Visa row may overshadow Britain-Pak anti-terror talks

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London, Oct.6 (ANI): The raging row between Pakistan and Britain on the issue of delay in issuing visas to Pakistanis by the British authorities is expected to overshadow the anti-terror talks between both countries when the British Secretary for Home Affairs Alan Johnson meets Pakistani political leaders in Islamabad.

Johnson, who arrived in Islamabad along with Defence Secretary Bob Iansworth on Monday, would meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other leaders to discuss several other issues apart from the visa row.

Johnson's meeting with Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari was designed to reassure British troops that their efforts are helping to thwart terror plots back home, and to enhance cooperation with Pakistan, however, it is believed that the talks would focus equally on the delays caused by Britain's new visa regulations for Pakistani citizens, The Times reports.

Senior Pakistani officials dealing with the issue said that according to an estimate about two hundred thousand passports are lying at the British High Commission in Islamabad for months, as the British authorities have denied issuing visas due to some unexplained reasons.

British High Commissioner to Islamabad, Robert Brinkley, said the delay in issuing visa was a serious issue, but assured that various measures have been taken to address the matter.

When asked about the reason for the delay, a UK Border Agency official said there is a huge backlog that has created the entire problem.

"The matter was further compounded with the introduction of the system where passports were received by the missions in Pakistan, with the applications being processed in Abu Dhabi," the official said.

According to one senior UK Border Agency, the British Commission in Pakistan receives about 2,000 visa applications every week.

He, however, said the backlog would be cleared soon as several new officials have been recruited.

"Now with the additional staff, we hope to expedite the process," the official said. (ANI)

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