A White House source has revealed that the U.S. is not adding Pakistan to U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban list, which temporarily bars immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The news comes as Trump battles with the court to keep his controversial immigration order afloat.
“There are lots of rumors,” an unnamed White House source told the BBC about the reports indicating that Washington could extend the Muslim visa ban to Pakistan. The person insisted that U.S. officials have no plans to extend the Muslim ban list to more countries at this point, saying there’s “nothing imminent that I’m aware of.”
The person echoed last week’s statement from the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, which assured Pakistani citizens that they won’t be banned from traveling to the U.S. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy also insisted that America’s visa issuance process for Pakistanis hasn’t changed.
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Is Pakistan not a threat to the U.S.?
Since Trump signed the immigration order placing a 90-day ban on entry to the U.S. from six Islamic countries — Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — while indefinitely blocking Syrians from entering the country, reports indicating that Pakistan could be added to the list came rolling in.
Last week, ValueWalk outlined five reasons that probably prevented Trump from including Pakistan on the Muslim ban list in the first place, though barring Pakistanis from entering the U.S. could be easily justified by Washington due to Islamabad’s alleged links to terrorism. Several days after Trump signed the executive order, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus hinted that Pakistan could also make it onto the list.
“You can point to other countries that have similar problems like Pakistan and others – perhaps we need to take it further,” Mr. Priebus said.
Trump himself gave a very ambiguous answer when asked if there were plans to add the country to the Muslim ban list.
“You’re going to see,” he said.
During his presidential campaign, Trump was an outspoken advocate for barring “all Muslims” from entering the U.S.
Pakistan’s nuclear status saved it from Trump’s list?
Even though the White House may not see a threat in Pakistan that would justify adding it to the list, there are many in Congress who could pressure the President into placing a visa ban on Pakistan due to its alleged support for terrorist elements that harm U.S. interests and spread terrorism in the region and could harm Americans if they come to the U.S.
New Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during his confirmation hearing that Washington needs to keep good ties with the world’s only nuclear-armed Islamic country. While many experts say Pakistan’s nuclear status saved it from making it onto the list, others believe it puts Pakistan under even more thorough scrutiny from the Pentagon compared to the countries currently mentioned in the executive order.
According to the White House source who insists there are no plans to put a visa ban on Pakistan, the countries that are already on the infamous list had not been sharing the kind of information that allows the U.S. to process the travel documents of their citizens.
Other countries – including Pakistan and Afghanistan – are providing such information at this point, which is why Islamabad and Kabul haven’t been on the list, according to the person. However, the source said that if this changes, the immigration order could expand to these or other countries.
Pakistan warns of consequences if the U.S. adds it to the list
Pakistan and the U.S. enjoyed close ties and had been vital allies in the fight against terrorism until Washington started suspecting that Islamabad could be harboring terrorist groups on its territory after U.S. Navy SEALs killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2011.
Since then, relations between Pakistan and the U.S. have been rather tense due to an enormous level of mistrust accompanied by finger-pointing. Many experts argue that Washington’s suspicions about Pakistan’s alleged responsibility for sheltering bin Laden in 2011 and theories that it could be still harboring other terrorists makes the Islamic nation a very likely candidate for the inclusion on the visa ban list.
Less than 24 hours after the White House hinted at the possibility of adding Islamabad to the visa ban list, the Pakistani government warned Washington that such a move would automatically reduce its cooperation in the fight against terrorism — including the elimination of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) — in the region.
Could a visa ban be beneficial for Pakistan?
Pakistani Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal also warned the Trump administration against barring Pakistanis from visiting the U.S., saying that it would be “counterproductive.” He met with several U.S. officials and lawmakers during his five-day stay in Washington, and they reportedly all agreed that adding Pakistan to the infamous Muslim ban list would be a mistake.
After his visit to Washington, Iqbal told the Pakistani media that he didn’t sense any intentions or eagerness in the White House to add Pakistan to the list. But he was quick to add that “if it were to happen, it would be counterproductive.” The Federal Minister for Planning and Development insisted that the Pakistan diaspora is making a major contribution to global development.
“Singling them out like this would be a mistake,” Iqbal warned, adding that only a handful of the 1.6 million Muslim population of Pakistan have been involved in terrorist acts so far. “The overwhelming majority of Muslims lives peacefully and pursues its goals like other religious groups and nations,” Iqbal assured.
But it could be beneficial for Pakistan if Pakistanis face travel restrictions in the U.S.; at least that’s the opinion expressed by Imran Khan, leader of the PakistanTehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, last week. Without being able to travel to the U.S., Pakistanis would be able to focus on developing their own country, Khan insisted.
But if the reports are true and the Trump administration really has no plans to add Pakistan to the list — at least at this point — does it mean the Islamic country is being stripped of a unique opportunity of progress and success?
What’s actually more beneficial for Pakistan: to help Washington fight all those terrorist elements in the region or prevent its bright, intelligent and gifted people from leaving the country and, instead of developing Pakistan, work for the U.S.? If Khan is right, then this is the question every Pakistani should be asking himself or herself.