Pakistan considers visa policy overhaul

Published: March 2, 2011
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Under a new proposed policy, only the foreign affairs ministry will be authorised to issue visas.

Under a new proposed policy, only the foreign affairs ministry will be authorised to issue visas.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani authorities are considering a major overhaul in the country’s visa policy following media reports that a covert, CIA-led team, which was allowed to conduct surveillance on the Taliban and al Qaeda, was gathering information about Pakistan’s defence installations.

The authorities are studying a proposal which suggests that all Pakistani embassies and diplomatic missions abroad be stopped from issuing visas, a source told The Express Tribune. Instead, it says, the ministry of foreign affairs should be made the sole visa-issuing authority.

The source confirmed that the move has resulted from the ongoing spat between Pakistan and the United States over the ‘American CIA agent’ Raymond Davis, who is currently in detention for killing two Pakistanis in Lahore.

It also came following disclosures that hundreds of foreigners, including American nationals, had been issued Pakistani visas in violation of the national security code.

“The new policy is being envisaged because the authorities have learnt a lesson,” the source said referring to the Pak-US diplomatic row over Davis.

“After its implementation, the visa-issuing authority would be taken back from all Pakistani embassies and diplomatic missions,” the source explained.

“Only the ministry of foreign affairs will be authorised to issue visas.” In the same breath the source added that the interior ministry would have no say in granting extension in visa to any foreigner.

Instead of visiting Pakistan’s embassies and diplomatic missions, the visa seekers would be required to submit their applications to the foreign ministry through courier services.

The new policy also envisages manifold increase in  visa fees which would be non-refundable.

Thirty or ninety days non-extendable visit visa will be issued to foreigners from Islamabad, except for diplomats and military personnel who normally get visas at the airports.

The visit visa will not be converted into residence or work visa by the interior ministry. Any aspirant for residence or work visa would have to return home. The foreign ministry will issue “Alien Identity Cards” to all those foreigners who will be issued residence visa. The immigration staff will be given special training to handle foreigners at air and sea ports and all other entry points.

An official source in the foreign office told The Express Tribune that the Pakistan embassy in Washington had issued visas to over 500 US nationals in one go without them being cleared by the security and intelligence agencies.

“More than 100 US nationals were issued visas from Pakistan’s consulate-general in Dubai, last year,” the source said, adding that the visa issuance from Dubai consulate is still continuing. “Fifty Indian nationals were also issued visas by the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Dubai,” the source added.

“All of them were given visas in violation of the visa policy of the ministry of foreign affairs and related instructions by the ministry of interior,” the official added. “It transpired that a highly influential Pakistani individual had issued verbal instructions to the consul-general to issue the visas.”

Some blacklisted foreigners were also issued visas from Washington, Dubai and New Delhi in recent past, the official said.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Uzair Javaid
    Mar 2, 2011 - 8:14AM

    My GOD this is how you show your arrogance! this should have been done in the past before people like Davis had got their visa to enter Pakistan. I pity the people of Pakistan and the national interest which these corrupt maniacs dint consider once harming. I would accept this is a pro-US government as they lick american boots. Why on earth would you give indian national visas to get into Pakistan. At least consider your enemy a threat if not americans. india wouldn’t let one opportunity go from it if they get a chance to get their men in to peak on our nuclear installations. PPP has crossed the limits of all sorts of treason and should all be hanged before the general masses for the cruel neglect towards national and strategic security.Recommend

  • Syed
    Mar 2, 2011 - 9:11AM

    Pakistan Peoples Party government led by zardari is serious risk to the integrity of this country. They need to be removed from OfficeRecommend

  • Sufi Shams
    Mar 2, 2011 - 9:18AM

    Wonderful! Now no one will even bother coming to Pakistan. Wouldn’t it be better to see what the ISI was doing if not watching over these guys?Recommend

  • Khan
    Mar 2, 2011 - 9:21AM

    50 Indians… hmmmmmRecommend

  • Bilal
    Mar 2, 2011 - 9:39AM

    The fact is that no matter what type of visa system is imposed, due to corruption and nepotism it will always result in those who want to enter Pakistan will enter anyhow.

