Visa delays prompt Miliband to visit Pakistan

January 11, 2010

ISLAMABAD (The Nation) – At a time when the anger among the visa seekers for UK is growing, British Foreign Minister Miliband has arrived in Pakistan on two days visit to defuse a raging row between Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry and the United Kingdom over a range of immigration-related issues including unexplained delay in issuance of visas being the most contentious of all.

“The unexplained delay in issuance of UK visas to Pakistanis seems to have prompted the UK government to dispatch Miliband to Pakistan in order to defuse the tension between the two states,” sources said on Saturday. Officials of British High Commission Islamabad have strongly denied this impression saying Miliband has come here to hear from Pakistan’s leaders about the political, economic and security challenges it faces and how it’s going to resolve them.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made it clear to Miliband that UK will have to ease visa policy for Pakistanis. The Prime Minister said this while meeting Miliband who called on him Saturday.
Though accompanied by other dignitaries to discuss a number of other matters confronting Pakistan including Pak-India tension, security, political, economic and security challenges, Miliband’s prime task seems to end the friction by explaining to the Pakistani authorities a variety of fresh measures they were taking to expedite the visa processing.
According to a source, who also attended the meeting held between PM Gilani and Miliband, ‘visa issue’ was the focus between the two sides.
The two sides are also discussed a number of others issues, including the political, economic and security challenges confronting Pakistan at present.
It is pertinent to note here that UK visa denial to Pakistanis has sparked anger among many especially the spouse visa seekers.
According to an estimate that the senior Pakistani officials dealing with the issue, as many as 200,000 passports were lying with the British High Commission in Islamabad, whereas the applicants’ papers were being processed by the officials of the UK Border Agency in Abu Dhabi, which now handles all visa applications from Pakistan.
However, the officials of British High Commission denied this report saying there has been no delay in visa processing.
It is pertinent to note that former British High Commissioner to Islamabad, Robert Brinkley, acknowledged that the delay in visas issuance was a serious issue.
Miliband said on Sunday that Karachi is heart of Pakistan’s economy, adding that the violence is detrimental to the image of the city. He said political tension and violence should end immediately. He paid visit to the tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and laid floral wreath on his grave during a short trip to Karachi. Talking to media on the occasion, Miliband said Karachi is hub of Pakistan’s economy and establishment of peace here is essential. He underlined the importance of strong Pakistan for stability, peace and prosperity of South Asia.