Matthew Barrett’s detention: Visa officers to face action, Nisar tells MPs

Interior Minister Chauhdry Nisar Ali Khan. PHOTO: ONLINE

Interior Minister Chauhdry Nisar Ali Khan. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: The issue of blacklisted American citizen Mathew Barrett echoed in the National Assembly on Tuesday, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan saying that “action was being taken against the officials who committed negligence in issuing him a visa”.

Barrett had made headlines in Pakistani media since he was detained by FIA and police officials in a joint raid on a guesthouse in the federal capital hours after his arrival at Benazir Bhutto International Airport more than a week ago.

Speaking on a point of order, PTI MNA Dr Shireen Mazari raked up the issue in the house. “He [Barrett] was allegedly caught spying on sensitive installations years ago and now we are hearing that he is not a spy. Is there another Raymond Davis in the making?” she said referring to a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in 2011 and was later freed by the Pakistani government under pressure from the US.

Dr Mazari also demanded action against those who issued Barrett a visa ‘in mere 24 hours’ despite the fact that he was blacklisted.

In response, the interior minister informed the lawmakers that Barrett was deported in 2011. “Notwithstanding he was issued a visa by the Pakistani Consulate in Houston within 24 hours,” he added. Barrett had left many queries on the visa form unanswered, while in some places he replied in both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, adding that investigation was being conducted in this regard.

Nisar assured the house that the officers concerned would be punished and asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to also take notice of this lapse, saying he was personally monitoring this matter.

Responding to Dr Mazari’s apprehensions of espionage, Nisar said Barrett was arrested in 2011 from Fateh Jang, but neither had he maps nor pictures of sensitive locations. “He was involved in a scuffle with police,” Nisar said and added that security agencies had not charged him with spying at that time. “His father-in-law, who is a lawyer, defended him in the Supreme Court, but he was deported on the order of the Supreme Court.”

Replying to a question of MNA Dr Arif Alvi regarding updates on the Quetta massacre, Nisar said: “Substantial development has been made in the probe with the help of input from intelligence agencies.” However, he said it was premature to make a definite statement.

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