Furore over US visa policy for parliamentarians
ISLAMABAD: Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani announced a boycott of the UN-sponsored International Parliamentary Union (IPU) being held in New York next week, after the US failed to issue a visa to Deputy Chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, who was supposed to represent Pakistan at the forum.
The chairman has also directed that no Senate delegation will visit the US “unless an explanation [for] the delay in issuance of visa” to his deputy is given by the US government or the US embassy in Pakistan.
Maulana Haideri, who belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), was scheduled to travel to the US with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator retired Lt-Gen Salahuddin Tirmizi on Sunday (today) to attend the IPU hearing at the UN headquarters on Feb 13-14.
Rabbani orders boycott of New York moot, American diplomats
The agenda for this year’s IPU hearing was the world’s oceans.
Entitled ‘World of blue: preserving the oceans, safeguarding the planet, ensuring human well-being in the context of the 2030 agenda’, the hearing would be an opportunity to reflect on sustainable development goals regarding climate change, sustainable consumption and production patterns, hunger and food security, health risks linked to pollution, chemicals and other harmful materials, sustainable economic growth and employment, and governance and the rule of law.
According to an official statement released by the Senate secretariat, Mr Rabbani has also directed that “no delegation, member of Congress or diplomat of the US will be welcomed by the Senate of Pakistan, Senate standing committees and senators in their official capacity [until] this issue is resolved”.
Sources in the Senate secretariat told Dawn that since this was an official visit, Maulana Haideri was not directly in contact with the US embassy in Islamabad and all the correspondence in this regard was carried out by the secretariat on his behalf.
Secretariat staff was told on Saturday that the embassy would inform them about the status of the deputy chairman’s visa on Feb 14, the last day of the IPU hearing.
This indicated that the US had decided not to allow the deputy chairman to attend the conference. This impression was strengthened by the fact that the embassy had already granted a visa to Mr Tirmizi, the other member of the delegation.
A spokesperson for the US embassy in Islamabad, when asked to comment, told Dawn that they could not comment on visa cases due to privacy laws.
The JUI-F openly opposes US policies, particularly the country’s role in the ongoing war against terrorism.
JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, in a speech on the floor of the National Assembly last week, criticised the new US Administration under Donald J. Trump for banning the entry of citizens from seven Muslim countries.
On the other hand, Senate Chairman Rabbani, who has been associated with the liberal Pakistan Peoples Party, has also expressed anti-US sentiments in the past. Since becoming chairman of the Senate in March 2015, Mr Rabbani has criticised the US on a number of occasions.
He took the US to task over its “conspicuous silence on the killings of unarmed civilians in India-held Kashmir, the treatment being meted out to African-Americans in their own country and the effort to impose India on the Nuclear Suppliers Group in violation of all norms of nuclear non-proliferation reflect this”.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2017