The government of Balochistan is believed to be reconsidering a request by the US embassy for setting up an American consulate in Quetta, an official in the Balochistan Home Department told The Express Tribune.
“The request has not been rejected,” said an officer in the department, adding that “the matter is still under consideration.” Earlier, the Balochistan government had flatly refused to allot land for the purpose due to security concerns. The ministry of foreign affairs was also opposed to the opening of the consulate due to negative reports by federal and provincial security agencies.
Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) secretary general Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, who is also the opposition leader in Senate, earlier said that the decision to open the US consulate in Quetta had been taken by the government and land for construction of the consulate had also been purchased.
Furthermore, the opposition leader criticised the government’s secret authorisation for the American consulate and termed the diplomatic mission ‘unnecessary’. Haideri added that American presence would amount to more terrorism in the region, requesting the government to withdraw their authorisation for the mission. The senator also opposed the building of a US consulate in Multan.
Senior PPP leader Javed Ahmed Khan, while commenting on Haideri’s statement about government authorisation for the consulate in Quetta, refused to corroborate the claim. “I have heard different reports on the issue but nothing substantial so far,” Khan told The Express Tribune.
While religio-political parties in Balochistan oppose the opening of the US consulate, Baloch nationalists are welcoming the US move.
“If Iran and Afghanistan can maintain their full-fledged consulate generals in Quetta for the last several years, why not the United States,” remarked a senior Baloch journalist.
Meanwhile, an official source in the ministry of foreign affairs told The Express Tribune that the US request for opening its diplomatic facility in Balochistan is still ‘pending with the government’, adding that the request had not been refused or accepted by the government.
The United States had formally requested Pakistan last year for opening a consulate in Balochistan to supervise the development projects that it funds. Issuance of US visas from Quetta to the business community, students and the people of Balochistan was also among their priorities. At present, US visas to people in Balochistan are being processed by the US consulate in Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2011.