Pakistan pays tribute to late Indian leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Pakistan’s PM-in-waiting Imran Khan says ‘we stand with India in this difficult time’

Islamabad: Pakistani leaders and officials vividly remembered the attempts to improve the India-Pakistan relationship, made by India’s iconic statesman Atal Bihari Vajpayee as they offered condolences on the death of the former Indian prime minister.

Imran Khan, the new prime minister-in-waiting, said Vajpayee’s efforts for peace between Pakistan and India would always be remembered, adding that the late leader was a huge political figure in South Asia. He expressed “immense sadness at the loss of such a towering political figure from the subcontinent” and said “he shares India’s sorrow in their hour of grief”.

Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman, recognised the deceased’s peacemaking efforts, saying: “There is a void in the politics of South Asia after his death. There can be political differences but the desire for peace remains present across the border,” the PTI leader said. “We stand with India in this difficult time.”

The Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) also paid glowing tributes to the three-time prime minister of India and a multi-talented politician who died at the age of 93. “The government and people of Pakistan extend their heartfelt condolences to his family and to the G\government and people of India,” it said in an official statement.

Pakistan FO remembered Vajpayee as “a renowned statesman who contributed to bringing a change in Pakistan-India relations and remained a key supporter of SAARC and regional cooperation for development.”

Man of peace

Pakistan’s acting law and information minister Syed Zafar Ali is expected to travel to New Delhi, to represent Pakistan and pay respects to the late former prime minister.

Vajpayee was acknowledged as a sincere peacemaker by Pakistan’s mainstream newspapers and TV channels. On social media, Pakistanis remembered Vajpayee as the “Indian PM who travelled to Lahore by bus” as his famous bus trip to Lahore made him quite popular in Pakistan, to the extent that former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif said Vajpayee could even win an election in Pakistan.

Pakistani journalists and politicians also condoled the death of Vajpayee. Journalist-turned-politician, senator Mushahid Hussain Syed termed Vajpayee’s death as “an irreparable loss” and said that “he was [an] icon of peace who had a Nixonian vision to reach out for building bridges with Pakistan; honoured to serve as a minister-in-waiting during his famous bus journey to Lahore in 1999”.

PML-N politician Maiza Hameed also expressed grief at Vajpayee’s death, saying: “saddened by the death of a true statesman Atal Bihari Vajpayee who served his country with distinction. One of the few men in the world whose experience was surpassed only by his genuine wisdom.”

Vajpayee paid his first official visit to Pakistan in February 1978. But his 1999 visit to Lahore made him famous in Pakistan, as he travelled by the bus to the neighbouring country to initiate the service in February 1999. Vajpayee had initially opposed General Pervez Musharraf’s coup, but he was also the first leader to greet him when Musharraf was declared president. His last visit to Pakistan was during the SAARC summit in January 2004.

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