UK visa scandal

The fact is that for now, Pakistan once more stands in the dock despite all the denials being made.

Editorial July 24, 2012

Why are we so prone to scandals? Just days before the 2012 Olympics get underway in London, a controversy, which could create huge waves, has broken out with the British tabloid The Sun reporting a criminal ring in Pakistan involved in obtaining two-month visas for persons to visit London in the guise of Olympic participants or officials. One million rupees have reportedly been charged from each individual seeking such a visa with a Lahore-based politician alleged to be behind the scam. The paper has claimed that a travel agency, whose owner was charged with human trafficking in 2003, is involved in the racket as are NADRA officials.

The whole affair does nothing for Pakistan’s image. We must remember that it was only two years ago that another tabloid broke the news of the spot-fixing scandal, which placed three leading Pakistani cricketers behind bars. The evidence presented by the tabloid was able to stand before the UK court. The immediate reaction on the part of Pakistan’s chief of the Olympics mission has been to deny the newspaper’s story. He has said that there are only 39 participants and officials from Pakistan in the Olympics village. But this does not make it clear if others may have travelled on visas citing Olympics participation. Such events have occurred before — with ‘bogus’ Pakistani athletes visiting foreign countries and then vanishing.

The tabloid has also suggested that some of the persons entering the UK could be terrorists. This may, or may not, be accurate. Certainly further investigations are needed. The president of Pakistan is said to have taken serious notice of the issue with six NADRA officials having been suspended. A joint investigation team has also been set up. We will need to see where these findings lead. But the fact is that for now, Pakistan once more stands in the dock despite all the denials being made.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.