WASHINGTON: Many Pakistanis are looking elsewhere for work, education and travel as a result of terrorism incidents linked to Pakistanis, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The paper quoted leaders of the Pakistani American community as saying that the stress of living under suspicion has had a palpable effect on the community while some Pakistanis in the US have told prospective employers that they are of Indian origin to avoid problems. Also, after a series of international terrorism incidents related to Pakistan, particularly a failed car bombing in Times Square, travel bookings between the US and Pakistan have gone down while US visa applications for travel from Pakistan appear to be dwindling, the Post said.
It is to be considered though that the US government, only a couple of months ago, ended a policy involving extra scrutiny for travelers from 14 countries, including Pakistan. According to the paper many Pakistanis, however, still feel they are being watched. Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad “has put us all in this situation where everyone will look at us Pakistani Americans and wonder if they have any connection,” the Post quoted a community leader, Shaista Mahmood as saying. 54-year-old Mahmood lives in Mount Vernon.
According to the Post, increased scrutiny of visas in Pakistan and more stringent US airport searches have exacerbated feelings of rejection and discomfort amongst many Pakistanis, who do not want to travel to the US anymore, whether to study, visit relatives or take once-desirable jobs. “All these US policies have given a whole generation of Pakistanis the psyche that the United States doesn’t want us,” Arsalan Ishtiaq told The Washington Post.
Ishtiaq is a visa adviser in Rawalpindi who has not received a single US student visa inquiry in two years. “Not only is it much harder to get a visa now, but the few who do get them worry they may get in trouble or implicated in something if they go,” Ishtiaq has been reported to have said. The paper quoted “a dozen” technology students in Islamabad and Rawalpindi as saying they are instead seeking jobs in Britain, Australia, Canada or the United Arab Emirates. “Several said they had heard about humiliating searches at US airports and spoke angrily of Pakistanis being branded as Islamist radicals. The Times Square incident, they said, was the last straw,” the Post reported.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 25th, 2010.