Editor-in-Chief & Publisher: MIR JAVED RAHMAN


PAKISTAN NEXT ON TRAVEL BAN LIST?



Issue Date 11 - 17 Feb, 2017 at 2:00 PM

PAKISTAN NEXT ON TRAVEL BAN LIST?


Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban for those traveling into the United States from seven Middle Eastern countries is currently suspended, as of this writing, due to a federal judge suspending the ban and the federal appeals court upholding it.
That means that, for now, the turmoil and confusion that flooded American airports last week has subsided.
For Middle Eastern and Asian countries not listed on the ban list such as Pakistan, however, the guessing game is just beginning.
The ban focused on seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Refugee access to America was supposed to be suspended for 120 days while travel from the seven previously listed countries was planned to be halted for 90 days. After the order was initially signed, chaos ensued as those traveling with visas or green cards were detained and prevented from entering the country.
The executive order was part of Trump’s “extreme vetting process,” and in the midst of the uncoordinated implementation of the travel, people began wondering why those seven countries were chosen and how it could affect countries not yet listed.
The ban was Trump’s reiteration of his desire to “make America safe again,” a platform he last spoke of on his inauguration day before signing the travel ban order. Trump has long identified all Muslims and Middle Easterners as potential threats by lumping in those who practice Islam with the terror organization ISIS.
And yet, of the seven countries on Trump’s list, not one person from those countries has committed a deadly act of terror on U.S. soil since the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001.
Since 1975, the most deadly terror attacks were carried out by individuals from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. The rest of the countries on the list have six or fewer deaths caused by terrorists each and the countries on the travel ban list all have none.
Since 1975, Pakistan has had only three international murders committed by terrorists, according to the data compiled by The Atlantic. Pakistan is not on the list, but that does not mean Pakistanis should not be wary of traveling to America.
The travel ban will be adjudicated in court with the White House expecting the ban’s suspension to be lifted. That means the ban will resume for those traveling from the seven countries, but there is a chance that Pakistan – and other Middle Eastern countries – could be added eventually.
After the time limit specified in the executive order runs out, it will be reviewed.
The review process is another aspect of the ban that holds confusion for the process, but many in Pakistan think they could be next to be banned.
The ban does not technically limit travel for green card holders, but due to reports of people with green cards getting stopped, many green card holders do not have faith that they can travel to America without being detained.
BBC News interviewed a New York based travel agent, Aman Salman, who primarily books travel for Pakistani clients. He told BBC that after the ban, 95 percent of green card holders canceled their trips they had already booked.
Although it seems that Trump holds Pakistan in higher esteem than past presidents – at least judging from the tone of his phone call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – Trump’s order focuses on countries that are very similar to Pakistan.
The president has not called it a Muslim ban, and disagrees with the media calling it such, but the executive order only bans travel from majority-Muslim countries and gives preferential treatment to Christians traveling from those countries.
The confusion of the ban is also a deterrent for Pakistanis traveling or planning to travel abroad. With mass confusion and site-by-site differences between how the ban was handled, a green card or visa holder may not be guaranteed entry to an American airport if they are profiled and stopped anyway due to ethnicity.
Trump is also touting this ban as a way to combat terrorism. Pakistan, one of several countries in which the terrorist group Al Qaeda has operated, could make future ban lists based solely on that connection.
It is unclear what will happen next.
The court may uphold the ban’s suspension. It may not. For Pakistanis who have business dealings, family or property in America, that uncertainty is worse than having a clear answer.
The BBC report also stated that many Pakistanis are already putting their American homes or properties on the market. If you don’t know if you’ll be able to see it again, what’s the point in having it?
If the ban is upheld, the decision could hurt America’s already damaged relations with Middle Eastern countries. If America is seen as the country that failed to help Syria and now won’t allow refugees, allies or government operatives to immigrate across the Atlantic, terror groups’ presence in the region may strengthen when combined with anti-American sentiment.
In one of the countries on the ban list, Yemen, only one person from the country has ever been convicted of attempting to carry out a terror attack on U.S. soil. Al Qaeda, however, has gained a foothold in the country, and this week, a U.S. raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen killed over 30 people including women and children civilians.
Al Qaeda then stormed three towns after the raid, according to media reports.
Under Trump, America seems to be leaning toward a more isolationist mindset, and a continued cold-shoulder toward Middle Eastern countries could end up increasing the likelihood of a terror attack targeting America as negative sentiment grows.
As for Pakistanis who have to travel to the U.S. for any reason, there is reason for caution and vigilance.
Many of the countries that Trump has not banned travel from have another thing in common: They are countries where his business operates.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates all have connection to Trump’s real estate empire and none of those countries are banned despite collectively accounting for thousands of terror-related deaths since 1975.
Pakistan has only had three terror-related deaths attributed to it since 1975, according to The Atlantic statistics, but it is a majority-Muslim country where Trump has no business holdings. In Trump’s world, that could mean Pakistan could be next on the travel ban list.•





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