A Pakistani politician says he’s hopeful Pakistan will soon be added to U.S. President Donald Trump’s infamous Muslim ban list. The chairman and founder of one of the country’s leading political parties said he hopes that the ban will be extended to Pakistanis. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan said while addressing a rally in Sahiwal on Sunday that he “prays” that the U.S. President “bans Pakistani visas” so that his fellow Pakistanis could “focus on fixing our country.”
Khan condemned Trump’s executive order barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., but at the same time, he thinks it would help them “fix” Pakistan if the ban is extended to his country.
His comments come several days after a White House official hinted that the Muslim ban list could be extended to other countries, including Pakistan. The executive order signed on Friday temporarily blocks visas for people from six Muslim states – Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – while people from Syria have been banned indefinitely.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told CBS News on Sunday that several other countries “have similar problems like Pakistan and others” and argued that the Trump administration could “take it further” and extend the list. When asked if Pakistan will make it onto his infamous list, Trump himself gave a very unambiguous answer, “You’re going to see.”
Trump won’t help Pakistan anymore?
Addressing the rally, Khan argued that Pakistanis with valuable professional expertise are leaving the country thinking they can find better employment opportunities abroad in countries like the U.S. But the Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman was quick to add that he believes things in Pakistan could improve when its citizens start working for their own country.
“The day we bring back the merit system back to Pakistan, all our best citizens will return and work for the betterment of this country.”
Blasting the government’s foreign policy, Khan said when Pakistanis understand that they have to “fix” their “home,” the country won’t have to “beg for loans from the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).” Trump has previously said he was committed to an “America first” foreign policy and pledged to revisit the policy of helping other nations with money and military equipment.
During his inaugural speech on January 20, Trump criticized previous administrations for making “other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.”
“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.”
Pakistan and Iran to join forces against Trump’s Muslim ban
Lambasting the Pakistani government for being “corrupt” thanks to “bigwigs who… become ministers and loot this country, taking the money abroad,” Khan said Americans may have elected Trump, but Pakistanis have elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who Khan claims has his businesses and children abroad.
Khan also praised Iran’s countermeasures against Trump temporarily barring Iranians from entering the U.S. A few days after the immigration ban was unveiled, Iran restricted Americans travelling to its country until the ban is lifted.
“Iran is an independent nation and we need to become like them,” Khan said.
The news comes amid budding improvement of ties between Iran and Pakistan, as the former recently expressed its desire to join Pakistan’s multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. If Iran joins the project, the two Muslim countries could become more united against the U.S. if the Trump administration decides to add Pakistan to the infamous Muslim ban list.
Pakistan getting on Muslim ban list is likely to happen
There are several reasons Pakistan could eventually end up on the Muslim ban list. The seven Muslim countries on the list have large Islamic populations, and each of them supposedly presents a terror threat. Keeping these two things in mind, some might say Pakistan fits the criteria perfectly.
Boasting 195 million people, approximately 97% of whom are Muslims, and its proximity to war-ridden Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran (the latter two are already on Trump’s list) raises Islamabad’s chances of making it into the list. Washington strongly believes Pakistan is responsible for the spread of terrorism in the region and has sheltered terrorist elements for years.
There are three major factors that may influence the Trump administration’s decision and ultimately ban Pakistanis from entering the U.S. (1) India, which has enjoyed warmer ties with the U.S. lately, may not give up efforts to make the international community declare Pakistan a pariah state for allegedly harboring terrorist elements on its territory. If Trump remains loyal to the Obama administration’s pro-India inclination, then New Delhi may eventually influence Washington’s decision to ban Pakistan.
(2) The U.S. still believes Pakistan was responsible for sheltering al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on its territory. In 2011, Barack Obama launched a covert Navy operation that killed bin Laden. This was a turning point in relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, once close allies, that made Washington look at Islamabad with suspicion ever since.
(3) The mention of Pakistan has regularly popped up in terrorist attacks on the U.S. in recent years. If Trump is truly hell-bent on showing Americans that he’s eager to protect them from any potential terrorist threat, it would make sense for the White House to ban Pakistanis from entering the U.S. sometime soon.
History of Pakistan’s ties to terrorism in the U.S.
In late December 2015, 14 people were killed in the headline-making San Bernardino shooting, which was carried out by a Pakistan-born lawful permanent resident of the U.S. In June 2016, an America-born U.S. citizen of Afghan descent killed 49 people in a terrorist attack/hate crime in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. And last month, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani openly accused Pakistan of being responsible for the spread of terrorism in his country.
In 2010, a Pakistan-born resident of the U.S. planted a car bomb in Times Square in Manhattan, New York. The attempted terrorist attack was unsuccessful, as the bomb failed to explode and was eventually disarmed. If nobody paid attention that the attacker was from Pakistan, Washington certainly did after a year later, Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on Pakistan’s territory.
Throughout the recent years, the Obama administration had accused Islamabad of ineffective anti-terrorism policies to wipe out terror elements operating from its territory.
Pakistanis facing additional checks upon entering the U.S.
Trump has repeatedly said his top priority was to keep American citizens safe from any potential threats coming from abroad. Given the above-mentioned factors, Trump could view Pakistanis as potentially dangerous nationals due to Pakistan’s alleged links to terrorism in recent years.
Even if the Trump administration doesn’t temporarily halt the visa issuance process for Pakistanis, they should still probably expect more thorough security checks at U.S. airports, including in-person interviews with border agents and customs officials.
Saying that Pakistan has “similar problems” as the seven Muslim countries that are already on Trump’s list, Mr. Priebus reiterated that this is “not a Muslim ban.” The White House chief of staff stressed that Trump had solely identified countries with ties to terrorism that could harm Americans.
So can Pakistanis harm Americans and threaten the safety of the United States? This will be up for Trump to decide.