WASHINGTON: A United States Congressman from Ohio has called on his government to apologise to Pakistan, and for NATO to pay compensation to the families of 24 soldiers killed in a NATO air strike on a Pakistani border check post on November 26.
Speaking at an event organised by the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, a Democrat, said relations with Pakistan was a critical issue. "We need to apologise to the people of Pakistan, NATO must pay reparations to the families of the soldiers."
His remarks come a day after US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for Pakistan's funding to be reviewed.
(Read: Key US Senators urge review of Pakistan funding)
Pakistani doctors face visa wall to working in US
Dr Zaffar Iqbal, a member of the 17000-member strong APPNA said "Last year, only 90 doctors came to work in the US."
Speaking to The Express Tribune on the sidelines of an event organized by APPNA at the Rayburn House Office Building to highlight to Congressmen the issues faced by Pakistani physicians applying for visas to work in the US, Dr Iqbal said numerous young physicians applying for visas to work in the US are facing delays or are being rejected by the US embassy and consulates. "They don't get their visas on time, and hence can't join their residencies that they've been offered." Dr Iqbal said that hospitals then become reluctant to offer residencies to Pakistani physicians.
He added that due to less Pakistanis being given visas, the number of Indian doctors coming to the US to work has more than doubled in the past few years.
Dr Manzoor Tariq, President of APPNA, said that they had held meetings with the State Department and Homeland Security to urge them to facilitate the process.
The event also saw a number of members of Congress attending, and looking at APPNA posters highlighting statistics of the decrease in Pakistani physicians coming to the US. APPNA says that a majority of Pakistani doctors work in the rural areas of the US, and provide a vital service to the country.
Addressing the event, Congressman Kucinich said, "I'm aware of complexities around US-Pakistan relations, but you are our brothers and sisters, and we need to help facilitate those who want to take care of people here".
Paying tribute to the Pakistani community in her district of Nevada, Congresswoman Birkley added that the US was facing a shortage of medical professionals, and offered her support to APPNA to push for more visas for Pakistani doctors.
Other members of Congress who attended the event and lent support to APPNA included Senator Bob Casey, Claire McCaskill, Congressman Guthrie and others.
Addressing the event, Tim Lenderking, the head of the Pakistan desk at the State Department, said that it was important to talk to the Embassy. "Pakistan has done a great job in contributing to healthcare in the United States, and we want to support that."
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Dr Iqbal that this year 90 doctors from Pakistan came to the US. Also Congressman Kucinich was listed a Republican. This is incorrect. The error is regretted.