WASHINGTON, July 7: Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the US State Department over an official memo that singles out Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans for extra scrutiny at US airports.
Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who lodged the complaint, had received an instruction from Islamabad last week to convey Pakistan's sentiments over the issue to the US administration.
Meanwhile, a prominent American lawmaker, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, also said that the Department of Homeland Security should not have issued "a blanket advisory that targets an entire nationality including those who are US citizens."
The DHS memo authorizes US Customs and Immigration officials to treat Pakistanis - visitors, legal residents, or naturalized citizens - with extra scrutiny and checks.
The Congresswoman also advised the Bush administration to maintain a balance between security and civil liberties. "While we must always be vigilant towards possible terrorist threats, we can not allow an entire group of people to be targeted without any evidence of wrongdoing," she said.
The DHS memo asks immigration officials to look for small cuts and bruises on Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans coming from Pakistan. The bulletin says: "Officers should look for rope burns, unusual bruises, wounds/scars or other evidence that they engaged in paramilitary training..."
The specific internal warning covers customs checkpoints at three East Coast airports - New York's Kennedy, Newark, and Washington's Dulles, as well as international airports in Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
The Pakistan Embassy in Washington warned that the advisory was damaging to US-Pakistan relations and was particularly unfair to a country President Bush calls a "key ally" in the war on terrorism.
Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan's deputy chief of mission here, complained that Washington did not warn Islamabad before ordering the special operation singling out Pakistanis.
"We think this is unfair treatment of Pakistani nationals and that's why we decided to take this up with the US administration at a very high level," he said. "There were no Pakistanis among the hijackers of 9-11," Mr Sadiq added.