KARACHI: The new Saarc visa policy has curtailed validity period of visa from one year to 30 days for businessmen of seven member countries of the regional trade bloc.
The framework of the new visa policy was made in fourth Saarc immigration authorities meeting held in Thimphu (Bhutan) on July 21, 2011, and became effective from this year.
The only salient feature of the new visa policy is that the number of visa stickers which are used for specifying activity and city of the visitor have been increased to 200 in a calendar year.
Shabbir Ahmed, chairman Pakistan Bedwear Exporters Association (PBEA) was critical of the new visa policy and said it would in no way help promote regional trade between member countries. He said that new policy kills the spirit of closer and quicker contracts of business communities.
He said that strict conditions have been laid for acquiring Saarc visa which are normally exercised for issuance of any ordinary visa. Therefore, no such special facility or treatment is being extended to applicants of Saarc visa, he added.
He further said that as many as nine sets of different documents are being sought from intending visitors to Saarc member states and there is hardly any concession or relief from normal visa requirements.
If such a harsh visa policy is being adopted by Saarc member countries for their businessmen, why a huge amount of Rs250 million is being asked from the government for construction of Saarc headquarters in Islamabad, he questioned.