ISLAMABAD, July 16: The government told the Senate on Friday that it had asked the United States to review body search procedures recently introduced at major US airports for Pakistani visitors and denounced the move as a violation of human rights.
Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said he had made the demand to US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage during a meeting with him in Islamabad on Thursday and that the matter would be taken up also with US lawmakers to urge them to change the law allowing such procedures.
The minister made a strong statement on a point of order raised by Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader in the upper house Raza Rabbani who called the search procedures "most shameful" and virtual stripping of Pakistani visitors.
"Certainly what he said is right...," Mr Kasuri said about Mr Rabbani's objection to a memo issued by the US Department of Homeland Security to major airports in the country to carefully monitor all travellers of Pakistani origin, including US citizens, and added: "It is a wrong order, it is violation of human rights."
He said he had told Mr Armitage that it was wrong and harmful even to American interests, particularly when the move was directed against a particular community, and that the procedures must be reviewed.
Mr Kasuri, who did not say anything about Mr Armitage's response, assured the house that he would tell US lawmakers whenever he would meet them, to change the law providing for such body searches and that the Pakistani embassy in Washington would also be told to make similar approaches to US Congress members.
He said the American embassy in Islamabad had also been informed about Pakistan's concerns over the procedures. Mr Kasuri said such probes were a post-9/11 'inter-agency process' about which he quoted even Secretary of State Colin Powell as once telling him that he could not interfere with.
NO ACQUIESCENCE: Mr Kasuri, whose statement against the body search procedures was cheered by desk-thumping by the ruling coalition members, rejected the opposition charges that the present government was acquiesced to all American pressures.
"We don't agree with every thing,...there is no 'aamanna wa saddaqna' (we believed and we confirmed)," he said, recalling Pakistan's refusal as a UN Security Council member to support the US-led invasion of Iraq, legitimise the action or send troops there without a UN mandate. But, he said, Pakistan must have good relations with a super power and it supported the US-led war on terror as a matter of principle because "terrorism is not good that we should support it".
He justified Mr Armitage's reported reluctance at a news conference on Thursday to specify advanced weapons that could be supplied to Pakistan as America's major non-Nato ally, but said the new status had made 'a great difference' to facilitate acquisition of US arms by Islamabad.
He said the non-Nato ally status had entitled Pakistan's requests for weapons to priority and early processing as was being done now. Mr Rabbani had asked for an explanation about the state of partnership in which he said Pakistan had "put every thing on stake and become a virtual colony" of the United States.
MURDERS IN MACEDONIA: In response to an adjournment motion moved by PPP's Farhatullah Babar and some other members, Mr Kasuri said Pakistan had asked the Macedonian government to ensure full justice in the case of six Pakistanis murdered in the country two years ago.