ISLAMABAD -  The Unites States has not changed visa policy for Pakistani applicants since President Donald Trump took over in January this year, diplomatic sources said.

Official record suggested that there was a 40 per cent drop in the number of US visas granted to Pakistanis under the Trump administration.

Pakistan however, is not on the list of the US president’s travel ban countries.

The travel-ban countries - Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen – witnessed a 55 per cent decline in non-immigrant visas compared with the last year.

Pak-US ties have been troubled in the recent past as the two countries developed differences over Pakistan’s role in the war on terrorism.

Washington has been skeptical about Pakistan’s role and has been urging Islamabad to “do more”.

The US is also influenced by India’s and Afghanistan’s allegations against Pakistan of allegedly protecting some militant groups.

Pakistan denies this hypothesis, citing its sacrifices in the ongoing war to eliminate terrorism.

President Trump had spoken to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after winning the November 2016 polls and pledged to enhance bilateral cooperation.

There was also a brief interaction this month in Riyadh where they had gathered to attend the US-Arab Islamic summit.

At the summit, Trump termed India a victim of terrorism but did not mention Pakistan leaving Islamabad fuming.

On top of that, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not have an opportunity to speak at the summit to count Pakistan’s sacrifices.

US embassy spokesperson Fleur Cowan told The Nation that the decline in visas granted to Pakistanis was not linked to any change in policy.

“There has been no change in law for Pakistani applicants or how we review visa applications,” she said.

Cowan referred to the US State Department, which said “visa demand was not uniform throughout the year.”

Among Pakistani applicants, 3,925 were granted non-immigrant visas in April and 3,973 visas in March 2017.

During Barack Obama’s last year in power, 78,637 non-immigrant visas were issued to Pakistanis which was 40 per cent higher with a monthly average of 6,553.

A senior official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the visa issue had been discussed with Washington in the recent months but there had been no hint of any change in policy.

“We did discuss the visa issue on several occasions but this only meant, we wanted to make the process easier. The decline in issuance of visas is not related to Pak-US ties,” he said.

The official said that it was the right of any country to issue or deny a visa to any applicant.

“But after Trump’s inauguration the visa process has remained the same. The decline in visa issuance may be due to lesser applications or poor candidates,” he added.

Recently, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had appointed Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, aiming to improve ties with Washington through his experience.

International relations expert Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal said that Pakistan needed an active foreign policy and focus on activating its lobby in the US.

“Trump has not changed his policy towards Pakistan too much. He is continuing with Obama’s policy,” he said.

Jaspal said that Pakistan should try to improve ties with the US.

“The smaller issues such as visas will be dealt with when we have good ties,” he said.

Former ambassador Fauzia Nasreen said that Pakistan should convince the US about its role in the war on terror.

“Pakistan has done its part. We have sacrificed and are sacrificing. Washington should acknowledge our efforts,” she said.

Nasreen said that Islamabad should not let New Delhi take away Washington.

“We have been allies of the US for decades. India is creating misunderstandings and we should counter it,” the former ambassador said.