ISLAMABAD - Federal Interior Ministry in a major visa policy shift on Monday decided to ban visa extension to foreigners from Pakistan and asked all the illegal immigrants to leave the country till March 15, otherwise proceedings would be initiated against them under the Foreigners Act.

The decision was taken during a meeting held in the Ministry of Interior with Interior Minister Rehman Malik in the chair. High-ups of the ministry, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and others concerned attended the meeting.

After the decision, any foreigners aspiring to get extension in his visit visa during his stay in Pakistan would have to apply in the country of origin where he had got visa. Now, all foreigners would have to get extension in their visas or to apply for new visas from the country of origin. The meeting decided that the Interior Ministry would cease to extend all visit visas from Pakistan, second or third origin country (Pakistan) and such applications would not be entertained by it at all. A committee was also formed headed by an additional secretary level officer of the Ministry of Interior that will give its recommendations for the formulation of new visa policy of Pakistan.

Earlier, the Ministry of Interior gave extensions to the visit visa of foreigners staying in Pakistan. An official of the ministry informed that they would forward the application, for extension in visit visa, of any foreigner to the embassy of Pakistan situated in that country where he had got visa and the officials concerned would deal with the application.

The meeting also decided that all the foreigners staying illegally in Pakistan after the expiry of their visas would have to leave the country till March 15, otherwise FIA would take action against them under the Foreigners Act 1946 and the Federal Investigation Agency Act 1974. Similarly, all the foreigners aspiring to prolong their stay in Pakistan would have to get extension in their visas till March 15.

It was decided in the meeting that the ministry would not give any extension to the visit visas of those Afghan nationals who visiting Pakistan. The ministry has asked all such afghan nationals to immediately leave the country after the expiry of their visas, as no more extensions to their visas would be given to them.

FIA was directed in the meeting that all illegal Afghan immigrants should apprehended by it should be immediately deported from Pakistan through exit permits to Afghanistan without any delay so that they could serve their country. However, according to an official of the ministry, the decision would not affect registered Afghan refugees, only those who have been issued Proof of Registration (POR) cards as UNHCR was dealing with the process of their repatriation to Afghanistan.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik talking to reporters after the meeting said that a special task force had been formed to deport illegal immigrants to their countries after March 15. He warned that all such immigrants should go back to their native countries and get new visas. The minister also informed that Dubai police had arrested Ziaur Rehman, one of the two wanted accused in murder case of former minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti and he would be brought back in the country through Interpol.