The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pilgrim Jaswant to salute Jinnah

New Delhi, Jan. 21: After L.K. Advani, it’s Jaswant Singh’s turn for a tryst with Jinnah.

The senior BJP leader will visit the Pakistan founder’s tomb early next month during a trip to Sindh and Baluchistan.

“It is a personal visit. I am going with 100 other pilgrims to the temple of Goddess Hinglaj in Baluchistan. This is a pilgrimage that includes a visit to the dargah of Shahbaz Kalandar,” he said.

“I am not about to court any controversy,” he added, refusing to be drawn into the “controversy” that cost Advani his post as BJP president last year.

Jaswant will be travelling by the Munnabao-Khokrapar road. He will set out on January 30 and return a week later.

He thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf for facilitating the pilgrimage and said he would be doing his duty as a guest by visiting Jinnah’s tomb.

“They (the Pakistani authorities) have been helpful and warm. You cannot possibly abuse their hospitality by refusing to pay respects to the founder of Pakistan,” he said.

“Just as people who come here visit Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi, I will certainly go to Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah’s mausoleum.”

Jaswant said he was writing a book on Jinnah. “I have been researching the subject. I am not a historian but a student of current affairs. The book would be a political biography.”

He, however, refused to comment whether Jinnah was secular. “We should not shut our thought processes. We need to keep these doors and windows open,” he said.

Pressed to share his views on Jinnah, Jaswant said: “I will answer that question at an appropriate time.”

He said most of his research was being done in India but he had received a lot of material from institutes in Pakistan.

Asked if he was aware of forcible conversion of Hindus in Pakistan, he said: “I am not immune or negative to my party’s concerns.”

Jaswant will be taking 20 Muslims in his 100-strong group to Pakistan. “In my part of the world, the visit to the shaktipeeth of Hingalaj mata is considered sacred duty. Everyone is eager to participate in it.

“But the border is sealed and people have been denied their traditional right for over 60 years. It is a historic and emotional journey. Let us not look at it cynically,” he said.

Jaswant said the BJP was aware of his visit. Party spokesman Prakash Javdekar said: “It is his personal visit. We have no comments to make.”

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