Thank you, PPP Government, for removing extraordinary privileges to visiting US officials

Rites of passage
Thursday, October 15, 2009

A positive step has been taken by removing extraordinary privileges extended to US officials by the government of former president Musharraf. These included the right to bring in baggage without checks, enter the country without search and avail of special transport privileges from Islamabad Airport. It is believed these favours may have been misused by bringing sensitive material into the country. Rumours persist that US officials had carried unknown items in steel boxes into Marriot Hotel in Islamabad ahead of the suicide bombing and the blaze that destroyed it last year. We do not know if this is true, but the kind of leeway given at the airport adds to such conjecture.

What is more, the laying out of the red carpet at airports for US officials and the waiving of even the cursory checks that our own VVIPs go through contrast with the attitude towards Pakistanis at US airports. Many have faced the toughest grilling and searches. Some legitimate visitors have been denied entry on the flimsiest of grounds – or none at all. When we talk of sovereignty and national respect, it is important also to consider the impact such decisions have had on them. There can be no justification for allowing totally unchecked entry. Rules must be applied uniformly. By doing so Pakistan would add to its standing in the international community and demonstrate that we do not need to enslave ourselves to Washington by bending over backwards to accommodate officials or others coming in from the US. (The News)