ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Tuesday strongly criticised the handling of visas by the previous government particularly former Ambassador to United States Hussain Haqqani.
Addressing a press conference, the interior minister said that an ambassador (indirect reference to Haqqani) residing in a foreign country was previously given the authority to issue visas.
“In the past, a lot of business dealings happened over the issuance of visas,” he said stating that several embassies abroad do not have records of visas issued. He was also referring to the statement by Haqqani who said that he issued visas at the behest of the civilian government.
He clarified that several immigration issues have been sorted out, and anyone who visits Pakistan now is coming with a security clearance. He said visa reforms will make it possible to know who is visiting the country and the purpose of the visit. “Pakistan is not being used as a ‘Banana Republic’ and those visiting are accounted for,” he said.
He stated that previously many foreigners entered Pakistan without visas and proper documents which were issued at airports, and now no one can enter the country without them. This, he said, will also prevent of spies of foreign intelligence agencies, from coming under the pretext of diplomatic assignments.
Ch. Nisar said that all visa applications will be scrutinised on an individual basis, and he will overview all foreigners who have been issued visas to Pakistan. “Immigration has now been separated from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA),”he said.
He was adamant that there will reciprocal visa measures against foreign embassies and those charging higher visa fees from Pakistan will also face similar action. He said that action was also taken against diplomatic mission, as there were 400 houses of foreign embassies which did not share information with the government, but they have been vacated now.
He stated that the government sent back illegal migrants who had been deported without documentation, and airlines were fined, and Pakistan will deal similarly with all countries.
He said the new centralised visa system will begin as soon as formal approval is received from the prime minister.
Facebook response on blasphemous content
Chaudhry Nisar said that he received a letter from the Vice-President at Facebook expressing concern over the presence of blasphemous content on the social media network.
He said that it was encouraging that Facebook expressed interest over removing the sacrilegious content against the most esteemed and revered personalities of Islam.
Nisar said that it was not his responsibility, but he had taken it as a sacred duty to take action against blasphemous content which will be taken to its logical conclusion.
He clarified that 62 offensive pages have been blocked on Facebook, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also expressed interest in taking action.
Zardari welcome to hold gathering in hometown
In response to a question, Chaudhry Nisar said that he has no personal enmity with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and that Asif Ali Zardari had the right to hold public gatherings.
He said that if Zardari holds a gathering in his hometown of Chakri Vakilan in Rawalpindi District, then he will be welcomed and all security arrangement will be provided.