    Pakistan exempts those holding diplomatic passports and people on business from visas so basically anyone that gets rejected visa simply has to show up at the airport with a business letter and they get entry. US officials will be exempt as the hold diplomatic passports, so what the point of this is unclear.

    All this new policy will do is to give problems to the few tourists and Pakistani decent people holding foreign nationalities.

    As always, the government will launch an initiative without think it thoroughly. Recommend

  • SK
    Mar 2, 2011 - 9:56AM

    Instead of creating new policies, why not punish people like Rehman Malik, Zardari and their other cronies who “in violation of national security code” ordered issuance of hundreds of visas to US professional assassins.Recommend

  • Billoo Bhaya
    Mar 2, 2011 - 1:46PM

    @SK:
    Right on SK.Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim
    Mar 2, 2011 - 1:46PM

    Under directions from President Zardari his new State Minister for Foreign Affairs will now issue
    blanket immunity to all Americans visiting Pakistan. The two ministries of Interior and Law will provide all assistance to those who need to indulge in anti-state activities. All this will be done undercover and constant denials by our two outspoken ministers.Recommend

  • Saleem
    Mar 2, 2011 - 3:18PM

    Bravo, Bravo. We are taking all the necessary steps to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.

    Now, we don’t need to run anything related to tourism, abolish ministry of tourism, all tourism related departments and tell the people in Gilgit-Baltistan and other touristic places to turn the hotels into seminaries and produce mujahids to fight against infidels.Recommend

  • Bilal Mughal
    Mar 2, 2011 - 3:32PM

    This is the first initiavite step that is done by Pakistanis…Thank `to Allah Almighty that peoples are still aware and have concerns on their national interests and national boundries…
    GoodluckRecommend

  • Mar 2, 2011 - 3:42PM

    What a poor decision. First off, the vast majority of foreign passport holders coming to Paksitan, are overseas Pakistanis. Second, a visa isnt an automatic right to enter the country. Its the immigration officer at the point of entry who has the final say. What is needed is better training and background questioning of people entering the country at immigration. Third, who are these highly influential individuals who issued verbal orders. Forth, where were our intelligence agencies while all of this was going on?Recommend

  • kumar
    Mar 2, 2011 - 7:32PM

    sounds scary – the ISI will have tabs on every person entering?
    Also, why do the Indians let all the paki songsters/actor types in?Recommend

  • Rehan
    Mar 2, 2011 - 8:21PM

    The government of Pakistan is not loyal to the citizens of Pakistan. They were on track to destroying this country before the “fortuitous” affair with Raymond Davis occurred. Stop them now or say “Tata” to your nation.Recommend

  • Bangash
    Mar 2, 2011 - 9:10PM

    Pakistan Visa already costs $110 for US citizens, this move will make it even more expensive and slower to process. It will deter tourists and investors.

    Visa issuing at embassies should be reformed rather than simply taking away visa issuing ability from them. What will be point of embassy if it cannot issue visas ?Recommend

  • Sana
    Mar 2, 2011 - 10:15PM

    I doubt any hindu or christian would like to step into pakistan for whatever regions.

    Nuclear installations are not a saloon to spy for.There are 12 level of security.This kind of journalism is cheap,ill informed.The indian natioanls majority of them would be muslims and would have come to meet their relatives.Why would india government think of doing anything to us,once we are already facing 1000 problems.They may be confused and worried about the mess of pakistan.Recommend

