Without valid reason; Second Pakistan Senator says he was denied a visa to the US

Islamabad, Feb 13: Another Pakistani Senator on Monday said his U.S. visa application was turned down without a valid reason, a day after reports said the Senate Deputy Chairman, belonging to the same Islamic party as the legislator, was denied a visa to visit New York. Hafiz Hamdullah said he had to wait in a queue for over four hours inside the U.S. Embassy’s consular section before being told he could not be granted a visa, The Express Tribune reported.

Though the incident dates back to October, just days ahead of the US presidential polls on November 8, it comes a day after it was revealed that the Senate Deputy Chairman and secretary general of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri was also denied an U.S. visa.

Haideri’s visa denial led to the cancellation of his New York visit for a meeting of Inter-Parliamentary Union at the United Nations on February 13-14. He was to lead a two-member delegation. “I was not given any reasons. After a four-hour wait, I was simply informed by the visa office that my application could not be entertained,” Hamdullah said. Haideri and Hamdullah belong to the same JUI-F party.

The JUI-F, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is a coalition partner of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.

Fazlur’s party is known to be inclined towards Taliban and critical of U.S. policies in the region. This could be a possible reason behind the visa denials to the politicians. Haideri’s case is being linked to U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration policy. But the case suggests that the policy of strict vetting of visa applicants from religious parties was in place even during the previous Obama administration. The U.S. Embassy did not comment on Hamdullah’s case, citing ‘privacy laws’, according to the report. There has been no official reaction so far from Pakistan government or the foreign office. The cases have come to light days after a U.S. court refused to reinstate U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Those countries, however, did not include Pakistan.

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