Kuwait’s illogical ban on Pakistanis

Published: April 5, 2014

The writer is an adjunct professor at the Howard University School of Law and holds a Juris Doctorate and LLM specialising in international law. He tweets @warishusain

In order to understand the imbalanced relationship Pakistan has with its Gulf allies, one should compare two recent news stories. First, in November 2013, the Pakistani government gave a permit to the emir of Kuwait to hunt up to 100 endangered Houbara birds for his entertainment. Second, this week, Kuwait’s government renewed its visa ban on all Pakistanis, which was originally created as a “temporary measure” in 2011. The juxtaposition of these two stories shows not only how far Pakistan will go to please its allies in the Gulf, but also how much it is willing to excuse the distaste and distrust their allies have for Pakistan’s people.

To begin with the law, each nation can determine its own immigration and citizenship policies, which is what Kuwait was doing when it prohibited visas for people originating from countries like Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Two separate reasons were given for the original ban in 2011: first, that “difficult security conditions in the six countries” mentioned above were reasons to stop their citizens from entering Kuwait. Many countries relax their immigration standards for individuals whose homeland is facing war or a difficult human rights environment, but Kuwait has done the opposite.

There is some logic to this decision: if these countries are hotbeds of terrorism, then stopping migration from those countries could stop terrorism from infiltrating Kuwait. This partially relates to their second justification for the ban, which was the “remarkably increasing tendency of Kuwait-based nationals from these countries to apply for visas to bring into Kuwait relatives who faced or could face serious challenges in their home countries.” One way to interpret this statement is that Pakistanis, Syrians, et al attempt to sponsor fellow countrymen for migration to Kuwait so that they can avoid punishment for crimes like terrorism back home.

However, Pakistan’s ineffective prosecution and the increasing power of terrorist groups leave little room for credibility in the argument that Pakistani terrorists are escaping to Kuwait because they are afraid of being arrested or killed at home. Moreover, the Kuwaiti visa ban justifications belie the point that there is a huge contingent of Pakistanis living in Kuwait –– numbering 150,000 –– yet few if any reported cases of terrorist actions or plots by those migrated Pakistanis. An all-out ban on Pakistanis based on the insecurity of their homeland is perplexing.

Concurrently, there has been a long-running problem of Pakistanis being illegally trafficked into Kuwait and forced to work as a domestic servants or as sex workers. This has been reported by the international community, yet no action has been taken to prosecute such crimes. This is significant when one remembers that nationality-based bans on legal migration, like Kuwait’s, often encourage illegal migration. This illegal migration, in turn, feeds into the human trafficking industry and could worsen the problem of trafficking into the country.

The ban can turn from perplexing to frustrating if one remembers that many of the South Asians who relocate to Gulf States often leave behind families in order to work in the Gulf and send remittances back home. With a visa ban like the one imposed by Kuwait’s government, one need only to hit a few keystrokes on Facebook before one sees messages from Pakistani-Kuwaitis pleading for their families to be granted visiting visas, if nothing else. Others have complained that their spouses or children are unable to seek a visiting visa or permanent residency, making their lives exceedingly difficult.

Therefore, one should not lose sight of the irony in the two stories mentioned in the beginning: while Kuwait’s government won’t even allow children or spouses to visit their loved ones, the Pakistani government bent over backwards to grant the Kuwaiti emir a pass to come to Pakistan to kill some of its endangered birds. Without an introspective analysis of Pakistan’s imbalanced relationship with Gulf States like Kuwait, the Pakistani people and their government could face greater discrimination in the future.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Arindom
    Apr 5, 2014 - 12:57AM

    I had said this several times and will repeat it again – it is called “Chamcha-giri Diplomacy”

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  • Indian
    Apr 5, 2014 - 8:10AM

    pakistanis want to act like arabs and think they are arabs that why they will suck up to them.

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  • pan mat
    Apr 5, 2014 - 9:12AM

    So much for Arabic origin theories………

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  • Saif
    Apr 5, 2014 - 10:14AM

    Let’s correct the terminology: Pakian and Gulf states are not allies, they have master/servant relationship.
    No need to spell out who is master and who is servant!

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  • 1984
    Apr 5, 2014 - 12:23PM

    Tell us more about the Pakistan’s visa ban for Israelis …

    Did anyone notice that all the countries banned are all Islamic countries….So much for the ummah…..

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  • M. Ahmed
    Apr 5, 2014 - 12:36PM

    No other GCC country has adopted such a discriminatory policy. If the other countries do not have such concerns, is the Kuwaiti premise and action justified? Our appropriate ministries of Foreign Agffairs as well as Overseas Pakistanis should take up the matter with Kuwaiti authorities and push them to lift the ban as such a move affects our remittance earnings from that country.

    Otherwise do unto others as you would have others to do unto you.

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  • Aseem
    Apr 5, 2014 - 2:42PM

    Does Kuwait not know that Pakistan is an Islamic Republic and a nuclear power? Iran, Afghanistan, Kuwait… no one seems to notice it.

