ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Interior has devised a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for all foreigners visiting Pakistan to hunt animals, under which foreign guests and dignitaries are now required to share information regarding their travel details to the relevant authorities at least 72 hours prior to their arrival.
According to the SOP approved by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to share information of the staff associated with foreign dignitaries with all relevant quarters a week before they arrive in Pakistan.
The new rules, copies of which have been sent to all relevant ministries, Pakistan’s diplomatic missions abroad, embassies and high commissions in various countries in Pakistan, make it clear that no foreigner can enter Pakistan without obtaining a valid visa and completing the immigration procedure.
It says that those trying to enter Pakistan without a visa or without completing immigration requirements could face arrest and trial.
No foreigner can arrive without obtaining a valid visa and completing the immigration procedure
These steps come in the wake of a disclosure by Hussain Haqqani, former ambassador to the United States, who claimed that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had permitted him to issue visas to Americans without consulting security agencies and the interior ministry, at a time when several quarters had expressed concern over the presence of American security firm Blackwater in Pakistan.
Sources say during retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule, a large number of foreigners were allowed to enter Pakistan without a visa or the hassle of meeting immigration requirements.
Earlier this year, six Indian nationals, members of an advance team of a dignitary from the United Arab Emirates, who was supposed to arrive for his hunting trip later, arrived at the Badin airbase without security clearance. The interior minister was told by security agencies that the advance team had later left for Thatta.
Mr Nisar took notice of the Sindh government’s negligence regarding the enforcement of rules and procedures for foreign guests on hunting trips to Pakistan.
Following the incident, he sent a provincial governments and Pakistan’s missions abroad a communiqué directing them to implement the rules. “It should be ensured that foreign staff coming with royal family (members) follows the rules for obtaining Pakistani visa,” the letter reads. It asks the relevant authorities to make sure that the staff arriving ahead of such guests, lands at main airports rather than at smaller airbases.
The new SOP bans issuance of landing permits (a visa for 72 hours issued upon arrival) and requires all foreigners, intending to hunt in Pakistan, to obtain a visa before they arrive in the country. It has also identified landing points for all flights carrying hunting parties. It requires the Federal Investigation Agency, the Anti-Narcotics Force, the Customs department and the local administration to provide immigration, customs, security and other facilities at the designated landing points.
All relevant institutions are to appoint focal persons to coordinate matters relating to enforcement of the new rules. The FIA has been asked to send all relevant details to the interior ministry immediately after clearing these flights.