The world is growing smaller and smaller day by day. The wave of entrepreneurship has swept the world and inventions are bringing forward technological advances that have been unthinkable before.
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Food is being printed in labs, cars and trucks are driving themselves and bacteria is making furniture for us. The advances in the transportation and communication have made man more mobile and interconnected. Concomitantly, globalization is gaining pace and international mobility is increasing.
While affordable and comfortable traveling has made it easy for the people to move around the globe, many countries have failed to keep up with advances. Pakistan is one of them. For the people of most countries it is virtually impossible to visit Pakistan. The bureaucratic jungle and a futile visa policy serve to barricade the people of other countries wishing to visit Pakistan. In addition to a complex process of obtaining a visa, it is an uphill battle to find information about the procedure and the steps. The websites of the Pakistani embassies do not provide sufficient information about obtaining a visa..
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Very often, the citizens of various countries are required to have an invitation from a travel agent or a host in Pakistan. These travel agents charge hefty amounts of money to foreign citizens for sending the invitation letter. Moreover, a person residing in a foreign country has to go back to the home country in order to get a Pakistani visa because the Pakistani embassies do not accept applications from the people other than the citizens of the country where the embassy is present. In addition to the systematic difficulties, Pakistani missions abroad are also notorious for refusing visa to individuals. In fact, Pakistan has refused visa to professors, researchers, geographers, aid workers, mountaineers, students etc. When I was a student at the Forman Christian College (A Chartered University) in Lahore, the dean of students who was from New York on voluntary basis was rejected visa by Pakistan. Kudos to her determination, she eventually obtained a visa to Pakistan.
Read More: India Denies Visa to Tahirul Qadri
All the above facts post a dismal picture of Pakistan. The question here arises that why does Pakistan stop foreigners from entering its territory? The answer is hard to find. It can be government’s ignorance or a tyrant policy to maintain control of bureaucracy over the visitors. Irrespective of the cause of it, the visa policy is proving catastrophic economically and culturally.
The notion of visa and imposing checks on foreign citizens makes sense if a country is trying to tackle illegal immigration. This scenario applies to a state who enjoys comparatively high levels of prosperity and stability from other countries where it imposes the requirement of visa for entry into its territory. In case of Pakistan, imposing the requirement of visa on citizens of other countries is simply senseless since Pakistan’s political stability and GDP per capita is one of the lowest in the world.
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In order to improve the situation, Pakistan can convert it’s weakness into a strength i.e. remove the requirement of obtaining a visa for the citizens of other countries. Extremely dangerous countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan etc. can be exempted from visa free travel. This change in visa policy will send a positive message to the world. It will prove helpful in improving the image of Pakistan. It will grease the wheels for the travelers, researchers, academics, aid workers and volunteers. Countries like Morocco, Nepal, Maldives and Thailand, who do not have fancy cities or high levels of income, have greatly benefited from opening their borders to the world. Pakistan can also reap great benefits from opening its borders.
Author: Kashif Qamar Malik
Introduction: The author studies Philology at the University of Helsinki.