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Swiss embassy closes visa section in Islamabad

By Staff
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Islamabad, May 6 (UNI) The Swiss government has closed visa section of its mission in Pakistan until further orders following recent complaints of sexual harassment of two Pakistani women allegedly by the embassy staff.

''We are compelled to do so as Switzerland finds itself in a difficult situation as a result of abuse of visa procedure that has been discovered at the (Swiss) embassy in Islamabad,'' Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said here today while addressing a joint press conference with her Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri in Islamabad.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry confirmed last month it is investigating charges that a local visa assistant, Ashar Francis, demanded sexual favour from two Pakistani women in exchange for visas.

Another Pakistani, Major (Retd) Arshad, who was Ashar's accomplice in the crime, has fled to London. A Swiss official is also said to be involved in and investigations are underway.

Ms Calmy-Rey said the "criminal activity" has damaged her country's interest and goodwill.

''There was a little doubt that the embassy had been targeted by criminal network engaged in human trafficking also,'' she said adding her country would continue to cooperate with Pakistan in the ongoing investigations.

Mr Kasuri said the issue of mal-treatment and harassment of visa applicants and alleged involvement of some employees of the Swiss Embassy in human trafficking came under detailed discussions at the talks.

''I underscored the need for continuing cooperation by the Swiss Embassy in Islamabad in the ongoing investigation to bring out all the facts,'' he added.

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