Britain urged for liberal visa regime: UK Secretaries meet President, PM

Tanvir Siddiqi

Islamabad—President Asif Ali Zardari says that the one million strong Pakistani community in Britain served as a bridge between the two countries and it was in the mutual interest of both the countries to work for the welfare of the community.

The President said this during a meeting with the British Home Minister Alan Johnson and Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth who together called on him in the Presidency on Monday.

Briefing the journalists Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that the President also raised the matter of difficulties faced by Pakistani nationals in getting U K visas.

Referring to Pak-US relations, the President emphasized that the comprehensive partnership between them should address Pakistan’s core priorities of security and economic development.

He also called for Britain’s help in strengthening Pakistan’s counter terrorism capacity through provision of equipment, training and sharing of timely intelligence.

The visiting UK ministers appreciated the government’s determinations to fight against the militant and lauded the success made so far.

They said that Britain will continue to support Pakistan build its ravaged economy and in the rehabilitation of the displaced people.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday also urged the British government to reconsider their visa policy for Pakistani nationals particularly for students and businessmen, which was causing serious inconvenience to the visa applicants. Talking to Alan Johnson, British Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Bob Ainsworth, British Secretary of State for Defence, the Prime Minister called for early shifting of visa office from Abu Dhabi back to Pakistan, besides quicker processing of visa cases and refunding of visa fees to the applicants with rejected cases.

The Prime Minister also raised other issues relating to counselor affairs between the two countries such as arrest of passengers onboard PIA flights, denial of visa to dependent children of Pakistani diplomats and officials posted to the United Kingdom, fate of the remaining five students arrested in April this year on unproven terrorism charges.

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