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January 28, 2019

Ex-PM Abbasi says ‘Visa-on-arrival’ was his idea

National

January 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Saturday said his government had proposed visa-on-arrival facility for all countries except for a few hostile states but some officials objected to the idea.

“When I was prime minister we discussed the open door policy for about four times in the National Security Committee (NSC) meetings but some officials objected to the idea and expressed their reservations at that time,” Abbasi told The News.

Abbasi claimed he had conceived the idea to open Pakistan to the world except for a few hostile states, which could be placed on a negative list. However, the former prime minister said he was happy that finally the visa-on- arrival facility had been approved for 50 countries by the current government and the policy accepted by all the institutions.

“They (PTI government) can take credit all they want but the new policy must be implemented in letter and spirit and no further conditions should be imposed on those applying for visa on arrival. The process should be made very simple with no conditions and complications,” Abbasi said.

Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry told media on Friday that the government had approved a new visa policy under which citizens of 50 countries would get visa on arrival and e-visas would be available for 175 countries.

“I would rather ask them to open visa on arrival for every country and just maintain a negative list of few states like India, Israel, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. This is what I proposed when I was the prime minister but some officials objected to that. We removed some of the objections and the process was going on when our term ended,” he said.

The former premier was of the view that opening up Pakistan to the world will not only boost the country’s economy and tourism, but also help remove misconceptions about Pakistan. Asked whether the open visa policy was initiated by his party’s leader Nawaz Sharif during his tenure as prime minister, Abbasi said basically the idea was flouted by him.

“I was pushing the idea even when Nawaz Sharif Sb was Prime Minister and finally the process started under my premiership. Different ministries and institutions gave presentations on the proposals and some objected to the idea but we were in the process of moving towards an open Pakistan,” he said. Also on Saturday, former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal disputed a PTI’s claim that Imran Khan ‘s government was opening Pakistan to the world through a new visa policy.

“The new visa policy being promoted by the PTI government as new initiative to open Pakistan as a tourist destination was approved in last NSC meeting of PML-N government,” Iqbal tweeted, sharing the link of an old story.

This is not the first time, the PTI government has announced an old policy initiated by previous PML-N government and labeled it as a new idea. In last six months, a number of such “initiatives” were announced by the current government.

Earlier, PM Imran Khan was misfed to claim credit for signing agreements with some 26 countries for exchange of information about billions of dollars money of Pakistanis parked in foreign banks while as a matter of fact the PTI government hasn’t signed any single agreement and actually the agreement for such exchange of information was signed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar in 2016 which has become effective now from September this year.

In December, the government claimed credit for signing agreements with some 26 countries for exchange of information about billions of dollars money of Pakistanis parked in foreign banks. However Editor Investigation of The News Ansar Abbasi revealed in his story published on December 7 2018 that the PTI government hadn’t signed a single such agreement.

The deals for such exchange of information were signed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar in 2016 and those agreements has become effective now from September 2018. Similarly, the current government claimed credit for reviving Mohmand Dam project after decades of delay. However, according to details, the first two phases of the project were finalized by the PML-N government.

The feasibility report and design details of the project had already been finalized during the last government while it had also allocated Rs2 -3 billion for land acquisition.