The Pakistani people have suffered at the hands of successive governments who have allowed the foreign embassies to make the visa procedures more difficult at every level. Apparently, no single Pakistani male below the age of 40 is given an Umra visa. I wrote a piece on this issue in these columns, and was surprised when I met the then Saudi ambassador who challenged me on my article, saying that I should be sued for at least 10 million dollars for stating that Osama was a Saudi national. When I pointed out that this was indeed a fact which was well known, and so the threat of legal action would not go very far in Pakistan, I was quite sure that he would take up the matter with his superiors and the issue would be resolved. However, I believe that this ban is still in place, and no other nation has been dealt with in a similar manner. Neither has our government responded in any way on this issue. While the Saudi government has the authority to deny anyone entry to their country, but to be age and country specific for a religious pilgrimage is highly discriminatory, and offensive to a friendly nation. This has not been taken up by our government at any level, and is a source of hardship to our people. We must ask our public representatives why no action has been taken and why our minister of religious affairs is silent on this matter. Why single out Pakistan? It is indeed sad that our officials have given in for a few Haj permits allowing yet another blow to our collective self-respect. A family friend visiting from Bangladesh stated that the Bangladeshis got their US visas in 24 hours as a matter of course, and could not understand the unbelievable conditions laid down on Pakistanis. His only comment was the Pakistani governments acquiescence to the bullying of the other countries, not only condoned the foreign governments actions, but encouraged them. His further comment that no country would 'dare (his word) try this on the people of Bangladesh. It does show that the Bangla people have cast off their colonial mindset, and react to any unfair imposition on their rights, and will not tolerate this from any one foreign or local. While we Pakistanis are so cowed down by any such action that the foreigners do get away with even murderous behaviour. What is worse is the governments behaviour - as in the long motorcades at a huge expense of the public exchequer. The sealing off of traffic resulting into deaths of people in ambulances stuck in traffic caused in a VIP traffic jam. These VIPs should be stoned by the pedestrians as they whiz by, for they are citizens as we are and we did not vote them into office to make us suffer. The sad part is the public apathy, with no one to speak up for their rights. The entire future is ours to exercise for ourselves. It seems that we have been shorn of our self-respect leaving us seemingly defenceless. It is time that we all stood up instead remaining supine at someone elses pleasure. The foreign minister would do well if he could apply his Cambridge educated mind to the sad plight of our students who are suffering for non-availability of visas, and where their hard earned scholarships lapse for the want of a visa. Their future dreams dashed by their governments inability to assert itself - at least like the Bangladeshis do. Surely, the first lesson one learns when abroad is the value of your own identity, and to protect it. To deny this is akin to committing suicide. Our Foreign Office should realise that, before they try to solve the problems of the world, they should study the behaviour of the Bangladeshis, and bring about some improvement in our self-esteem. The treatment at airports and immigration counters throughout the airports of the world is a sad testimony to the failure of our foreign policy experts, when our Foreign Office was headed by Mr Bhutto, who set examples of how a poor third world country leader could command the respect of nations many times more powerful than us. This respect was reflected on all Pakistanis, and made us proud to be part of this nation. Today, we stand at the bottom of the heap looking up at all the other countries - with shame. Our Foreign Office should be disbanded and the embassies shut down. There is no need for an embassy in the country if there is no respect for the Pakistanis in return. The first rule of diplomacy is mutual respect. Without this let us shut shop. The Indians and Malaysians have shown that with pride in yourself, you will be respected, whereas we are diminished by virtue of our own governments myopia. Mr Foreign Minister please take note. The writer is a political analyst.