Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament have expressed concerns over the newly-revived visa-on-arrival scheme that may result in opening doors to private military contractors such as Blackwater and other notorious spy intelligence agencies.
Last week, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that Pakistan is now offering visas to people travelling in groups from 24 different countries.
“The scheme has been started on American pressure,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shireen Mazari claimed during a session of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“This step by the government has posed serious threats to the national security,” Mazari said, adding that the scheme had earlier resulted in the US spy agency’s presence in the country.
Moreover, the legislator feared that the move will allow non-governmental agencies (NGOs) to fulfil their nefarious designs. She pointed out that the countries the government is facilitating don’t issue visas to Pakistanis without hardships.
However, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal insisted that the scheme is aimed at facilitating tourists, saying the relevant guidelines and security checks would help ensure effective monitoring of visitors.
“I reject the apprehension that Blackwater or other security contractors can enter Pakistan,” Iqbal asserted.
Responding on Iqbal’s statement during the session, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said he had put a ban on the visa-on-arrival policy, saying it had guaranteed that Pakistan was treated equally.
“Only those countries that allowed visa-on-arrival to Pakistanis had been facilitated,” he said, adding, “If our minister has to go to the embassy to get the visa and if we pay more, the countries we’re facilitating should too.”
These realities, he insisted, must not be politicised.
In April last year, Nisar, the then interior minister, ordered immediate suspension of issuance of visas on arrival (landing permits) to foreigners to avoid any ‘irregularities’ in the database.
"The past teaches us not to blindly trust the US," he says
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