No record available to probe visa controversy: Nisar

Updated Mar 29 2017


Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan addresses a news conference held at Punjab House in Islamabad on  Tuesday.— APP
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan addresses a news conference held at Punjab House in Islamabad on Tuesday.— APP

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has ruled out investigations into the controversy of issuance of visas to Americans without proper documentation and security clearance by the previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in the absence of any record or data.

“There is no record available about the issuance of visas. Who got visas? Who arrived (in the country)?” he said at a news conference here on Tuesday.

Terming holding of investigations into the matter “impossible”, the minister said: “Neither the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) nor the interior ministry has any record. The record was not even sent to the then interior minister.”

It may be recalled that after the emergence of the controversy about the issuance of visas by former Pakistan ambassador in Washington Hussain Haqqani through a newspaper column, the opposition PPP has demanded thorough investigations into the whole issue, claiming that all the visas to the Americans were issued in accordance with the rules and regulations during its rule.

Minister says he will welcome Zardari to his hometown for public meeting

Chaudhry Nisar said the government had decided to put in place a new system to ensure that nobody entered Pakistan without proper visa and security clearance. He said that now anyone seeking Pakistani visa would have to apply online and their information would be available to the departments concerned, including security and intelligence agencies. He said the National Database and Registration Authority had been directed to prepare a central databank in this regard.

The minister also disclosed that the prime minister had in principle approved a plan to separate the FIA from the Immigration Services Department. “With a push of the button, we will know who is coming to Pakistan.”

He said that even diplomats were now given visas after security clearance, adding that visas were being given after security clearance so that no intelligence or security official could enter Pakistan in the façade of diplomatic passport.

Chaudhry Nisar recalled that as leader of the opposition in the past he had repeatedly raised the issue and pointed out that many foreigners were not only entering Pakistan without any security clearance, but some of them had even entered the country without visas. He said many foreigners had been arrested on checkposts in Islamabad, Lahore and Gwadar for not having valid documents and they were later released.

In reply to a question about the announcement by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari to hold a public meeting in his hometown of Chakri, the minister said he would welcome Mr Zardari and could even invite him for a cup of tea at his native home. He said the government would provide complete security to the PPP during the public meeting.

“I have nothing personal against Asif Zardari but have serious difference of opinion with him,” he added.

Chaudhry Nisar said former Sindh minister Sharjeel Memon remained missing for two years and did not bother to respond to court notices. He asked the PPP leader to explain his position before courts, instead of criticising him.

Blasphemous content

The minister said the Facebook administration had for the first time responded positively to the government’s viewpoint on the issue of blasphemous material on social media. He said the government had also written letters to the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in this regard.

He said he had recently arranged a meeting of envoys from Muslim countries on the issue of blasphemous content on social media. There was complete consensus among the diplomats that united voice should be raised on the issue.

The minister said the Facebook management had written to the government of Pakistan that it took the issue seriously and it would send its delegation soon. He said the Facebook administration informed the government that it had blocked 62 websites carrying blasphemous material over the past few months.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2017