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  • Islooboy
    Apr 5, 2014 - 3:31PM

    About endangered birds and animals: there are only two religions Hinduism and Buddhism, which believe that animals and birds are soulful and that too have a life of them. With this theory only that the East has many many species of birds and animals. However, the Abrahamics started killing birds and animals for their food, only because they were not as inovative as they should be. And Hence, statements like Allah or Gesus have given us such animals and birds to eat, kill or do whatever you like. Now, since the Pakistanis all of them have become Arabs, these animals, which were preserved by the Hindus for thousands of years, are being killed just to please their masters. no wonder, even the god is not going to forgive them!!!

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  • gullab
    Apr 5, 2014 - 4:00PM

    well written 100% agree with your point.

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  • Zaid Hamid
    Apr 5, 2014 - 5:19PM

    Pakistanis are Arabs. We’ve to be treated as Ashrafs & equals to Sauds, Kuwaitis,etc.Recommend

  • optimist
    Apr 5, 2014 - 5:21PM

    Where is civil society? Where are moderate religious organisations? Where are even Wahabi organisations as they suffer from ban too?
    .
    Let’s protest in Islamabad outside Kuwait embassy. Recommend

  • raw is war
    Apr 5, 2014 - 8:38PM

    looking at what Pakistanis have done to London city, I dont blame Kuwait.

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  • Eric Kumar
    Apr 5, 2014 - 9:10PM

    The problem with Pakistanis is no doubt they enter on valid visa, First they don’t return to their homeland . Most of them disappear and tried to settle down. It does not matter how much friendly relationship a country has with another country. Mostly it is true in west Pakistanis will come on pretext of as a visitor and then try to settle down. This is the reason most of the countries are reluctant to issue a visa.

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  • usman786
    Apr 5, 2014 - 11:34PM

    @raw is war: your turn will soon come.
    Kuwait should remember that our troops fought for their independence from Saddam in 90s. May NS should be more pro-active in all matters and give his pers gurantee

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  • pakistani
    Apr 6, 2014 - 3:09PM

    @raw is war:
    And what has indians done to London… I am sure you have been to southall… please stop your obsession with pakistan… look at your own backyard…

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  • Truthteller
    Apr 7, 2014 - 7:12PM

    Your premise is wrong. Kuwait’s ban is very logical, given the fact that the Pakistani state does not lend protection or even respect to its citizens, and for all practical purposes does not behave as an actual country but a personal fiefdom of the ruling party.

    This is in stark contrast to India and other regional countries.

    Pakistanis are probably amongst the most disenfranchised people in the world today. Kuwait is simply behaving so because it can – such is the reality of realpolitik and statecraft.

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  • arfat
    May 1, 2014 - 6:45PM

    strong textemphasized text
    no ban must be for Pakistani.beacuse Pakistani is a Islamic country and mostly Pakistani loving and caring.so remove the ban from d Pakistani.its my request

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  • Najam
    Jun 7, 2014 - 11:58AM

    @Eric Kumar: did you ever notice that how many Pakistanis and how many Indians have deported from Kuwait to their homeland due to illegal stay in Kuwait? if no then read it and come with some knowledge to post.

    http://www.arabtimesonline.com/NewsDetails/tabid/96/smid/414/ArticleID/205408/reftab/96/Default.aspx

    and these are Indians who try to be settled to other countries for life.

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  • Every day is a pluse 1
    Jun 8, 2014 - 3:45AM

    I think is not that bad for one to protect her country but at the same time we must be our brothers keeper.

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  • Ashraf
    Jun 8, 2014 - 6:15AM

    Problem with some Pakistanis who do drug trafficking in Kuwait. Afgan and Pakistani peoples are pain to Kuwait Government to control drug business.

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  • ziaf
    Jun 8, 2014 - 8:02AM

    How much Kuwait can absorb.
    2/3 of the population is foreign.
    Would like to that in Pakistan.

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  • Kaif
    Jun 8, 2014 - 1:33PM

    I think Pakistan Govt should take the action, as they are giving the Pass to the Emirs of the Gulf State. But does the govt care for their 150000 pak expats?

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  • Haseeb ur Rehman
    Jun 8, 2014 - 6:19PM

    It is indeed a well written article, thanks to Mr Waris Husain for his concern. Many Pakistanies are in trouble just because of this ban, but whenever kuwait Govt needs they come and hire Pakistani Dr and eng. Govt should intervene and take matter with concerned authorities. It should be opened for all.Recommend

  • Sarah
    Jun 9, 2014 - 12:32AM

    If the Pakistani government doesn’t have enough self respect and ALLOWS endangered birds to be hunted, how can anyone be expected to respect them in return??

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  • shafkat
    Jun 9, 2014 - 12:09PM

    Please raise this issue again as government of kuwait is playing with the sentiments of pak. nationals living in pakistan and kuwait

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