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WASHINGTON: The White House has shut down an ongoing petition that sought to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, saying that it is doing so on suspicion of fraud.

In a blurb captioned, ‘Closed Petition’, the White House announced that the “petition has been archived because it did not meet the signature requirements. It can no longer be signed.”

The petition had, until October 21, to gather 100,000 signatures to merit a response from the White House under the rules of the programme that initiated such petitions.

At closure, the petition had 625,723 signatures, but the White House said the page might have included fraudulent signatures. The petition was hosted on a White House web page called “We the People”, which is open to all and, therefore, does not enjoy the security that protected government web pages do.

The petitioners, mostly US citizens of Indian origin, claimed that the designation was “important to the people of United States of America, India and many other countries which are continuously affected by Pakistan sponsored terrorism”.

The decision to end the petition hugely disappointed the Indian community in the United States, which was hoping to force the US administration to take a public position against Pakistan on this issue.

US officials, however, were also alarmed because the move had the potential of pitting citizens of Indian origin against those who came from Pakistan.

Last week, Pakistani-Americans too introduced a “We the People” petition, seeking to declare India a terrorist state for supporting militants in Balochistan, Fata and Karachi. The application is close to achieving the required 100,000 signatures.

White House officials, however, referred only to “technical issues with some of the signatures” while talking to various media outlets about why they decided to end the anti-Pakistan petition.

A separate legislation, moved in the US House of Representatives on Sept 20, also seeks to designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorist. The movers, Congressmen Ted Poe and Dana Rohrabacher, have a history of sponsoring anti-Pakistan resolutions. Most of their resolutions were defeated.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2016