After the US embassy in Pakistan delayed issuing a visa to the deputy chairman of the country's Senate, its chairman cancelled the trip and said no American congressman, delegation or diplomat will be welcomed in the country's parliament till further notice.
It is believed that the embassy delayed the visa to Abdul Ghafoor Haideri because of his party's possible links with extremist groups.
Haideri is the secretary general of the Jamiat-Ulema Islam’s Fazlur Rehman faction, known as JUI-F.
The party was once close to the militant Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan before parting ways.
Haideri was scheduled to head a two-member delegation for a meeting of the Inter- Parliamentary Union at the United Nations headquarters in New York on February 13-14.
Senator Lt General (retd) Salahuddin Tirmizi – who was to accompany the deputy chairman – was granted a visa just two days before. However, the visa of Haidri was put on hold in what was termed a technical refusal.
The Senate Secretariat had applied for official visas for the two senators two weeks ago. When the secretariat checked with the US embassy about the status of Haideri’s passport through official channels, it was told the US authorities would get back to it by Tuesday (February 14), clearly meaning that Haideri could not travel to the US to attend the conference.
In its official statement, the Senate Secretariat claimed there was a delay in issuance of visa to the deputy chairman and the Senate chairman Raza Rabbani had taken notice of the issue.
Rabbani issued directives to the secretariat not to entertain any US delegation or diplomat till the issue was resolved.
“No delegation, member of Congress or diplomat of the US will be welcomed by the Senate of Pakistan, Senate Standing Committees and the senators in their official capacity till this issue is resolved,” Rabbani said in a statement issued to media on Saturday.
The statement said following the directives of the Senate chairman, the visit has been called off.
It said Rabbani had ordered that no Senate delegation would visit the US until its diplomatic mission explained the delay in issuance of a visa to Haidri.
The US embassy’s spokesperson, when contacted, said: “We cannot comment on visa cases, due to privacy laws”.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman – the chief of JUI-F, which is a coalition partner of the ruling party – contacted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and asked him to take up the issue with the US authorities.