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Pakistan's Senate Retaliates After U.S. Denies Politician Visa

Maulana Fazlur Rehman
Maulana Fazlur Rehman

Pakistan's Senate has banned its members from attending U.S. events and announced that it will not welcome U.S. diplomats or members of Congress in Islamabad.

The move comes after Washington failed to issue a visa to the senate's deputy chairman, a member of the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam political party to attend a UN-sponsored event in New York on February 13-14.

Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said in a statement that no Pakistani senate delegation will visit the United States until an explanation for the delay in issuing a visa to Maulana Ghafoor Haideri is given by U.S. authorities.

“The Americans should at least explain to us what was the reason for refusing the visa. No reason was given,” Rabbani told the Financial Times on February 12. “I wouldn’t have reacted if he [Haideri] was going as an individual. But they (US) must realize it’s the parliament they are dealing with.”

Rabbani is a senior leader of the secular Pakistan Peoples Party. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, however, is known for his pro-Taliban and anti-U.S. stances.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Islamabad said on February 12 that they could not comment on visa cases due to privacy laws.

The controversy comes amid rising skepticism in Washington over Pakistan's role in dealing with the Islamist militant groups operating from its soil.

General John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, told a Senate panel on February 10 that Islamabad's longstanding intelligence ties to the Taliban had significantly complicated the fight waged by the Afghan military.

He added that the Taliban's deadly military wing, the Haqqani network, still has safe havens in Pakistan and that Washington should review its relationship with Islamabad.

Based on reporting by AP, Financial Times and DPA