Pakistan’s interior minister on Monday criticized President Donald Trump’s restrictions on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, saying the move would harm the global fight against terrorism, amid concerns that Pakistanis may also be impacted.
Mr. Trump issued an executive order Friday, suspending the U.S. refugee program for four months and banning the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Restricting immigration from terrorism-hit countries in order to bolster national security was one of Mr. Trump’s main promises during the U.S. election campaign last year.
Pakistani interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said during a news conference Monday that instead of helping the victims of terrorism, the restrictions placed by the Trump administration will aid its perpetrators.
“It saddens me to say that this move will harm the international alliance and consensus against terrorism,” Mr. Khan said.
Mr. Khan is the highest-ranking Pakistani official to comment on the new travel restrictions. The government of Pakistan, where an overwhelming majority of the population is Muslim, hasn’t issued a formal response to the new U.S. policy. The spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
There has been increased concern among Pakistanis after Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, hinted during an interview on CBS that Pakistan may be added to the list of countries whose citizens are barred from entering the U.S.
“You can point to other countries that have similar problems, like Pakistan and others. Perhaps we need to take it further,” Mr. Priebus said.
A federal judge in New York Saturday temporarily blocked deportations of those detained under Mr. Trump’s executive order, amid several legal challenges filed across the U.S.
Interior Minister Mr. Khan said in order to protect international consensus against terrorism, countries have to counter Islamophobia. “If a few hundred or thousand people are distorting Islam’s true message and spreading terrorism in the world, a billion and a half Muslims can’t be blamed for it,” he said. “Muslims have been the biggest victims of terrorism.”
The new travel restrictions, widely termed a “Muslim Ban” on social media, have the potential to impact U.S. ties with allies in the Muslim world, such as Saudi Arabia.
Despite disagreements on many key issues, Pakistan has said it considers its long-term ties with the U.S. to be of “high importance”, and has expressed its desire to strengthen relations under the Trump administration.
In addition to security matters, such as cooperation against terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan, there are significant cultural and economic ties between the two countries as well. Over half a million people of Pakistani origin live in the U.S., according to an estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015. The U.S. was the fourth-largest source of remittances to Pakistan, considered vital to the South Asian economy, in the financial year ending June 30, 2016. According to data provided by the State Bank of Pakistan, $2.52 billion were sent from the U.S., 12.7% of total remittances in the 2016 financial year. The U.S. is also one of the biggest export markets for Pakistan.
Despite concern among Pakistanis, and criticism from the interior minister, the country’s main opposition leader Imran Khan chose to look at the bright side. “I pray that Donald Trump actually stops giving visas to us, because then we will fix our own country,” Mr. Khan said during a rally by his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party Sunday.
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