  • Kashif
    Mar 3, 2011 - 7:57AM

    If you get a NICOP (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) card you do not need a Visa. You can show that along with your non-Pakistani passport and it serves as a visa to enter Pakistan. Its validity is now 7 years.
    Who is the influential person who gave the order to expedite the visas in violation of regulations, is what I would like to know. His name should be published.
    What Pakistanis do not seem to realize is that our tax to GDP ratio is 10%, which is very low, and our expenditures are 20% of GDP which is normal for a developing country. Ofcouse of the 20% about 2/3 are eaten up by defence expenditures and debt servicing and neither is going to decrease. So the govt of Pakistan has to beg for aid money, and raise money by selling high interest rate bonds and certificates. So the commercial interest rate is even higher as a result. Then the govt has to print money to pay the interest payments on the ruppee denominated debt and that causes a spiral of inflation and devaluationm but more so inflation as yet they are able to keep devaluation in check somewhat with the dollar reserves they have. Anyways, the real solution is for the upper classes to pay more tax and for corruption in tax and all other revenue generating depts to be brought under control. And to collect tax on agricultural income just like it is collected on everyone else. Otherwise we can all live in a la la land and wish for begging and dependence to end but it will not and neither is govt going to increase development expenditures, but instead it is cutting it. You can see examples of hyper inflation in South American countries to see where this is all headed. Recommend

  • Uzair Javaid
    Mar 3, 2011 - 8:19AM

    @Sana: Sana salons are already to easy to spy on as you would see through the attractive glass panes. What you dont know is how they do the hair-work. This is why they would get in their men to spy on through locally established assets. They can very well see it on their screens how the installations look it through a satellite. What they would like knowing is the fact how army supply stuff in and out and what is the average strength of men surrounding it. This is what you read in factual books and reports on the internet. We need not just to open eyes but to think of all the other ways in which a spy would like working. Recommend

  • Tariq Shah
    Mar 3, 2011 - 8:32AM

    Millions of people from all over the world visit the US, Canada and Europe. These countries have many more secret installations than Pakistan. Still these nations give visit visas for up to 6 months visit without any harm to their national interest.

    Barely any foreigner comes to Pakistan for tourism or business and now with these new hurdles, enjoy living alone with your afghani neighbours, thats the only foreigner in Pakistan, except some Bihari, Bengali illegals.

    What nonsense decisions our leaders take is beyond belief, stopping visas will not stop the spies, it will stop everyone else.

    Secure your sensitive installations, instead of turning the nation into a jail.

    Another day and another bizzare ruling in Pakistan.Recommend

  • mussarat hussain
    Mar 7, 2011 - 11:39PM

    @Tariq Shah: Very good comments. Zardari Sahab has once again been trapped by the Foreign office like it misguided Federal Government in Raymond Davis Case. Had Foreign office
    sincere in it’s stance on Raymond Davis, the issue would have been resolved by now amicably instead of cutting sorry figure to the government from various quarters.

    Finally, it is yet to be decided as who is responsible for the security of “Sensitive Installations”.

    This is absolutely nonsense, Entire nation is responsible for the security of the sensitive installations in paistan sans extremists but who is responsible for the security of the poor people, targetted killings and suicide bombings.

    MussaratRecommend

  • Shock horror
    Mar 27, 2011 - 6:05PM

    Pakistan will then join its nuclear and missile technology collaborator, North Korea, as a country banned to all foreigners. The foreign countries will then ban Pakistanis from going to other countries, thereby reducing the spread of terrorism around the world. Recommend

  • Asad Khan
    Mar 27, 2011 - 10:24PM

    @Shock horror:
    Give attention to your national Terrorist Hindu nazio fascist Organization Like RSS . Don’t worry about us. You have enough terrorsts sitting in Congress and senate who support these Hindu terrorist groups. Go and bring the list of those Sitting MP Terrorists. Then we will listen to you. Go!!!!Recommend

  • mussarat hussain
    Mar 27, 2011 - 11:47PM

    @Asad Khan:

    Most horrific dear Asad Khan. By the Grace of Almighty first of all I am a Pakistani, no need to mention about my religion, I just believe in what my parents taught me. If I were born in Hindu’s home, I would be a “Brahaman”, and so on.

    But believe me I am deeply shocked over comments you made about the neighboring country India where Parliament what you call, riddled with “terrorists”.

