January 2003 News

Kashmir to top Kasuri's agenda in Washington

26 January 2003
The Dawn
Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Kashmir, and not the INS registration process, is expected to dominate talks when Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri meets officials of the Bush administration this week. These will be the first face-to-face talks between the US government and a senior member of the PML-Q government, which was elected in October last year. Initially, observers expected this to be a familiarization visit during which both sides would try to explore each other. But two recent developments attached an added - almost exaggerated - significance to the visit Pakistan's placement on the INS list and a major policy statement by the US ambassador in Islamabad on Kashmir. The requirement to register with the US Immigration and Naturalization Service is a major source of concern for tens of thousands of Pakistanis living in this country. For many it means arrest and deportation from the United States, whether they register with the INS or not. 'At least 40pc of Pakistanis living in this country face deportation,' says Rubina Syed, a lawyer who offers free legal advice to concerned Pakistanis at the embassy every Wednesday. So it's no surprise that they want Pakistan off the INS list. And the Jamali government, eager to please the people, promised to get Pakistan removed from the list only to realize later that it was easier said than done. Being more aware of the situation in America, the embassy in Washington, however, had advised the government not to set its goals so high. As expected, the US government has informed Pakistan that no country will be removed from the list, which will soon be further expanded to include other nations as well. In view of these developments, the embassy is believed to have advised the foreign minister not to seek deletion from the list when he meets US officials and instead urge them to be lenient in dealing with the Pakistanis who come for registration. He is expected to propose that those Pakistanis who have not committed a criminal offence should be given the opportunity to correct their status and live in this country. 'This will be a major, major achievement,' says Syed. 'It can prevent thousands of Pakistanis from being deported.' While the community in America is focused on the INS registration, the Americans this time seem more interested in Kashmir. It is no coincidence that while the Pakistani foreign minister was already in America, the US ambassador in Islamabad chose to remind Pakistan that it has not yet fulfilled its commitment to stop cross-border infiltration into Kashmir. Later a State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, told reporters in Washington that Ambassador Nancy Powell was misquoted. But he also reminded Pakistan that in his speech in January last year, President Pervez Musharraf had promised, 'Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world.' He also said that 'infiltration has gone down and come back up somewhat,' adding 'We do believe infiltration should stop completely.'


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