The application process for a Pakistani seeking a US visa has been at best tortuous for many years, increasingly so since 9/11. Anecdotal visa stories abound about seemingly vague reasons for refusal. Those difficulties are about to increase courtesy of President Trump. He has announced in a televised interview that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not among the countries that are going to be excluded from the visa application process altogether. Instead of a visa ban citizens of these three countries are going to be subjected to ‘extreme vetting’ but as yet there are no details as to what that entails beyond the already searching questions asked by US visa officers in Pakistan. According to a report in this newspaper in July 2016, the numbers of Pakistani applicants getting visas of all types is increasing year on year at a rate of 20 per cent. Figures for rejections do not appear to be readily available.
President Trump in the interview said that it was currently ‘very easy to come in’ and that he did not ‘want terror in this country’. There has already been talk of a registration process for all Muslims in the USA; and the countries that are listed now as being those banned from visa application are mostly having a Muslim majority. The President said that this did not represent ‘a Muslim ban’ but perception is everything and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that America under President Trump is going to be a less Muslim-friendly place than it has been hitherto — and there has been a rise in Islamophobic popular expression since his election.
Where President Trump may be on firmer ground is with his assertion that ‘the world is a mess’. What he failed to acknowledge is that it is the policies of America itself that in large part has created the mess he is now seeking to clear up. Getting into the USA for the average Pakistani whether to visit relatives, take up a job offer or simply as a tourist is going to get a lot harder. And being a Muslim in America is not going to get any easier either.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2017.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