ISLAMABAD: Former interior minister and PPP stalwart Rehman Malik has claimed that Pakistani visas are still being ‘secretly’ issued to US intelligence officials.
Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House here on Tuesday, he said the government was accusing the previous government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of issuing visas to US spies, though it was still issuing visas to US officials.
He claimed that Pakistani authorities would continue to issue visas to US officials till they continued to receive the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) from the US government. “Has the government stopped receiving the CSF, which is received by the Ministry of Finance and dispersed through the Ministry of Defence,” he said. “If the CSF is stopped, then the government will not issue visas to US officials… In fact the process of issuance of visas to US officials has never been stopped by the present government.”
Pakistan has been receiving the CSF from the United States since the Musharraf regime for providing services to the coalition force fighting against terrorists in Afghanistan.
Rehman Malik served as interior minister in the last PPP government when the then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani issued a letter to Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani allowing him to issue visas to US officials. The issue of visas granted then to US intelligence officials has triggered a debate in political circles of the country putting the main opposition PPP on the back foot.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan claimed a couple of days ago that the government had withdrawn powers of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US to issue visas on his own.
The former interior minister said Mr Gillani had regulated the process of issuance of visas and not violated any law.
He claimed that prior to the PPP government, US officials were allowed to enter Pakistan without visas. “The PPP government stopped this practice and Mr Gillani issued the letter in this context,” he said.
Mr Malik said it was for the first time due to the PPP’s strict policy that issuance of visas to US officials was made conditional to the recommendations of the US State Department.
In reply to a question about a proposal to investigate the country’s visa policy, he said: “We will welcome an investigation into the matter but the investigation must cover issuance of visas since 1998 till to date.
“The nation wants to know who allowed (entry of) American officials via Gama Gate of Islamabad airport without visas and immigration clearance.’’
He accused former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf of allowing Americans to sneak into the country and said: “It should be investigated as to who allowed the US army to come to Pakistan and provided Shamsi airbase to US forces.”