. But this will not affect my work,” he said from Dubai.

“This is the most heartbreaking moment of my life. I can’t understand how the Indian government could deport a person who is relentlessly working for the good of Indian persons lodged in Pakistani jails,” Burney told media persons minutes before he was sent back to Dubai Friday night.

According to Burney, he was not given any reason by the immigration officials, but was asked to return to Dubai. Burney had recently visited India on the invitation of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, but then he came via the Wagah land route.

“I will continue my efforts in securing the release of Sarabjit Singh and other innocent persons, including Indians, lodged in Pakistani jails,” he said.

The Indian external affairs ministry did not comment on Burney’s deportation, saying it was not involved.

“It was a private visit. We don’t know anything about it,” said sources in the Pakistani high commission here.

Reliable sources, however, pointed out that Islamabad’s reticence on Burney’s deportation shows that it did not want the lawyer to come to India at a time when the two countries are in the process of resolving at the highest political level the issue of prisoners detained in each other’s country.

The powers-that-be in Islamabad are also said to be unhappy with Burney’s advocacy of the cause of Indian prisoners and the publicity he gets in India.

The Pakistan government has told Burney’s family that it had no role in his deportation from India to Dubai, his brother Sarim Burney said in Karachi on Saturday.

“I spoke to the foreign office and was told that Pakistan had no role in the deportation,” Sarim Burney said.

Pakistan is yet to decide on India’s request for clemency for Sarabjit Singh, the Indian prisoner who was convicted and sentenced to death for his alleged complicity in terror blasts in Multan nearly two decades ago. The issue figured in discussions between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad last week.

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