Visa Bogey Man


Pakistan VisaThis old story about diplomatic visas for the US is like a stomach ache that just won’t go away. It follows a pretty typical pattern, though – Ahmed Quraishi invents some conspiracy theory, it gets repeated by The Nation, then The News, then it just starts floating around the internet message boards. Let’s see if we can find a cure, though, and get rid of this stomach ache before it gets worse.

Discredited conspiracy wallah Ahmed Quraishi first devised this ridiculous story around the capture of the American bin Laden-hunter Gary Faulkner. Quraishi suggested that the Ambassador in Washington mistakenly believed this man to be CIA, a preposterous idea that was roundly debunked by the site Pakistan Media Watch.

Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat picked up the theme in The News recently – another story that was exposed by the Pakistan Media Watch and described as “such poor quality that they do not even qualify as legitimate journalism”.

Now Mohammad Jamil is writing the same old story in Pakistan Observer. Mr Jamil’s article is so bad he even says, “let us hope this news is not correct”. If even you don’t believe it, why write it? Jamil then spends the rest of the page repeating the same tired old conspiracy theories. Please, sir, let them rest.

Which raises the question, who is afraid of visas?

In the 21st century, progressing countries have open visa regimes. It’s necessary for business and diplomacy to run smoothly. The US issues hundreds of visas to Pakistan, thank God. There have even been demands that more US visa sections be opened in the country to speed matters along. Why would we expect it to be any different in the reverse? Do these isolationists really think that Pakistan will benefit from less business and trade between our two countries?

The truth is, it’s all just political nonsense. The Nation, for example, praises the liberalisation of visa regimes between Pakistan and Turkey, and complains when they think there is some delay in issuing visas to Pakistani diplomats, but when it comes to Pakistan returning the gesture, it is a conspiracy!

But what is the problem, really, with granting diplomatic visas to US citizens? How many diplomatic visa holders from the US have been involved in suicide bombings? How many have been shooting up mosques? None. Are they really the problem we need to be worried about? The whole premise is ridiculous, as we’ve pointed out before.

Partly this is a mindset left over from the Soviet era. “Keep the foreigners out!” But mostly it’s just opportunism.

Truth is, all of this isolationist chatter is just a cynical attempt to get famous. Look at the people who are saying these things most. They’re wearing a European suit and sitting in AC praising jihadis and attacking Westerners on the internet. What a joke.

You can scour the pages of their websites and all you find are silly conspiracy theories about the West and excuses for jihadis. Just a few months ago I showed extensive evidence that The Nation for one has been supporting pro-Taliban narratives.

The truth is, this has nothing to do with visas and everything to do with a bizarre personal hatred for Pakistan’s ‘Man in Washington’, Ambassador Husain Haqqani. Ahmed Quraishi’s fixation on Haqqani is well documented. Now even Mohammad Jamil’s column makes a strange turn at the end to launch a ridiculous attack on the Ambassador.

Recall that it was not even a year ago The Nation and Ahmed Quraishi were declaring that Haqqani was to be sacked, in part over the granting of visas. But like the rest of their conspiracy theories, it was nothing but hot air. Just as the world didn’t end when American diplomats were granted visas, Ambassador Haqqani was not sacked.

In fact, rather than being sacked, Haqqani has been publicly praised by the Army and Air Force chiefs. The Pakistani-Americans have even given him the Pakistan Independence Day Award, which he was unable to accept because he was working to raise money for flood relief. The only people that seem to think there’s a problem with him are the ones who want Pakistan to be isolated – the crazy jihadis and their useful idiots in the right wing media. After all, isn’t it curious that it’s only American diplomatic visas that are criticised, and never visas for people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who are tied to Taliban and al Qaeda?

Even trying to blame Haqqani for visa policy is ridiculous. Husain Haqqani is an Ambassador. He sdoes not make visa policy, he only follows it. Husain Haqqani takes direction from Islamabad just as Anne Patterson takes direction from Washington, DC.

Mohammad Jamil’s latest repeat of this theme also repeats the old canard about how Haqqani’s book is against Pakistan. Don’t you wonder if these people have even read the book? If it was so bad, why was it the best seller in Pakistan for a long time? Many analysts think it is once of the best books on Pakistan. It doesn’t attack the Army or other institutions, but attacks the jihadi influence.

Is that really so strange? Even the ISI called “the greatest threat to national security”? Even greater than India! So why are Mohammad Jamil the rest of these fake nationalists attacking a book that says the same thing? They should take up their complaints with the ISI, perhaps.

Look, if you don’t like Husain Haqqani, so what. Don’t invite him over to dinner. But these silly stories about visa conspiracies are boring and counterproductive. In the middle of the greatest disaster in history, do we really want to be isolating ourselves? The US is giving hundreds of millions in aid, and here these guys like AQ and Mohammad Jamil are obsessing over visas and attacking our Ambassador. Give it a rest, guys.


Author: Mahmood Adeel