Clarifying the PPP’s position on the controversy surrounding the issuance of over two thousand visas to US citizens, allegedly after bypassing proper channels, party spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar on Friday said there was “nothing new or wrong” in the letter sent by Prime Minister House to the Foreign Office in 2010 circulated in media today.
The letter, brought to the fore in media Thursday night, suggested that the prime minister’s office had empowered the then ambassador of Pakistan in Washington, Hussain Haqqani, to directly issue diplomatic visas to Americans without requiring clearance from relevant authorities.
Babar, in a statement issued to media on Friday, said the timing of the letter ‘leaking’ to media was suspect.
“Its [the official letter’s] regurgitation at this time is politically motivated and aimed at diverting attention from the real issue,” he said.
Embassies in important capitals of the world have representatives of relevant government departments, including security agencies, he insisted.
“The ambassador was empowered by the prime minister to issue visas, but that does not mean that due process within the embassy, involving representatives of other departments, was allowed to be circumvented,” he claimed.
The PPP leader said the ambassador had been empowered to issue visas only to those whose purpose of visit was clearly defined and duly recommended by the US State Department.
“The purpose was to expedite, not bypass, the process,” he added.
“It [the letter] was also not an authorisation to issue visas to US Special Operation Forces,” he elaborated.
Diverting attention to the US raid in Abbotabad which killed Osama Bin Laden, Babar instead asked how it was that Bin Laden lived in a cantonment for almost a decade directing global terrorism efforts.
“The central question is not who, following due process, gave visas to some Americans who may have eventually been able to hunt and take Laden out,” he contended.
“No amount of verbal jugglery, media circus and mudslinging on the previous PPP government will erase this question from public mind,” he stated.
He suggested that a thorough inquiry into Pakistan’s visa issuance policies and procedures across the board should be initiated from 2001 onward, when the global hunt for Bin Laden started.
“Targeting some individuals or a political government for political purposes will not advance national security interests,” he said.
“National security interests will be advanced only by a credible, non-poartisan probe in visa policies and procedures across the board and across time,” he added.
“Investigations must also be made into how many Americans entered Pakistan through the Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan, with or without visas, during the days of Gen Pervez Musharraf,” he said, targetting the former president and military chief.
“Such investigations cannot be made through selective leaks or public statements in the media. A starting point can be the Abbottabad Commission probing the Laden fiasco,” read his statement.
“Hunting Bin Laden has always been the official narrative. Making the Abbottabad Commission report public will be in conformity with the narrative. Any other course will not be credible and will be seen as political witch hunting,” he concluded.