NEW DELHI - The Pakistani members of the Parliament who visited the Indian Lok Sabha on Friday complained that they were not given a proper welcome; instead they were ignored by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

The delegation’s visit has been organised by a private group as part of the dialogue initiated by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar for the parliamentarians from the two sides.

The Pakistani lawmakers said that they were not allowed to enter the Lok Sabha on Thursday, adding they were not introduced to the Parliament members in the house on Friday.

“Today we visited the Parliament and nobody in the house mentioned us. We sat in the gallery. It is a common practice that when parliamentarians from other countries visit a parliament, its speaker announces their arrival and introduces them to the members of his house. We sat in the Lok Sabha for about 20 minutes, but there was no announcement and no welcome,” Rasheed Gudlam was quoted as saying by a TV news channel.

Gudlam said on Thursday the delegation was denied entry into the House by the speaker’s security personnel. “We requested them that we want to visit the Parliament. But the liberal democratic India wouldn’t allow the parliamentarians from Pakistan to visit the Lok Sabha. It is amazing,” he said.

The members of the Parliament from Pakistan said they also tried to meet the speaker twice, but failed to do so. The first time she was ‘busy’ and the second time at the lunch she was not in her office. “We went twice on Friday (Her staff gave us time at 12. We reached a little after that and she left her office,” Gudlam said. “I think there was some miscommunication. She seems busy,” said his colleague, Maiza.

The speaker said she was unaware of the delegation. “I was waiting for them, but nobody came,” she said while leaving the Parliament. Her office said she was not obliged to meet the Pakistani MPs as the delegation was of private nature.

BJP MP Kirti Azad who was in charge of receiving the Pakistanis said he had urged them to come on time, but they arrived at 1:07pm. “I had asked them to be quick, but they were late. They should have honoured the speaker at least,” Azad said. Responding to their complaint about not being welcomed, he admitted and said, “There must have been a glitch somewhere.”

The visit of a Pakistani parliamentary delegation to the Lok Sabha on Friday created a flutter with its members, claiming that the speaker did not meet them after giving time. However, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, “they didn’t come. I was sitting there inside,” an apparent reference to the visitors’ failure to keep the 1pm appointment with her.

The delegation comprising 12 Pakistani parliamentarians are in India on an initiative taken by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency and their visit to the Parliament House was arranged by Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar. The delegation which witnessed the proceedings of the House said that the speaker had given them time at 1pm for a meeting. The delegation reached her office around seven minutes late. They said that the speaker had gone by the time they reached her office in the Parliament House building.

The speaker’s office, however, rejected the charge, saying Mahajan had waited for them by 1pm, but they did not reach the office on schedule. The speaker should have waited for a couple of minutes, a member of the delegation complained.

Earlier, the Lok Sabha proceedings were observed by the delegation of the legislators who were seated in the speaker’s gallery. When asked why the usual tradition of introducing the visiting foreign parliamentarians was not followed in this case, Aiyar, a Rajya Sabha member who is part of the initiative, said that such traditions would be followed only for the official delegation invited by the Parliament. “But it is purely a private initiative. The speaker was very courteous in offering the Parliament House Library for a meeting,” Aiyar told PTI.

When queried whether the Pakistani delegation was not given due respect, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, “I am concerned about the Indian Parliament. I am concerned about my people. I don’t know.” When pressed further, he said, “They have not approached me. They did not have the courtesy of informing the parliamentary affairs minister. What can I do? This is a serious issue that too foreign affairs’ issue to be dealt with in a serious manner,” he said. The speaker’s office said when an official delegation pays a visit at the invitation of the Parliament, they are seated in the special box and announcement is made. The Parliament sources said as courtesies were extended to the delegation members, they should have refrained from talking to the media on the issue.