ISLAMABAD - The federal government on Tuesday formally announced to introduce a centralised online system for issuance of visas to foreigners to prevent the entry of ‘unwanted aliens’ into Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference here, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the prime minister has formally approved the initiative. “Under the system, online applications would be invited for the issuance of visas. The name of the applicant would be on record and easily accessible to security agencies of the country,” he said.

The interior minister said that once the online system gets operational, the authorities will be in a position to know who was coming to Pakistan and for what purposes.

He said during his tenure as interior minister he favoured only one Pakistani woman, who had trapped in Indian-held Kashmir after her husband abandoned her along with her minor girl in New Delhi, by allowing her entry into Pakistan on the ground that she had no (travel) documents. He said that veteran Indian actor Sharmila Tagore and famous cricketer Dean Jones were not allowed entry into Pakistan due to incomplete documents.

The minister said, in the past, some people were allowed entry into Pakistan without visas and proper documentation and previous governments did away with the issue.

While terming Pakistan not a banana republic, Nisar said that “now even visas of diplomats are extended after their security clearance”. Nisar said agents from foreign intelligence agencies cannot now enter the country as diplomats.

He said in the past some foreigners were held at checkposts in Lahore and Islamabad who had no proper documents but they were later released. He told the media that no one has been allowed entry into Pakistan sans proper documentation and visa during the last two years and added different airlines which transported such people to Pakistan were fined penalty to the tune of Rs90 million collectively. He said that there was no record of the visas issued during the previous government.

The minister also announced to raise the visa fee. “The visa fee will be fixed keeping in view the fee being received from Pakistanis by the respective countries in each case”, he said.

Nisar said that his government took notice of the 300 to 400 houses in Islamabad whose occupants were not known to the authorities and security agencies and the government forced them to reveal their identity. He said that the FIA was being separated from Immigration Department to improve the system and added that the PM has also approved the plan.

On the issue of sacrilegious content on the social media, Nisar said that the government has received a positive response after it approached different forums against the malicious campaign which hurt sentiments of millions of Muslim across the globe.

He said that the Pakistani ambassador to the US and Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi have been asked to approach the quarters concerned to record their concerns on the issue. He also said that PM’s advisers Tariq Fatemi and Sartaj Aziz have also written letters to the Arab League and Secretary General of OIC about the issue. He said that the government blocked 45 websites in the last three days.  

Answering a question, Nisar said that he would welcome former president Asif Zardari in his native town Chakri for a public rally but added that his (Zardari’s) party candidate would face forfeiture of security in the next general elections.

Answering another question, he said that PPP leader Sharjeel Memon will have to face court on corruption charges and he should stop blaming others for his prosecution.