Hurriyat leader Geelani passport request to be decided on merit: MHA

New Delhi: Amid a row over hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's plea for passport, the Union Home Ministry on Thursday said the request will be processed on 'merit' as the travel document is the 'right of every Indian citizen'.

Sources said the Ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs will take a decision on the issue in consultation with the Jammu and Kashmir only after Geelani visits the nearest passport office for biometrics.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, meanwhile, said Geelani will have to write 'Indian' in the nationality column to apply for the passport. "Passport is the right of every Indian citizen and is issued by the Ministry of External Affairs after following due process. In case any applicant applies for the passport, he should fulfill all the formalities before his case is processed. As and when the matter is referred to the Ministry of Home Affairs, we will process the case on merit," a Home Ministry spokesperson said.

Jammu and Kashmir's ruling coalition partners PDP and BJP are sharply divided over the Geelani passport issue. PDP has said it would approach the Centre for giving passport to Geelani on 'humanitarian' grounds while BJP has said he should not be given the travel document till he "apologises" for his anti-national activities.

Sources said Geelani and his family members want to travel to Jeddah and have applied for passports online. But he has not yet visited the regional passport office in Srinagar to give his biometric data and clicking the photograph. As per the new rules, an applicant must visit the passport office in person to give biometric details and click the photograph.

Sources said after Geelani visits the passport office to complete the formalities, his application will be sent to the Ministries of Home and External Affairs for their comments as he falls in 'prior security clearance' category for issuing of a passport.

The Ministries, then, in consultation with the Jammu and Kashmir government, would take a final decision on granting the passport to him. Parrikar, when asked at an Aaj Tak event here about his stand on whether Geelani should be given passport or not, said the matter does not come under his ministry. When pressed, he said, "On philosophical level, if he (Geelani) applies for it, then in the nationality column he would have to write 'Indian'. So that is the first round of victory over him as he does not consider himself an Indian."

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti has said the Centre should give passport to Geelani on 'humanitarian' ground so that he could travel abroad to meet his ailing daughter. Other separatist leaders like Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also have passports, she has said.

BJP, which differs with coalition partner PDP on the issue, today said claimed that both the parties are on the same page on the matter. "The decision to issue passport to him (Geelani) will be taken (by the Centre)... keeping in view all security aspects of it," BJP state president and Jammu MP Jugal Kishore Sharma told reporters in Jammu on Thursday.

Asked about the stand of its ally PDP, the BJP leader said, "There is no difference on the issue. We are on the same page on the issue." He said BJP has not softened its stand on anti-national activities and whosoever is found indulging in anti-national activities would be dealt strictly.

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