The Senate Standing Committee on Interior was just recently told that the Ministry of Interior does not have a complete database on visas issued to foreign nationals for visiting the country. Given that the security situation has made tourism an alien concept in Pakistan, and there have been many reported instances of foreigners being involved in terrorist incidents, shouldn’t the government be scrutinising movement across borders more rigorously? It is utterly inexplicable that a country so threatened by terrorism has neglected to computerise its visa processing system.

The committee was told that the Ministry’s record of visas issued is scattered, there is no central database, and the Ministry could not even determine which foreigners have over-stayed their visit. This will just not do. Certain segments of the public and the state seem wholeheartedly convinced of foreign hands behind so many of the attacks that are taking place in Pakistan recently. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah reiterated this after the DHA Lahore explosion on Thursday as well. The finger was pointed at India, and at Afghans and Uyghurs in the past.

If we are to believe that foreigners are behind many of the instances of terrorism currently taking place in the country, how can the government allow for such a glaring hole in its security policy?

Across the world, countries make their foreign missions the first step in the vetting process, and have complete data on individuals entering the country, the purpose of their visit and the duration of their stay. The number of illegal migrants residing in first world countries should tell us that even this vetting process is anything but fool-proof, and here we are relying on less than half of those safeguards to solve our own problems.

The Interior Ministry must fulfil Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s commitment to computerise this process, and should ensure that all foreigners staying in Pakistan beyond the stipulated timeframe are deported or at the very least, vetted when given a visa to ensure that they don’t pose a threat to the safety of Pakistani citizens.