Even though the US has not overtly stated this, the delay in Senate Deputy Chairman Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri’s US visa is a forgone conclusion. The silence from the US side – even though this was an official visit – speaks volumes. While the US has publicly announced that Pakistan will not face a blanket ban, individual cases of visas to citizens of Muslim states will clearly be handed out after much greater scrutiny. Maulana Abdul Ghafoor’s party affiliations (he is Secretary General of JUI-F), past arrests and opposition to Pakistan’s participation in the US global war on terror after 2001 are probably factors that led to this refusal. The US state is clearly following a measured policy when it comes to Pakistan, and allowing for one visa but rejecting the other on this visit to the US signals that it is not yet ready to burn all of its bridges with Pakistan.

Senator Tirmizi – the other half of the two-member delegation that was to visit the UN-sponsored summit in the US titled, ‘World of blue: preserving the oceans, safeguarding the planet, ensuring human well-being in the context of the 2030 agenda’ – was granted a visa without a hitch. This is not the first time a Pakistani has been denied a visa to the US, and should not be treated as the end of the world. There is a lot to gain for both sides from this bilateral relationship, and one glitch should not be used as a cut-off point for Pakistan. The Senate has taken a ‘stand with one of our own’ approach to the matter, but as representatives of the people – some of which even reside in the US – should it not have looked at the bigger picture?

The Pakistani Senate has taken strong exception to this rejection, for if (perceivably) Senators of the Pakistani state – its lawmakers and by extension, determinants of foreign policy to some extent – are being treated with such a myopic and potentially damaging attitude, what are the normal citizens of this country to expect? However, the Senate should have taken a cautious stand rather than a reactionary one, if we are to reassure the US of the good intentions of our politicians, bearded or otherwise. The boycott of the New York moot was a sufficient signal to the US, but Mr Rabbani’s directive that “no delegation, member of Congress or diplomat of the US will be welcomed by the Senate of Pakistan, Senate standing committees and senators in their official capacity [until] this issue is resolved”, may just fuel the fire.