Home Global Village Ahsan Iqbal and Chaudhry Nisar clash over visa policy

Ahsan Iqbal and Chaudhry Nisar clash over visa policy

visa policy

News Analysis |

The issues of a liberal visa policy and the status of International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) were discussed in the National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday. The sensitive issues were raised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Shireen Mazari through a point of order in the presence of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

Mazari claimed that the new visa policy has been started on American pressure, and that it poses serious threats to our national security. On 19th January, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) confirmed that Pakistan allowed tourist visas on arrival to 24 countries, including the US and the UK, meanwhile business visas on arrival would be issued to 68 countries. 

Pakistan fulfills all the prerequisites to become a major tourist destination in the world. Experts believe that the expansion of tourism will create multiple jobs, bring in foreign investment and help promote a softer image of Pakistan.

Mazari argued questioning why countries like the US who rarely allow visas to Pakistanis are given visas on arrival. She also criticized the overstay of INGOs, stating that organizations like Blackwater have infiltrated Pakistan in the past in the name of NGOs and NGOs that did not even fill the forms to operate in Pakistan were allowed to stay.

Former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar joined Mazari in criticizing the new visa policy. He claimed that he revoked the visa on arrival policy because it was exploited terribly in the past. Nisar stated that if a Pakistani parliamentarian has to visit the embassy of a country to get their visa then foreign MPs should also visit Pakistan’s embassy to get a Pakistani visa.

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The former Interior Minister alleged that hundreds of foreigners who were a security risk for Pakistan entered the country due to a lenient visa policy. Nisar also requested the assembly to hold a full-fledged debate on the issue of INGOs and expressed his satisfaction that the government is continuing his policy on INGOs.

Economic experts have encouraged this move by the interior ministry. They believe that it would encourage tourism in Pakistan that could prove to be a lucrative business enterprise for the country. Many countries in the world like Thailand and Switzerland rely on tourism as their main economic source.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal assured the assembly that no changes have been made to the security policy and that the security of Pakistan will not be compromised in any case. He defended his new visa policy by stating that Pakistan is an emerging tourist destination and it was a step to promote tourism in Pakistan.

He clarified that no official of any security agency or contractor will be given a visa under this policy. Iqbal explained the new visa process in which visas will be provided through tourist operators who will provide the details of the tourists to the FIA. Explaining the status of the INGOs, the minister stated that INGOs have three months to file a complaint against the cancelation of their registration, and they cannot be forced to leave the country in 60 days when the appeal duration is 90 days.

Read more: Nisar’s statements point to possible tensions within PML(N)

He highlighted the contributions made by INGOs for the country’s development and clarified that they’ll be allowed to operate until their appeals in the court are decided. Strategic experts are skeptical about the effectiveness of the new visa policy since in the past, many operators of security agencies infiltrated Pakistan due to lenient visa policies. Many CIA security contractors like Raymond Davis entered Pakistan through tourist visas in the past.

Nisar stated that if a Pakistani parliamentarian has to visit the embassy of a country to get their visa then foreign MPs should also visit Pakistan’s embassy to get a Pakistani visa.

A number of allegedly welfare INGOs were covertly performing intelligence operations in Pakistan. The strategic experts believe that the new visa policy can backfire badly for Pakistan since US-Pak relations are already strained and Pakistan constantly fears unilateral action from the US. If more CIA agents enter Pakistan, they’ll perform intelligence operations and it might result in another operation like the one performed to capture Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

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Economic experts have encouraged this move by the interior ministry. They believe that it would encourage tourism in Pakistan that could prove to be a lucrative business enterprise for the country. Many countries in the world like Thailand and Switzerland rely on tourism as their main economic source. Pakistan fulfills all the prerequisites to become a major tourist destination in the world. Experts believe that the expansion of tourism will create multiple jobs, bring in foreign investment and help promote a softer image of Pakistan.

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