Visas for Americans create rifts in Pakistan

Published: May 13, 2011
Pakistani diplomatic missions in Washington, the United Arab Emirates and London issued the visas after the government came under intense US pressure, officials said. PHOTO: FILE

Pakistani diplomatic missions in Washington, the United Arab Emirates and London issued the visas after the government came under intense US pressure, officials said. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The government of Pakistan issued visas to more than 400 Americans without army security clearances starting in early 2010, possibly enabling the CIA to boost its presence, in a move that angered the country’s military.

Pakistani diplomatic missions in Washington, the United Arab Emirates and London issued the visas after the government came under intense US pressure, officials said.

“At the end of 2009, a special presidential order was issued to give 7,000 visas and the same order was passed through the prime minister’s office to Mr. Haqqani,” a senior Pakistani security official told Reuters, referring to Pakistan’s ambassador in the United States, Husain Haqqani.

“On the basis of these orders, the visas which were valid for three to six months were issued without the scrutiny or routine security clearance of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).”

About 450 of those visas were issued to the CIA, the security official said.

A senior official at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington said the embassy had received no complaint from any branch of the Pakistani government regarding the government’s official visa policy.

A spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari declined to comment on details of the visa decision, saying only that security clearance was not always needed from the army.

The army did not respond to a request for information on the visas, but a senior security official said, “We lost control of CIA operatives in Pakistan.”

A second security official said the military was angered by the move and as a result the number of Americans in the country who had received the visas had been reduced by 50 per cent. But those who remained were cause for concern.

“This will affect the already tense relations between the two countries. This indicates the lack of trust and mutual understanding, which will ultimately benefit the militants and extremist elements inside Pakistan,” he said.

“They (the security establishment) lost track of most of the people who came in. Their missions were not clearly stated.”

A former Interior Ministry official said it had been bypassed as well when the visas were issued. Haqqani said the issue had been blown out of proportion.

“Also, the 7000 figure is incorrect & official records prove hype on subject is totally fabricated. All procedures followed,” he said on his Twitter page on May 8.

The US Embassy declined comment on suggestions the visas may have enabled the CIA to expand its presence in Pakistan, which receives billions of dollars in US military aid.

“We submit full and complete visa applications to the government of Pakistan. We comply in providing the information requested,” said an embassy spokeswoman.

US officials have complained in the past about hundreds of Pakistani visa delays, saying this could hamper aid intended to stabilise the government and help Pakistanis.

Islamabad has cut by more than half a visa backlog affecting US officials and contractors needed to run American aid programs aimed at combating extremism there, a State Department official said in March of last year.

Visas for Coalition Support Fund auditing

Former Finance Ministry adviser Sakib Sherani said US officials made visa requests for people needed to audit requests made under a Coalition Support Fund that was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to reimburse Pakistan for help in fighting militancy.

That account was confirmed by the second senior security official.

“We resisted and said, ‘You don’t need 450 (to audit the fund requests).’ Then they said they needed other technical people,” said Sherani, who said he took part in some of the discussions.

An intelligence official in Lahore said Pakistani authorities began to get suspicious after they noticed a large number of people who appeared to be Americans driving bullet-proof sport utility vehicles.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Jawaid Islam
    May 13, 2011 - 1:54PM

    Quite a worrisome information that visas were issued without considering the implications. Much of what we are witnessign is because of CIA operatives apparently engaged in ant-Pakistan activities, what are these people sittign at the helm, goons?Recommend

  • Aamer
    May 13, 2011 - 2:22PM

    Pakistan military minds if ‘bloody-civilians’ issue the visa that they wanted to issue themselves over a decorated plate and with broad smiles. Recommend

  • May 13, 2011 - 2:25PM

    Visas for Americans create rifts in Pakistan true maybeRecommend

  • May 13, 2011 - 2:41PM

    Does this mean we have 400 more CIA minions like Raymond Davis running around in country funding and bombing Pakistanis? Why would they bomb us, it is not like they are threatened by China using their rightful Caspian, Iran and ME resources. Recommend

  • M Ali Khan
    May 13, 2011 - 3:41PM

    I didnt know CIA and Raymond Davis lived in FATA, called themselves Taliban, recruited young boys from FATA and south Punjab, told them of virgins in heaven, and brainwashed them to blow up our shrines, mosques, imambargahs, churches, cantonments, bazaars, schools etc because Pakistanis were kafirs….Recommend

  • May 13, 2011 - 3:51PM

    Hussain Haqqani is Probably the Worst Ambassador Pakistan EVER Had!!
    Looks More like an American Ambassador :sRecommend

  • Anwar
    May 13, 2011 - 4:22PM

    First the Afghans were allowed free entry into Pakistan and now the Americans are allowed free entry into Pakistan. Lets just open our borders for every one.Recommend

  • Ba Ha
    May 13, 2011 - 4:34PM

    Leaving an ambassador in office for too long is in itself a collosal security threat. case in point Hussain Haqqani. Check any book on Efficient AdministrationRecommend

  • Mahmood
    May 13, 2011 - 9:35PM

    Pakistan has one of the most porous borders in the World and tens of thousand of illegal aliens who don’t have visa’s —- so what’s the big deal about visa’s for American’s. Does anyone really believe that if the USA wants personnel inside Pakistan that denying them a visa is going to stop them? Time for a reality check.Recommend

  • May 18, 2011 - 2:26PM

    @M Ali Khan:
    Talibans dont fight like Gladio mercenaries. Recommend

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