Visas To Americans: PPP Govt Gave Haqqani Carte Blanche, Says Aziz

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ISLAMABAD: The PM’s top aide on foreign affairs revealed on Tuesday that during the PPP’s last government in 2010, the Ministry of Interior had empowered Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US – Hussain Haqqani – to directly issue visa to Americans by bypassing security clearance.

“The Ministry of Interior through a letter dated July 16, 2010 allowed Haqqani to issue ‘diplomatic’ visas to Americans without referring their cases to the ministry for security agencies’ clearance.

“After this special permission, a total of 2,487 such visas were issued to the Americans during the next six months,” Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the Senate on Wednesday.

Aziz was giving his policy speech with regard to the controversy sparked by Haqqani’s recent article published in The Washington Post on March 13.

In an opinion piece Haqqani admitted facilitating stationing of the US special operations and intelligence personnel in Pakistan and forging links that eventually allowed Washington to carry out its 2011 raid in Abbottabad to eliminate the former al Qaeda chief. The envoy also indicated that while Islamabad was ‘officially kept out of the loop’, the PPP-led government was aware of both the developments.

Aziz reiterated demand for a probe into the revelation through a parliamentary committee and said the government is ready to extend all possible help. Many senators both from the treasury and opposition supported the idea.

Last week, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had also called Haqqani’s article ‘directly related to national security’, ‘a breach of national security at the highest level’ and demanded an investigation.

Speaking on the floor of the house, Senator Rehman Malik – who was interior minister when this letter was written – defended the PPP government’s action, saying the government was pursuing an existing policy started during former president General Pervez Musharraf’s era.

“Haqqani had to continue the policies of Gen Musharraf’s regime. Three former ambassadors – Dr Maliha Lodhi, Gen Jehangir Karamat and Javed Asharaf Qazi – had been doing so as Pakistan had made a commitment to track down Osama bin Laden.

“If all the ambassadors of that era are included in an investigation things will get clear,” Malik added.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani observed that it should also be probed if Musharraf had allowed Americans to use cargo gate of the Benazir Bhutto International Airport to enter Pakistan without visas.

“By the time, the security agencies intervened, many Americans had already sneaked into Pakistan without visas, skipping the immigration and customs procedures,” he added.

Speaking on his adjournment motion, the PML-N’s Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum said the PPP government should have thought before appointing a controversial man like Haqqani as ambassador to US, given his [Haqqani’s] track record ‘which is full of venom’ against country’s security establishment.

Qayyum said roles of Haqqani, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and president Asif Ali Zardari as well as the foreign office and the interior ministry should be investigated. The PTI Senators – Azam Swati and Mohsin Aziz – also called for making Memogate commission report public.

The PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, who is also spokesman to former president Asif Ali Zardari, came with a strong defence of the party and claimed that Haqqani did not make any new revelations in his article.

He said visas were issued after following a laid down procedure and they were not issued by Zardari or Gillani. “This question must also have been addressed by the Abbottabad Commission so why not make the commission report public to resolve once and for all to know how and who issued visas,” he asked.

He said the real issue was to make the Abbottabad Commission report public. “But it will not be addressed until the civilians have an upper hand in policy formulation which is not the case as has been lamented by Sartaj Aziz himself in his articles and book,” he added.

Courtesy: Express Tribune

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