Pakistan to talk visas with Turkmenistan
By Shaukat Piracha
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) was told on Friday that the Pakistan government would discuss with Turkmenistan easing visa restrictions for Pakistani citizens.
Members Bushra Rehman and Aasia Azeem had moved a call-attention-notice regarding the closure of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights for Ashkabad in Turkmenistan.
Defence Parliamentary Secretary Maj (r) Tanvir Iqbal said that there were serious geopolitical conspiracies behind the closure of flights by PIA on the said route. “When PIA started its flights to the Central Asian Republics after their independence from the now defunct USSR, some rivals to Pakistan set up their bases and conspired against Pakistan’s interests,” he said adding that consequently the Turkmenistan government restricted its visa policy towards Pakistan. “When visa restrictions were imposed, PIA flights suffered huge losses which led to their closure,” Mr Iqbal added.
He assured the house that the government would discuss the visa issue with Turkmenistan. Ms Rehman said that there is nothing final in world politics. “We in Pakistan claim that our country is a gateway to Central Asia but it is ironic that PIA flights are not available for the region. Pakistan’s export to Central Asia came to $10 million when direct flights to Ashkabad and Baku were available. Exports have gone down to $1 million only,” she said.
The parliamentary secretary assured the house that the government was already in contact with Turkmenistan. “We will make a committee to put forward its recommendations on the basis of which the Pakistan government will take up this issue with Turkmenistan,” he said. Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam’s (PML-QA) Ejaz Chaudhry complained against the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for “unnecessary” conditions on investors and the rejection of guarantees by Pakistani banks. “The PTA chairman has asked for a $10 million guarantee to the PTA from investors. He also said that the authority would not accept guarantees from Pakistani banks,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Taking part in the debate on the president’s address to the joint session of parliament, Maj Iqbal eulogised the ‘mujahideen’s’ contribution to the Kargil war, saying that the mujahideen were invincible to the Indian soldiers. Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s Samia Raheel Qazi said that the treasury benches’ disinterest in the debate on the president’s address amounted to a lack of confidence in the government. She criticised the Wana operation, saying that the government was killing Pakistani citizens to appease the US. The house was adjourned till Monday.