ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan were left embarrassed and in deep shock on Saturday after US authorities refused a visa to the Senate’s deputy chairman, weeks after the new US President Donald Trump announced travel curbs on seven Muslim-majority countries.
Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, the deputy chairman of the upper house, was scheduled to head a two-member delegation to a meeting of the Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The meeting is being held on February 13 and 14.
Senator Lt General (retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi – who was to accompany the deputy chairman – was granted a visa just two days before. However, the visa of Haidri was put on hold in what can be termed a technical refusal, sources said.
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Official sources told The Express Tribune that the Senate Secretariat had applied for official visas for the two senators two weeks ago.
They said when the Senate Secretariat checked with the US Embassy about the status of Haidri’s passport through official channels, it was told that the US authorities would get back to it by Tuesday (February 14), clearly meaning that Haidri could not travel to the US to attend the IPU conference.
“It is a technical refusal,” a top Senate official said.
In its official statement earlier in the day, the Senate Secretariat claimed that there was a delay in issuance of visa to the deputy chairman and the Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had taken notice of the issue.
Rabbani in a prompt reaction issued directives to his secretariat not to entertain any US delegation or diplomat till the issue was resolved.
“No delegation, member of Congress or diplomat of the US will be welcomed by the Senate of Pakistan, Senate Standing Committees and the senators in their official capacity till this issue is resolved,” Rabbani said in a statement issued to media on Saturday morning.
The statement said following the directives of the Senate chairman, the visit has been called off. It said Rabbani had ordered that no Senate delegation would visit the US until its diplomatic mission explained the delay in issuance of a visa to Haidri.
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The US Embassy’s spokesperson, when contacted, said: “We cannot comment on visa cases, due to privacy laws”. Maulana Fazlur Rehman – chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) which is a coalition partner of the ruling party – contacted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and asked him to take up the issue with the US authorities. Haidri is also the JUI-F’s secretary general.
Every year during the fall session of the UN General Assembly the IPU organises a parliamentary hearing to offer an opportunity to parliamentarian to exchange views with UN officials, representatives of the UN diplomatic community, as well as scholars and leading academics.
The meeting is usually opened by the UN secretary-general and the IPU president. Hundreds of parliamentarians from every region of the world participate in it.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2017.