ISLAMABAD: The visa policies of the new American president will only benefit terrorists and have a negative impact on the global alliance against terrorism, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Monday.

“The new US visa policy will not harm terrorists, but will add to the woes of victims of terrorism,” he told reporters after inaugurating the first executive passport office in the capital.

An executive order, signed by President Donald J. Trump on Friday, banned all individuals and dual-nationals from seven Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days.

Citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia are affected by the ban, which has already been challenged in and temporarily overturned by American courts.

However, travellers, including US residents and citizens who had origins from these seven countries, are being detained for vetting at US airports — a move that has inspired widespread protests at terminals across the US.

On Sunday, President Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also said that the ban could be extended to other countries, including Pakistan.

“There are around 1.5 billion Muslims around the world and only a few hundred or thousand of them were projecting a distorted picture of Islam, which is otherwise a religion of peace,” Chaudhry Nisar said.

Islam or Muslims must not be blamed for the individual acts of stray elements, he stressed.

He recalled his address during the Conference on Combating Violent Terrorism, held in Washington in February 2015, where he had called upon certain countries to abandon ‘Islamophobia’ in order to win the war against terrorism. He stressed that Muslims were the biggest victims of terrorism.

He said the joint resolution adopted at the conclusion of the conference, attended by some 60 countries, also said that violent extremism and terrorism should not be associated with any religion.

When asked to comment on a statement by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan who had asked the US to ban visas for Pakistanis, the interior minister said that he was unaware how Mr Khan connected the visa issue with a solution to the problems facing Pakistan.

At a rally in Sahiwal on Sunday, the PTI chief had said that he wished Donald Trump would also ban US visas for Pakistani nationals so that “we can focus on fixing our country”.

Missing persons

The minister also reiterated that enforced disappearances were not state policy and said the interior ministry had taken efficient steps for the recovery of the five bloggers who went missing in the first week of January.

“I have already said in the Senate that the government neither owned the policy of missing persons, nor supported anyone who indulged in this practice,” he said.

He said that all the missing men had safely returned to their homes, adding that he had sent a team to meet Professor Salman Haider and asked him if he wanted to bring on the record what had happened to him, but he had refused to do so.

Published in Dawn January 31st, 2017

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