Once you’re Pakistani, there is no going back to India
The non-issuance of visas to India continues to irk thousands of Pakistani Americans as the former remains hell bent to grind an axe with Pakistanis, regardless of borders or their new nationalities.
At the moment, there are an estimated 500,000 Pakistani Americans in the US and the rate of their continually burgeoning numbers makes them the second fastest growing group of Asian immigrants in the US. According to the Pew Research Centre, the entire population of Asian Americans, which includes Pakistanis, is among those in the highest income bracket as well as the best educated in the country. However, despite all the good check marks Pakistanis have in front of their names and despite their coveted blue passports, India continues to trivialise their backgrounds, denying them visit visas to its esteemed land only because they are expats born in Pakistan.
It is absurd for India to assume that no Pakistani would ever want to visit India at some point in their lives. Everyone still has relatives, ancestral homes, ties, backgrounds, and memories of childhood visits to the country even though they themselves were born in Pakistan.
The migration that occurred with the division of the country in 1947 was the greatest mass human migration in the history of mankind. Do the Indian authorities seriously assume that simply on account of being born in Karachi or Lahore, a man’s ties to his entire history could be severed and his whole slate of reverence for the land of his forefathers could be wiped clean?
Even if one removes the emotionality from the picture, the whole situation reeks of brazen, glaring discrimination, not only on the part of India, but also the US authorities by reason of being perpetrated against as US citizens.
Why do these people want to go there?
I am pretty sure it is not with the intent to bomb Mysore or raze the Taj Mahal to the ground. The majority only wishes to visit family, gaze at the homes of which they have heard stories of all their lives, visit the monuments built by the Mughal rulers and reflect, sadly, at the preserved relics in the museums which tell the tale of one of the greatest empires in human history. The fact of the matter is that the soil of India has the roots of the millions of Pakistanis who immigrated to the new country in 1947.
As per the rules on the Indian visa website, the visa processing time for US citizens born in the US is one to three days, whereas the time for people of Pakistani origin, it is six weeks. Even this time requirement is just a scam; visas are not issued at all even after the person has waited for six weeks. According to the US Code Title 42, Chapter 21 of civil rights,
“Discrimination against any person ‘based on age, disability, gender, race, national origin and religion (among other things) in a number of settings—including education, employment, access to businesses and buildings, federal services and more’ is prohibited.”
Yet the Indian consulate carries out this blatant discrimination most unabashedly on US soil against US citizens.
The Indian government’s excuse for taking so long for visa processing, although in reality no visas are issued, is to curtail violence in the country. This excuse is, however, most flimsy and unconvincing. 500,000 US citizens of Pakistani origin cannot be held accountable for a handful of miscreants who also happened to be of Pakistani origin.
Prior to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were masterminded by the American citizen of Pakistani origin David Headley, all expatriates with foreign passports were exempted from any such visa issuance rules. These rigid rules only came into effect in 2009 and have yet to see any alleviation.
When the officials at the US State Department were questioned about this grey-area-case-of-discrimination, they said they had “raised concerns with the Indian Embassy in Washington” but were unable to do more since visa requirements were engineered by each country in question. Though one could understand that it takes longer for the Indian consulate to do background checks on expats of one country than of another, could it really take six weeks?
Today, it takes minutes to check a person’s background history so why isn’t the Indian embassy able to judge within at least a couple of weeks if a person can or cannot enter the country?
The fact that everyone is denied the visa despite this background check only reflects stark bigotry against Pakistani Americans enabled by US authorities on US soil – an interesting occurrence in this day and age.
Adding further insult to injury, India requires Pakistani Americans to file their visa applications using their Pakistani passports and not their American ones. Whoever chooses to do so, if they even happen to have their Pakistani passport any longer, will not only have to go through the Pakistani consulate to get these passports renewed if required but will also lose all benefits of travelling as US citizens. Of all the bizarre rules that any country could come up with for keeping the people of a certain birth background at bay, trust the Indian consulate to come up with the most outstanding ones.
The sad irony of the entire matter is that despite all these loony-bin tactics India creates to keep Pakistani Americans off their soil, the Pakistanis’ ties to that land keeps them applying for visas repeatedly. Going through similar frustrations and in response to Washington’s ‘non-committal stand’ on the subject, a Pakistani American even filed a petition in court titled ‘Ask India to End Origin-based Discrimination of Visa applicants’. However, so far, all pleas have been falling on completely deaf US and Indian ears, and Pakistani Americans remain barred from the land of their ancestors. It would be interesting to see how this matter is resolved, if ever.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.