Hours after reports claimed that the United States has imposed visa restriction on Pakistan, the Foreign Office issued a statement terming these claims “baseless”.
“We have seen media reports about a US Federal Registry notification on the introduction of new rules on consular matters,” it said, adding the insinuations made in the media reports are misleading.
“There are ongoing discussions between Pakistan and the United States on consular matters including repatriation issues and both countries are working bilaterally on these issues consistent with their respective laws and have made considerable progress,” it added.
The FO statement went on to say that the US government would continue normal consular operations at their Embassy in Islamabad and that the ongoing discussions do not affect the issuance of visas to routine Pakistani applicants.
Earlier in the day, reports claimed that as a result of such a sanction mentioned in a Federal Register notification dated April 22, the US may withhold visas of Pakistanis beginning with its senior officials.
The consular operations in Pakistan remain “unchanged” as of now, the US State Department said.
Pakistan is the latest to join the list of 10 nations that have been imposed with sanctions under a US law according to which countries refusing to take back deportees and visa over-stayers will be denied American visas.
Notably, eight of these countries have been slapped with such visa sanctions under the Trump administration. Two of them, Ghana and Pakistan have been included in the list this year.
The other countries include Guyana in 2001, the Gambia in 2016, Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone in 2017, Burma and Laos in 2018.
Under Section 243 (d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Secretary of State is required to discontinue granting immigration or non-immigrant visas to a nation upon receiving notice from the Homeland Security Secretary that the country has denied or is unreasonably delaying accepting a citizen, subject, national or resident of that country.
The State Department tried to downplay the impact of the sanctions on Pakistan.
“Consular operations in Pakistan remain unchanged,” a State Department Spokesperson told PTI when asked about the federal register notification.
“This is a bilateral issue of ongoing discussion between the US and Pakistani governments and we are not going to get into the specifics at this time,” the spokesperson added.
Former Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, feels that this will make things difficult for Pakistanis.
“This measure will create hardship for Pakistanis who want or need to travel to the US and could have been avoided if Pakistani authorities had not ignored American requests to respect their legal requirements for deportation,” Haqqani told PTI, days after the federal register notification.
He said that Pakistan’s refusal to accept its citizens deported from the US is not new.
“Pakistan’s refusal to accept every Pakistani citizen deported from the US is not new. It seems that the US is no longer willing to overlook a wide range of official Pakistani behaviour. Bonhomie has been replaced by sanctions and restrictions based on Islamabad’s policy decisions,” Haqqani said.