Government denies visas to foreign journalists
By: Syed Danish Hussain
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Embassy in the United States and High Commission in UK have refused to issue visas to a number of renowned journalists and peace activists – aspiring to participate and cover Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) scheduled October 6th rally to South Waziristan – under the pretext of security hazards.
The major reason stated by the Pakistani authorities is, “country’s policy strictly prohibits the movement of foreigners in Tribal Areas and PTI cannot guarantee the security of those who it wants to take along.”
“PTI condemns this act of stopping international media to come to Pakistan for a cause which is in the interest of Pakistan,” said a Press statement issued by PTI media wing.
It further reads, “Pakistani HC in UK has rejected visas to renowned journalists including Carol Crayson and Yacine Helali to participate in Waziristan Peace March.” A PTI spokesperson talking to TheNation confirmed that visas had also been refused to journalists and peace activists by the Pakistan Embassy in the US. However, he said foreign correspondents currently present in Pakistan and other journalists and peace activists holding active visas of the country would certainly participate the gathering. He said another excuse extended by the officials of Pak Embassy in US and HC in UK to such journalists stated that the visa process could take around two months.
He clarified that refusal of visa on the account of security pretext was totally baseless. “PTI has made excellent arrangements for the security of all the participants of the march,” the spokesperson said.
It has also been learnt that most of the foreign journalists, human rights and peace activists had been issued visit visas only for Islamabad by the Interior Ministry that has cast doubts over the participation of these journalists in the rally who had to stay in DI Khan, a City bordering South Waziristan, before proceeding to the tribal belt of the region.
“We have not issued these directives aiming to prohibit the entry of these foreign journalists specifically,” a senior official of the Interior Ministry said on condition of anonymity, adding, that it might be due to the Ministry’s routine policy to prohibit the movement of foreigners in the volatile region of the country.
The PTI leadership is trying its best to ensure full coverage of this event through foreign journalists to get proper space in the international media.
On September 5th, PTI Chairman Imran Khan while addressing a news conference at PTI’s central office had announced holding of “peace march” to South Waziristan on October 6th. The peace march is aimed to express solidarity with the people of the Tribal Areas and to protest against the US drone attacks. “Through the peace march, we are talking about political settlement of this issue, as everyone including Army, tribal people and Pakistanis want return of normalcy to the region,” Imran Khan said.
As per schedule released by PTI media wing, Imran Khan alongwith the participants of the rally including foreign nationals would leave Islamabad at 9am on October 6th.
The rally participants would have a night stay at DI Khan. In the morning of October 7th, the caravan would leave for South Waziristan.
Meanwhile, a big gathering of notables from South Waziristan was held at Tank, town hall of South Waziristan, which was participated by Mehsood, Burki, Behtani, Gandapur and tribes of other areas, said a news statement issued by PTI.
Mehsood tribe offered full proof security to the participants.