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 Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 13:06 GMT
Pakistan pushes US on entry rules
Protesters in Lahore, Pakistan
The new US rules have added to existing grievances
Pakistan wants the United States to remove it from a list of states whose nationals must comply with stringent new US immigration procedures.

It's unfair to bracket us with other countries

Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri
Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who left on his first visit to the US on Saturday, says this is one of his top priorities.

Before leaving for Washington, he said he would ask the US authorities to show whatever flexibility they could towards Pakistanis living in the US.

The new US rules, which apply to more than 20 mainly Muslim countries, have sparked protests both at home and in the US.

Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri
Mr Kasuri's first US trip presents big challenges
The minister's visit was brought forward 10 days to underline Islamabad's concern.

"Pakistan has been at the forefront of the war against terrorism... It's unfair to bracket us with other countries," Mr Kasuri said on state television on Thursday.

Outcry

The issue has been the focus of sustained criticism in the domestic media.

On the list:
Afghanistan
Algeria
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Egypt
Eritrea
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Libya
Morocco
North Korea
Oman
Qatar
Somalia
Sudan
Syria
Tunisia
United Arab Emirates
Yemen
On Thursday, the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service added five predominately Muslim countries to the list, including Bangladesh.

Male nationals of these countries aged over 16 who are not permanent US residents must register their whereabouts with the INS. They must also be photographed and fingerprinted.

It is estimated that 100,000 Pakistani nationals will have to report before the 21 February deadline.

Civil rights campaigners have complained at hundreds of subsequent detentions. They say the move works only to instil an atmosphere of fear and will be ineffective in tracking potential terrorists.

Washington, in response, has underlined the limited reach of the new laws.

Mr Kasuri said Pakistan should be given special status as a partner in Washington's "war on terror".

"We can understand American concerns regarding security, but... Pakistan cannot be equated with other countries, that's what we're telling the US," he said on television.

Relations under pressure

The US move has added to anger in Pakistan over a range of issues.

The build-up to war on Iraq has sparked much domestic dissent.

There have also been protests about the American pursuit of al-Qaeda suspects across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

The alleged involvement of the FBI in the detention last month by Pakistani authorities of a doctor accused of harbouring al-Qaeda members infuriated those opposed to Pakistani cooperation with the United States.

Muslim 'focus'

Mr Kasuri also touched on concerns that the anti-terror campaign has been unfairly skewed toward Muslims.

"We are equally against terrorist attacks on both mosques and temples. Describing such activities as Islamic terrorism and starting a campaign only against Muslims is a unilateral act," Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper quoted him as saying.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (L) and US President George W. Bush
Pakistan says it is crucial to the US war on terror
Mr Kasuri will kick off his visit with a ministerial meeting at the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

He is not expected to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell until 28 January. Pakistani officials have been so far unable to shift the meeting to an earlier date.

He will also push for a meeting with Attorney-General John Ashcroft and the INS, the news agency AFP reported a ministry official as saying

Kashmir, dialogue with India and nuclear weapons proliferation are also expected to feature prominently in the discussions in Washington.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Emma Simpson reports from New York
"September 11 has changed everything"
  Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri
"We are a frontline ally in the war on terror"

Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

16 Jan 03 | Americas
15 Jan 03 | South Asia
10 Jan 03 | Americas
10 Jan 03 | Americas
20 Dec 02 | Americas
16 Jan 03 | South Asia
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