ISLAMABAD - The United States (US) will not ban visas for Pakistanis in the near future, Washington has assured Islamabad.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry, who are in contact with Washington, told The Nation that the US wanted to improve ties with Pakistan and resolve misunderstandings.

“For now, Pakistan is not among the countries facing a travel ban. Washington, however, is keeping up its pressure on Islamabad to ‘do more’ in the fight against terrorism,” said an official.

New US President Donald Trump earlier banned visas for the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – all Muslim majority countries - but insisted his order was not Muslims-specific.

The executive order sparked protests from human rights groups. On Sunday, President Trump’s order to restrict entry of people from seven Muslim countries was blocked by US District Judge Ann Donnelly who allowed stranded travellers to stay in the US.

There was no confirmation about how many people had been affected by Trump’s decision but the judge directed the authorities to provide details of the passengers detained at US airports after the presidential decree.

Donnelly, an appointee of former President Barrack Obama, wrote in her order: “Sending those travellers back to their home countries following Trump’s order exposes them to substantial and irreparable injury”.

The foreign ministry official said that Pakistan will not be dragged into the visa-ban countries in the coming months. “They (the US), however, want us to fight terrorism with more vigour,” he said.

The official said that Washington had been once again assured that Pakistan was not discriminating among militant groups and never played a “double game”.

Another official said that Pakistanis should be prepared for tough screening for the grant of a US visa. “The ban is unlikely but the visa process is expected to be tightened,” he said.

On Sunday, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan challenged President Trump to ban visas for Pakistanis. “If they ban us, we will also ban them and will be able to stop the US citizens from entering Pakistan like Iran. This will improve our system,” he contended, adding he feared Pakistanis might be the next to be banned by the US.

International Relations expert Dr Pervez Iqbal Cheema said that Trump might delay issuance of visas to Pakistanis. “Trump has spoken about visa restrictions for other Muslim countries as well. He is following some hardcore national interests. We have to wait and see,” he added.

Former ambassador Ayaz Wazir said that Trump’s orders on visa-ban were not unexpected as he had vowed to take such steps in his election campaign. “Of course, they can decide their own priorities. It is their discretion to grant or deny a visa to the applicants. Our people should not unnecessarily apply for visas too,” he said.

Wazir said that it will not be easy for the US to ignore Pakistan. “Pakistan is key to the solution to the Afghanistan issue. If Pakistan pulls back, the US won’t be able to handle it. It will not be easy for them to target Pakistan. We should respond the same way,” he said.

Former ambassador Syeda Abida Hussain said that Pakistan needed to improve ties with the US. “Good ties with the US are in our interest. Our diplomats should be active to achieve this goal. Pakistan must continue with a constructive foreign policy,” she said.

Hussain said that better ties with the US will also help Pakistan to muster support for the Kashmir issue against India.

The US support, she said, could also be handy in resolving other issues with India and defusing tensions in South Asia. “Trump should know we are an important player,” she added.