Islamabad to take up visa issues with UK

British High Commission has lost passports of many Pakistanis

By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir

ISALMABAD: Pakistan and the United Kingdom will discuss their strategic relationship during the visit of the British Foreign Secretary David Milliband, who is reaching here today (Saturday) for a day-long stay in the capital.

Pakistan will also take up the question of difficulties being confronted by its immigrants currently staying in the UK and snags in the visa processing system that are creating difficulties for the Pakistani businessmen and students aspiring to visit to the United Kingdom.

A conference on Afghanistan is to be hosted by the British government and United Nations jointly in the last week of the month in London and it would be another subject of discussions between the two countries.

David Milliband will also have a meeting with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani who had extensive and productive talks with his British counterpart Gordon Brown in London last month. The British foreign secretary will have formal talks with foreign minister Shah Mahamood Qureshi in the Foreign Office soon after his arrival here. They will also discuss the war on terror and Pakistan’s efforts to deal with the menace of terrorism.

The British foreign secretary is visiting Islamabad at a time when the British high commission is working without a regular high commissioner, as Robert Edward Brinkley has already relinquished his assignment and left for London.

Well-placed sources revealed to The News that the British high commission in Islamabad has misplaced a large number of passports of Pakistani nationals, which they had deposited for seeking visa of the United Kingdom. The lengthy and tedious system put in place by the British government for the processing of the visa applications is the reason behind this sad development. It has caused loss of an academic year to several talented Pakistani students.

Pakistan and the United Kingdom are strategic partners in the war on terror and they have been cooperating with each other in a big way. The United Kingdom has the second largest contingent of troops inside Afghanistan.

The British government is trying very hard to improve the system of issuance of visa for Pakistani nationals but the pace of improvement is extremely slow and the intending visitors are facing many problems, the sources said.

The British government is also slow in providing the promised financial assistance to Pakistan. The British prime minister pledged last year to give Pakistan 665 million pounds assistance in four years but the process of disbursing assistance has not started yet.

Pakistan’s high commissioner in the United Kingdom, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, who is facing criminal cases in Pakistan after the Supreme Court knocked down the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), is reluctant to come to Islamabad. He is not available to the Foreign Office here for consultation on the occasion of the visit of the British foreign secretary.

The sources indicated that Pakistan would also take up with the visiting British foreign secretary the question of provision of market access to Pakistani products in the European markets. Pakistan is looking for British support in this matter. David Milliband will also visit Afghanistan during his current trip to the region.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26576

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