    Mr. Khan I am proud to say that we are also the particle of the part of the sub-continent where our ancestors had been living since centuries with love and peace where not a single mosque, imamabargah or church was ablazed during pre-partition days what my parents told me after undergoing acute mental persecution in today’s pakistan that forced me to migrate USA while millions of “patriot” Muslims migrated to today’s Pakistan which was not envisioned by the founder of this nation.

    We don’t need overhaul our visa policies but need overhaul and revolutionary mindset to bring out the existing globally outcast Pakistani nation that has lost its prestige at interational level due to people llike YOU who is averting and escaping reality just to promote and protect distorted and twisted “ego”

    We claim to be the follower of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but hardly follow His golden teachings and love humanity irrespective of their color and creed.

    Hindus or any other minorities are or were never ever bad, we have been living jointly in that culture for centuries. We drew vicious line between them after gaining “so-called” independence from British Raj whle we are still their spiritual and physical slave.

    Our only survival lies in better relations with our neighbors who love us that can be vindicated from the fact that Indian government announced huge aid to pakistan during catastrophic floodings in Pakistan last year. Unfortunately, our leaders like Rehman Malik and others those who control the Establishment announced that Indian aid should be channeled to Pakistan through United Nation. What a nonsense and stupid remarks at a time of national grief and disaster from the government of Pakistan.

    Mr. Khan should also concentrate on interviews of former chiefs of Pakistani and Indian intelligencies that reflected will and determination from both sides to tone down tension between the two countries and fight back hysteria created by the people like Asad Khan from Pakistan.

    According to my knowledge and thorough study of old record in India Library London, Enoch Pratt Library USA and other prominent libraries not a single news pertaining to bomb explosion in the worship places of muslims or killings of muslims by the muslims or killings of Hindu by Hindus was found in the heap of files and Library Record Chips.

    Today in our rest of Pakistan (Only West Pakistan), what to say of non-muslims even muslims are not duly protected in a state that was founded by the father of the nation. The main reaons of failure of his ideology that his country was soon taken over by the illiterate clergy to teach uprooted pakistani about “NEW ISLAM”, defying golen objectives of Quaid who stood for securlar Pakistan.

    In contrast what we did?. We failed to change name of “Hindu Kush” (Killing of Hindus), that recalls bitter past of our history. Mr. Khan do you understand such type of foolishness will bring two countries ever bring two countries closer.

    Illiterate are more dangerous than terrorists. Let’s count how many fake degree holders we have in our assemblies. I reiterate we need change in our mindset to regain lost glory.

    Mussarat Hussain,
    former chief reporter
    Associated press of Pakistan (APP), Lahore
    currently in Washington DCRecommend

  • Shock horror
    Mar 28, 2011 - 1:13AM

    Asad Khan

    Even Pakistani statistics show that more than 30000 innocent Muslims been killed in terrorist bombings in Pakistan during last ten years. Almost every terrorist incident in Europe, USA, Canada, India, Pakistan has its origin in Pakistan. Maybe you have heard of the saying “Pot calling the kettle black” or maybe not. Of course expecting people like you to learn from facts is like expecting sun to rise in the West!Recommend

  • Shock horror
    Mar 28, 2011 - 1:49AM

    @Asad Khan

    “Just about every terrorist attack in the last decade, it appears, has emerged from Pakistan’s unregulated madrassas. These religious schools, operating without government regulation, have become incubators of hate and tolerance.” Not my words, but the first two sentences of an editorial entitled “Whither Madrassa Regulation?” in the latest edition of Express Tribune. Check it for yourself. But expecting individuals like you to pay heed to facts is like expecting Sun to rise in the West!Recommend

  • Cautious
    Mar 28, 2011 - 6:13AM

    Get serious – Pakistan has one of the most porous borders in the World – ignores and often supports terrorist wander into the country – and suddenly your going to make everyone safe by toughening up the VISA rules on American’s. Pathetic.Recommend

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