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Pakistan walks a tightrope on Trump visa policy

By Mariana Baabar
February 03, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday appeared reluctant to outright reject or criticise President Donald Trump’s decision to bar citizens of seven Muslim nations from entering the US, but noted that political and humanitarian dimensions of such a policy had to be looked into.

“Every country has the right to form its own immigration policy. However, such decisions are not without humanitarian and political dimensions that need to be looked at and considered in going forward”, spokesman for the Foreign Office Nafees Zakaria told the weekly media briefing here.

While Pakistan has so far escaped from this grouping of seven Muslim nations, hints have come from the White House that Pakistan and Afghanistan might also face a similar ban. He also pointed to the fact that the US and Pakistan had longstanding and cooperative relations in diverse fields. “We look forward to further strengthening these ties," added the spokesman. However, the spokesman in a veiled warning without However, the spokesman in a veiled warning without naming the US commented, “Countries would be well advised to adopt policies that are not susceptible to be exploited as propaganda tools by entities wishing to see cracks in the coalition against extremism and terrorism along religious lines”.

Meanwhile, the White House updated its immigration executive order to clarify that legal permanent residents, or green car holders, do not require a waiver to enter the US.

As New Delhi on Thursday asked Pakistan to show political will and dismissed its demand for “concrete evidence” against JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, Pakistan responded by saying that it had taken all actions against the proscribed elements required under the UN sanctions.

“Pakistan’s action against terrorist elements without discrimination in the larger national interest as well as our sacrifices and losses have been repeatedly acknowledged and appreciated by all the countries. Our commitment to eradicate the scourge of terrorism from its roots is beyond doubt”, claimed the spokesman.

Spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs also commented: “We have consistently maintained that a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan is only possible in an atmosphere free of terror and violence. Any credible steps in that direction will certainly be welcomed by India,” he said.

The spokesman in Islamabad asked India to take corrective actions for itself rather than commenting on other countries’ affairs. “There is irrefutable evidence of Indian state actors’ involvement in perpetrating terrorist activities and terror financing in Pakistan. Indian state institutions have carried out terrorist attacks on Indian soil and blamed it on others”, said the spokesman.

To a query he pointed out that the issue of Indian activities to destabilize Pakistan had been raised with the UN as well as the major powers on appropriate occasions. “We will continue to raise all such issues with the international community that may warrant action”, he said.

Hitting out at the Modi government, the spokesman said India hides behind the bogey of terrorism while it carries out terrorist acts not only on its soil and blames it on others, but also uses other countries’ soil to destabilise for terrorist activities especially against Pakistan.

“India also finances terrorist activities in our country. India tries to portray Kashmiri indigenous movement as an act of terrorism. No country in the world has subscribed to this notion. The OIC, in its declaration adopted at the Istanbul Summit, outright rejected India’s false claim of terrorism in Kashmir,” he said. He said the Indian decision to increase defense expenditures by ten percent will disturb the balance of power in the region.

The spokesperson said Pakistan was opposed to any conventional and nuclear arms race in the region. He said Pakistan was maintaining minimum deterrence for its self-defence. Meanwhile, as “fake news” against Pakistan was doing the rounds, the spokesman came down heavily on Pakistan’s former US ambassador Hussain Haqqani who was caught while retweeting five years old news, claiming that Kuwait had put a ban on Pakistani visas.

“It is highly regrettable and deplorable that a person who was honoured to represent Pakistan has been indulging in activities that would hurt Pakistan’s national interests. Unfortunately, he is doing all this at a time when the world is increasingly acknowledging Pakistan’s growing economic potential in the wake of tremendous improvement in the security situation, investor friendly policies and strengthening of democratic institutions”, responded the spokesman.

He added that the more Mr. Haqqani does such malicious and unethical acts, more he exposes his character. “He has not only lost respect among Pakistanis but also among those who attach importance to values”, said the spokesman.