UK Border Agency turns down visa applications of leading Pak figures

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London, Aug. 12 (ANI): A group of leading Pakistani politicians, businessmen and a band of pipers were refused entry into Scotland by the UK Border Agency, causing embarrassment for the Glasgow City Council.

The UK Border Agency turned down up to 65 visa applications from three separate groups planning to visit Glasgow, The Times reports.

Critics said it was an embarrassment to Scotland, which has been working hard to build diplomatic links with Pakistan.

Officials from the Lahore district government were due to take part in trade talks last month in Glasgow. Although the deputy mayor of Lahore was allowed entry, his wife had to stay at home.

The Glasgow City Council questioned the decision; pointing out that most of those refused entry had visited Scotland before.

"Many of them are serious business people, and the movers and shakers of the government of Lahore so that is embarrassing for us," said Hanzala Malik, executive member for Glasgow City Council's international affairs.

Anne McLaughlin, SNP MSP for the city, said: "This kind of decision shows up the shambles within the UK Border Agency."

Thirty were the members of Lahore-based Patiala Pipe Band, who were due to compete in the World Pipe Band Championships this weekend. Others were from the Lahore district government, and the Lahore Chamber of Commerce.

Ian Embelton, chief executive of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, said: "Obviously we are disappointed if any bands are unable to enter the country to compete at the worlds, especially a band like Patiala that has been so colourful and entertaining over the last four years. However we can't comment on the reasons why the visas were refused."

Michael Russell, minister for external affairs, added: "I am very concerned to hear about this problem, particularly during the year of Homecoming when the celebration of all things Scottish is taking place worldwide."

A UK Border Agency spokesman commented: "The onus is on visa applicants to supply the necessary evidence in support of their applications." (ANI)

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