Pakistan tightens the screw around long term visas for US officials: Report

Pakistan tightens the screw around long term visas for US officials: Report

ISLAMABAD- US State Department has written a letter to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington complaining issuance of short duration visas to its officials and businessmen and threatening to reciprocate the measure for Pakistani officials and citizens.

The State Department maintained that Pakistanis are usually issued five-year visas by the US Embassy in Islamabad but the US officials and even businessmen are getting single-entry visas of three-month duration only from Pakistan Embassy in Washington, the News has reported.

Recently, the United States has also started issuing shorter duration visas to the Pakistani officials. Even the Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua were issued one-month visas by the US Embassy, sources confirmed. A top Pakistan official who had served with the World Bank has been waiting for the last many weeks to get US visa but so far there is no response from the US Embassy.

According to the State Department letter, the US has issued about 40,000 non-immigrant visas to Pakistanis during the last five years. According to the Pakistan Embassy sources, Islamabad has issued visas to 60,000 US citizens during last five years. However, more than 60 percent of those who obtained Pakistani visas are US citizens of Pakistani origin who come home to visit their families.

The sources said Pakistan tightened visa control for the US officials and businessmen after the incident of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who was arrested in Pakistan for killing two Pakistanis in Lahore. During the last PPP government, it was alleged that over 8,000 such visas were issued to the American citizens by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington with less scrutiny, which allegedly allowed the US to set up a network of spies inside Pakistan.

However, the than Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing claiming that all visas were issued through proper procedure with the approval of the then prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

When contacted, the Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Chaudhry confirmed that the visa issue has been taken up with the embassy by the State Department. However, he said Pakistan is not restricting visas to the US officials and legitimate businessmen.

To a question as to why the US businessmen are not granted longer duration visas by a country that desperately needs foreign investment and trade, the ambassador said the visas are issued to those who have verification from the US-Pakistan Business Council, or US or Pakistani Chambers of Commerce. “Anyone with proper documents is issued visa by the Pakistan Embassy,” the ambassador said.