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Zardari to meet Manmohan over lunch on April 8


First published: April 1, 2012, 11:44 PM IST | Updated: April 1, 2012
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Zardari to meet Manmohan over lunch on April 8
Asif Ali Zardari is likely to visit Ajmer to pay obeisance at the famous Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

New Delhi: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over lunch on April 8 before his private visit to Ajmer, says presidential spokesman. Zardari is likely to visit Ajmer to pay obeisance at the famous Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

A request for a "private visit" by the President has been forwarded to the Indian side though a final date for the trip is yet to be set, sources in the Pakistan government said.

However, sources in Delhi said the visit is likely to take place on April 8.

The Pakistani sources said the government has kept Zardari's planned visit to the famous 13th century shrine in Ajmer in Rajasthan under wraps as it is intended to be a "purely private" matter.

"The visit is supposed to be devoid of political or diplomatic content but since it involves the President, the possibility of some meetings with Indian leaders cannot be ruled out," said a source familiar with the plans for the visit.

When Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar was reached for comment, he said he was "really not aware" of such a visit.

However, a Presidential aide, who spoke on condition that he would not be named, said Zardari's visit to Ajmer had been in the pipeline for almost a year.

"This visit has been planned since last year as the President wants to make a trip to the dargah in Ajmer," the aide said.

Zardari's India visit is intended to be purely for religious purposes. However, the Indian government is looking for a possibility to add some political discussions during his day-long visit.

"While as of now, the visit is purely for religious purposes, efforts are being made so that some political discussions could also take place during the day-long trip of Zardari," sources in Delhi said.

The Pakistan President had last met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Russia in 2009.

The Indian government sources feel that as it happens in India-Pakistan relationship, many decisions would be taken closer to the date of Zardari's visit.

Zardari is known to be superstitious and his spiritual beliefs have been widely reported in the Pakistani media.

According to media reports, one of his rituals is the sacrifice of a black goat to protect him from evil. Scores of black goats have reportedly been sacrificed since Zardari moved into the Presidency.

The President also has a resident 'pir' or Sufi master who lives with him in the Presidency. Pir Mohammad Ejaz has even been spotted at official functions organised at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

The holy man from Gujranwala in Punjab province has been living in a guestroom close to the President's room since Zardari moved into the Presidency in September 2008.

Ejaz recently told the media that he has been with Zardari for the past nine years.

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